Belief in the Soul: A Death and an Inspiration

The Undying Soul by Stephen Iacoboni - Book Cover Image

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate

Dying of cancer can take time. For many patients, the quality of these weeks or months or years depends on their perception of what happens just after the end. Oblivion, bliss or a dark and unknowable abyss: what they see ahead, or fail to see, affects not only their journey, but the lives of the people around them — those folks for whom a bell will also toll.

In The Undying Soul, author Dr. Stephen Iacoboni tells the stories of patients who convinced him our spirits live on after death. Chapter Six, “Pavel: The Guiding Light,” describes the first of these, a Ukrainian farmer from near Chernobyl. While a nuclear meltdown and medical neglect led Pavel Tishkoon to a lethal leukemia, his faith, perspective and poise changed what might have seemed only tragedy into an uplifting experience for an entire community.

A community that included Dr. Iacoboni himself:

“In that moment, I felt I could reach and touch Pavel’s soul, because that night his spirit was more tangible than anything else in the room. And there it was, perfect in the moment — the lesson I’d looked for. It was as if he had handed his heart to me. I sensed it beating in perfect rhythm, swelling the room with joy and exhilaration.

Suddenly I realized what Pavel had come to teach me: belief in the soul was absolutely the only way to make sense out of this situation.”

To Dr. Iacoboni, a dying farmer from far away raised a challenge we all face when our beliefs about what we expect to happen next will, in so many ways, frame our lives and the lives of others until then.

For more about Pavel and other inspiring stories, read and learn from Dr. Stephen Iacoboni in The Undying Soul.

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