John Harricharan: Elisabeth, would you tell us what
led you to your work in healing? Why did you become a doctor?
Kubler-Ross: At the
age of 15 I left home to find myself. World War II was raging
and the Nazis were leaving millions of people dead or dying in
their wake. Cities were being destroyed, people were starving,
children separated from their parents--an unimaginable horror
of man's inhumanity to man. I wanted to help, to heal, feed and
clothe the less fortunate. So, with others, I did what I could,
I was led from those experiences to what I am doing today.
John Harricharan: Did you find yourself wondering what
you were doing in the middle of a war helping others when you
were only a young girl?
Kubler-Ross: I think
I was born with a great desire to help. I did not think of myself,
only of what I could do for the people -- particularly the little
children. I was never as happy as when I was helping others.
All I had was my backpack and a few personal possessions. Even
though I was born relatively well-off and had a very comfortable
life, I gave it all up for the sake of being with those who needed
help. We had many interesting experiences.
John Harricharan: Could you tell us about some of those
experiences? Were there
any in particular that influenced the direction of your life?
I was still a young girl when all this happened. I saw refugees
from Germany trying to get over to Switzerland mowed down by
machine guns. Traveling through Europe, I did all I could to
help feed people. I love relief work! I helped rebuild villages
in France, moved on to Belgium and hitchhiked to Poland.
I was at home everywhere. Relief
work was my only kind of work. In my travels in Europe I had
my backpack and my faith. I always slept in cemeteries. I knew
people were afraid of cemeteries so I felt safe sleeping there.
I was never scared. I was born with very few fears.
John Harricharan: What happened in Poland?
Elisabeth: That is where I
had an experience which made me go into the study of medicine.
I was extremely happy doing my relief work. I was working many
hours a day helping to rebuild homes. It was hard manual labor
and so, naturally, all of us were tired. We didn't have tents
so we slept on blankets in the open air.
Many a night my sleep was disturbed
by someone seeking help. One night I decided that no matter what
happened, I would sleep until morning. It must have been very
late when I heard the cry of a child in my sleep. I decided not
to open my eyes but the crying continued. Finally I could stand
it no more and got up. There, next to me, was a woman with a
small bundle from which the sound was coming. All she said to
me was, " I have walked three days to find you. My child
is sick. You must save him." I took them to the small house
which served as a clinic and I examined the child. He had typhoid
in its advanced stages.
There was nothing I could do.
We had no antibiotics, no medicine, no anything. I told the woman
it was hopeless and that her child would die. She pleaded with
me saying, "This is the last of my 13 children. You must
save him!" "It is easy to say that," I replied,
"but there is very little I can do. What happened to the
others?" With a quivering voice she told me how all her
other children, her brothers and sisters, father, mother and
grandparents were wiped out in a concentration camp. She ended
by saying, "So you see, Mrs. Doctor, (that's what they called
me), you must save this last one."
What I did next was crazy.
The nearest town was a good night's walk away. I told her that
we could go there and, if all three of us lived through the journey,
we might find help. We walked all night taking turns carrying
the child. He could not have been more that three years old.
Finally we arrived at the hospital
in the town only to find that they would not admit the child.
I pleaded, got angry, threatened to publish it all over Europe,
and finally an exception was made. The doctor told us that he
would keep the child and that we were to return in three weeks.
By then the child would either be dead or well enough to go home.
We were not permitted to stay because of epidemics and diseases.
Without a tear, the woman thanked and blessed the doctor, gave
him the child and we left.
This woman returned with me
to the camp and became by super-assistant. She helped me with
all my work. I shared my blanket with her and was most appreciative
for her assistance. Days and nights rushed by and time was but
a blur. Most times I couldn't even tell what day it was.
One morning I got up and found
the woman was gone. Naturally, I was disappointed but I had work
to do so I continued. It must have been about a week or so later
that an old woman who helped me with cleaning woke me in the
morning saying, "Look what you have next to you!"
