When most people are dying, they do so quietly. Sometimes people who have not been lucid for years, however, will suddenly become lucid shortly before they pass away.
We really do not know much about death. We know that people pass away, but we cannot really comprehend what the process is like to them.
From our perspectives, most people just seem to fade away until they stop. One moment they are breathing and the next they are not.
For a long time, medical researchers have been interested in what that process is like for those who actually experience it. The reality is that we might never know.
Some people do not just fade away, however, as The New York Times reported in "The Gentler Symptoms of Dying."
Sometimes people who have not been communicative for a long time will suddenly appear to be well again. Dementia patients can even have a period of lucidity where they are able to communicate with loved ones like they could before they became ill. This normally occurs within a week of the person passing away and often on the same day.
This phenomenon is known as terminal lucidity and records of it go all the way back to Hippocrates.
Understanding what people go through when they pass away and why some people have terminal lucidity could be helpful for elderly people. This knowledge could possibly be used to give doctors a way to make death less frightening and more peaceful.
Reference: New York Times (July 11, 2017) "The Gentler Symptoms of Dying."