On this week’s episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, the guest is William Peters, a practicing grief and bereavement therapist and author of the new book, At Heaven’s Gate.
In 2000, Peters was volunteering at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco when he had an extraordinary experience as he was reading aloud to a patient: he suddenly felt himself floating in midair, completely out of his body. The patient, who was also aloft, looked at him and smiled. The next moment, Peters felt himself return to his body…but the patient never regained consciousness and died.
Perplexed and stunned by what had happened, Peters began searching for other people who’d shared similar experiences. He would spend the next twenty years gathering and meticulously categorizing their stories to identify key patterns of what is now known as the “shared crossing” experience. The similarities, which cut across continents and cultures and include awe-inspiring visual and sensory effects, and powerful emotional after-effects, were impossible to ignore.
Long whispered about in the hospice and medical communities, these extraordinary moments of final passage are openly discussed and explained in At Heaven’s Door. The book is filled with powerful tales of spouses on departing this earth after decades together and bereaved parents who share their children’s entry into the afterlife.
Applying rigorous research, Peters digs into the effect these shared crossing experiences impart—liberation at the sight of a loved one finding joy, a sense of reconciliation if the relationship was fraught—and explores questions like:
-What can explain these shared death experiences?
-How can we increase our likelihood of having one?
-What do these experiences tell us about what lies beyond?
-How can they help take away the sting of death and better prepare us for our own final moments?
-How can we have both a better life and a better death?
At Heaven’s Door is a groundbreaking, authoritative exploration — rich with powerful personal stories and convincing research — of the many ways the living can and do accompany the dying on their journey into the afterlife.
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About the Guest
William Peters is the founder of the Shared Crossing Project and director of its Research Initiative. Recognized as a global leader in the field of shared death studies, he has spent decades studying end-of-life experiences. Previously, Peters worked as a hospice volunteer with the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco and as a teacher and social worker in Central and South America. A practicing grief and bereavement therapist, he holds degrees from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and UC Berkeley. His work on end-of-life is informed by his therapeutic work with individuals and families, personal experiences with death and dying across cultures, and his family’s own end-of-life journeys.