As I opened my eyes I noticed
a handkerchief with something in it and a piece of paper. Inside
was some black soil and a note written in pencil which read,
"Mrs. Doctor, this is blessed Polish soil from Mrs. W. whose
last of 13 children you saved."
This woman must have walked
days to the hospital, found her child alive, walked back to her
village for the soil, then to the priest to have him bless it,
and finally, back to me at the camp. The whole trip must have
taken almost a week of walking, It was the best gift I've ever
received in my entire life. I never saw the woman again but that
incident is as clear as ever in my mind, and it had a profound
effect on my future.
John Harricharan: That is a very moving story, full
of love and compassion.
I went to visit the concentration camps. I saw trainloads of
children's shoes. They were the shoes of the children who were
sent to the gas chambers. I remember standing there wondering
how we could kill each other, destroy so much, and still worry
about whether our children have chicken pox or a toothache? It
was difficult for me to understand. So I asked a woman who was
standing next to me and she said, " You too, are capable
of doing that." I disagreed vehemently.
Then I started thinking: if
the Nazis were raised in Switzerland, they might have been different,
and if I had been raised in Germany, I too could have been like
them. Who was I to judge anyone? I realized that there is a Hitler
in all of us, but if we seek out and find that Hitler and get
rid of him, we can become a Mother Theresa.
John Harricharan: That must have been a very special
Kubler-Ross: Yes. And
I wanted to know more about these children. I found messages
from them scratched into the walls with their fingernails. Messages
to their moms and dads. But they also drew pictures of butterflies.
There were no butterflies at Auschwitz and I always wondered
what made these children draw butterflies and then fearlessly
walk into the gas chambers. The woman I met there taught me forgiveness.
Boy, did I learn a lot from her! She had hated the Germans but
turned around and forgave them.
John Harricharan: Did you have any close encounters
with death? You must have been exposed to all sorts of danger.
Kubler-Ross: I never
gave it much thought but I did have many close calls. At one
point I was becoming very sick and wanted to go back to Switzerland.
After a harrowing trip from Poland through East Germany I was
finally smuggled across the border by a British officer. I was
found unconscious in the woods and rushed to a hospital. But
I knew I was not going to die.
John Harricharan: How did you know that?
I had the blessed Polish soil the mother of the typhoid child
had given me! I went back to Switzerland, studied medicine, married
an American and came to the United States. I really wanted to
work in India or Africa but that was not to be. I wanted to be
in pediatrics but ended up in psychiatry. That was how I started
my work in death and dying. At that time there was hardly anything
written about the subject. I was not only lecturing to medical
students but to ministerial students as well.
John Harricharan: You have been close to death many
times. Did you not have any fear of it?
never frightened me. It is as much a part of living as anything
else. I have faced it so many times it is no longer an enemy.
John Harricharan: Do you believe in the continuation
of life after death?
Kubler-Ross: I not
only believe it, I know it. I have always seemed to know it.
I also know that life is forever.
John Harricharan: There is and "unreasonableness"
to death. It seems to come in the strangest and most unexpected
ways. Do you think we choose our time or is it pre-assigned?
Kubler-Ross: We have
certain tasks that we came to accomplish. These tasks also contain
within them much learning for us. We learn from each other and
also teach each other. Our time is not pre-assigned. When we
finish our tasks, then we go. Children who die young are some
of our greatest teachers. We are allowed to die when we have
taught what we came to teach and when we have learned what we
came to learn.
John Harricharan: Can we communicate with loved ones
who have gone on?
Kubler-Ross: If you
are ready and if you are at a high enough spiritual level. It
can be done through dreams and also through other methods. I
always tell bereaved parents, after they have given up their
heaviness and resentment, to say, "I really need to see
you in my dreams. I need to know that you're okay." If there
is a lot of sadness and anger, the one who has gone on cannot
come through. But if the conditions are right and there is enough
faith, the contact will occur in dreams.
