Words at the Threshold by Lisa Smartt

Publication Details

    Words at the Threshold by Lisa Smartt
  • Author: Lisa Smartt
  • Publisher: New World Library
  • Format: Paperback


Lisa Smartt was amazed and then confused when her father, towards the end of his life and whilst dying from prostate cancer, began to communicate to others in strange and unrecognisable ways.

A man who was essentially indifferent to spirituality and any thoughts of the afterlife her father started talking in mystical ways and about seeing angels appearing before him predicting his point of death.

After he passed over his daughter spent some four years collecting together accounts and transcripts from several health-care providers, friends and family members who also recorded the spiritual language that their patients used at the end of their life and just prior to dying.

Research in a New Territory

Lisa Smart has collated her findings into Words at the Threshold. This publication is a documentation of hundreds of words which she has analysed for their linguistic patterns and themes.

It is work that she felt was required after finding so little research had previously been done into the subject of pre-death communications.

Words at the Threshold is also an account of the discoveries that she made during the time that she spent working with Raymond Moody the world renowned expert on death, dying and the afterlife.

Help and Advice

Her book is more than just a collection of research material for in it she offers some practical help and advice to her readers.

In her chapter Transcribing the Mystery. for example, Smartt offers some important advice to anyone who is currently nursing a loved one through their dying days.

This focusses upon the keeping of a personal journal in which to record all of their patient’s apparently meaningless verbal ramblings. She also advises readers to, amongst other things:

  • Enter the world of the beloved
  • Have eyes for the sacred
  • Validate your loved one’s words and experiences
  • Be a student of the language
  • Ask questions with authenticity and curiosity

But most of all she emphasises that “When you sit beside the dying, open your heart. And remember that hearing is healing.”

Our Review of Words at the Threshold by Lisa Smartt

In the final chapter of Words at the Threshold Smartt suggests that as we pass through the final stages of the dying process we shift from an experience of literal reality into non-sensory, or even multi-sensory, awareness.

This is very much like shifting into a dream state; so that much of what dying people say is purely allegorical and symbolic.

Whether any medical professionals recognise this or just put it down to the scattered ramblings of a delusional mind is unclear but I feel that in Words at the Threshold Lisa Smartt presents valuable research that should be read by all health and care professionals.

With their awareness of the process that their patients go through towards the end of life I am sure that the challenge of transition over to the other side can be greatly eased.

Most importantly of all this book is, of course, invaluable for those who struggle with the sheer sense of confusion that their dying loved ones create through their strange and incoherent commentaries during their transition phase.

Books like Words at the Threshold by Lisa Smartt only come along every now and again and when they do they shine out as publications that genuinely break new ground and greatly expand our understanding of the mysteries of life and death. Highly recommended as an essential read.