The Death Letter Project
Cart 0


Michael Barbato | Palliative Care Doctor / Author

I have worked as a palliative care doctor for almost 25 years. The transition from mainstream medicine was more challenging than I had imagined. For the first time I encountered people who, in the course of their dying, described experiences that defied logic. These included visions of predeceased relatives, prophetic dreams, out-of-body experiences and waking from a comatose state immediately before death. Others exhibited a serenity I had not considered possible.

The magnificence of such enigmatic phenomena is captured in this one remarkable sentence, spoken by an elderly woman to her grieving family just hours before she died. Beaming, she said, “My bags are packed, my boat has come, I am going on a beautiful holiday and none of you can come with me.”

I am left with the seemingly unanswerable question – what do these experiences tell us? Death may be the end of life as we know it, but I suspect it also soothes the pain of dying by opening the door to the unknowable.

Michael Barbato
11 December 2014

Editor's note: Michael Barbato is a retired palliative care physician and author of the book 'Caring for the Dying'. His interests include states of consciousness, near-death experience and holistic care of the dying. Together with his wife and partner Ann, Michael now runs a correspondence course for professional and community groups on the art of Midwifing Death (

The Death Letter Project welcomes your comments and feedback. Please feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page or alternatively submit a message below.

  • Deadset legend (no pun intended) 👍🏼 - thelonecypress (Instagram)
  • The best!!! - sierramalevich (Instagram)
  • A great photo. The writer has kindly shared with us some thought-provoking experiences. - Pam Cossey (Facebook)
  • NICE ONE T!!! His work is what I recommend to everyone !! - Kate Raffin (Facebook)
  • I have enjoyed the read and hope to read more. Thanks. - Camille Hoisan (Facebook)
  • Love Michael's quote of the dying woman's last words. - Dorothea Ratcliffe (Facebook)
  • Really enjoyed reading this letter and laughed at the wonderful quote! - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)
  • Your project is really so important Tina. Loving your work ❤️❤️ - Heather Millar (Facebook)
  •  Love the quote. "My bags are packed" - Rohana Hayes (Facebook)