John Harricharan: I described an incident in my book,
When You Can Walk on Water, Take the Boat, wherein
I met my father who had died a year earlier. He said to me, "Son,
when you are facing a difficult problem and need my help, go
to sleep and we will meet under the tamarind tree in the little
village by the river. There we will see what we can do about
your problem." For me, it was an extremely moving and comforting
experience. How real does that seem to you?
Kubler-Ross: Yes, I
remember that story in your book! It's a fantastic book and I've
given many copies as gifts. The experience with your dad was
more real than real! The story was delightful and very moving
and will help so many people.
You see, our life on this planet
is about ninety percent illusion. We create it the way it appears
to be, but there is much more to it than that. You met your dad
on a different level of reality, but it was as valid as anything
else you do. Keep meeting him; he will help you and continue
John Harricharan: Sometimes I also feel the presence
of my wife around me. She died when she was only in her thirties.
There are times when I think I hear her voice. Today, the message
was, "Don't worry. It will all turn out better than you
can imagine. You must get rid of sadness and bring more joy into
your life. Then and only then will you hear me more clearly."
Was this just my imagination?
Kubler-Ross: Oh no,
not at all! It really happened! When you get rid of the heaviness
around you, you will begin to have more and better communications.
Even now you can have dialogues with her.
They always want us to be happy.
She had accomplished her tasks on earth and now she wants to
help you accomplish yours. You do not need any special preparation.
All you have to do is be yourself as brilliantly as possible
and all the other things will follow.
John Harricharan: What do you think about spirit guides?
Do you have any?
One day a woman in Virginia asked me into her house and wanted
to know if I believed in fairies. I told her that I wasn't turned
on to fairies but would like to know about my guides. I believed
that there were such things as guides, but up to that time I
had never seen any.
She handed me a Polaroid camera
and asked me to take a picture of any part of her garden. I thought
this was a strange request, but I took the shot nevertheless.
As the picture developed, imagine my surprise when I saw a fairy
right in the middle of it!
John Harricharan: You actually saw it?
: Yes, of course! There
it was, pretty as ever, looking at me. So that afternoon I though
to myself, if a camera can take pictures of fairies, then it
certainly could take pictures of guides! So I took my husband's
expensive camera, went up a small hill, looked into the woods
and said aloud, "If I have a guide, I'd like to see him
or her materialize in a photograph."
I pointed the camera at the
trees, took two pictures, went home and forgot about the whole
thing. Weeks later when the pictures were developed, there, on
one of them, was the figure of a tall American Indian with a
hand stretched out towards me. Needless to say I was thrilled!
That was my first encounter with one of my guides.
John Harricharan: Didn't these experiences precipitate
some bad press?
Kubler-Ross: Oh, you
wouldn't believe it! There were some people who thought that
a physician should not be involved with such things and so, rumors
started. They tried to discredit me and to destroy my career.
It was really bad. And then,
one day, I said to myself that I must stop their nonsense. I
was going to be giving a lecture in New York City to approximately
5000 people, and I knew that more than half the audience would
only be there to see who this weird Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was.
Before the curtain opened, I sincerely asked my guides to help
me. As I started to walk out on the platform, I strongly felt
their presence with me. It was one of the best speeches I had
ever given. And from that day on, all the controversy died away.
My guides had again helped me through a difficult situation.
John Harricharan: Have you had any experiences with
Kubler-Ross: Yes, I
have had spontaneous personal experiences with out-of-body travel.
Many of them were so vivid and so beautiful that I became extremely
moved. These experiences seem to happen by themselves. All I
have to do is trust.
John Harricharan: As a child, did you feel that you
had psychic abilities?
Kubler-Ross: Such things
were never discussed. I always felt different and I always knew
I was protected. As a little girl, I had a secret place in the
woods where I would go to communicate with the animals, the trees
and the shrubs. I even used to do something like a sun dance.
I have always been close to Nature and I think there is much
we can learn from it.
We can go on and on with
questions and answers but, this writing, which started out to
be an article, would end up being a book. So I will stop here.
I trust you've had a glimpse of the world of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
I further trust that your journey through this life will be a
grand and glorious adventure, full of all good things.