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George Harrison prepared for death most of his life. He didn’t enjoy living in the material world and constantly tried connecting with God, whether it was through gardening or music. So, as he was dying in 2001, George was hardly scared. This was the moment he’d been looking forward to for some time. George knew how he wanted to leave his body. After he said his goodbyes to his family, George lit the room and died.

George Harrison wearing red and blue for a portrait in 1988.
George Harrison | United Archives/Getty Images

George had been preparing to leave his body for decades

Being spiritual, George had interesting views of death. According to Beatles Bible, George once said, “Death is just where your suit falls off and now you’re in your other suit. You can’t see it on this level, but it’s all right. Don’t worry.”

When a man attacked George and his wife, Olivia, during a home invasion in 1999, George almost died. However, George wasn’t so angry that he could have died. He was angrier that the horrible experience could have taken away how he wanted to die.

During Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, George explained the experience. “I had an experience which, speeds up the whole idea of if you have something happen to you physically then… you think, ‘Wow, yeah, I could be dying now,'” he said.

“Now, if I was dying now what would I think? What would I miss? If I had to leave my body in an hour’s time, what is it that I would miss? And I think, well, I’ve got a son who needs a father, so I have to stick around for him as long as I can, but other than that, I can’t think of much reason to be here [laughs].”

In the documentary, Olivia said George “put so much emphasis and importance on the moment of death, of leaving your body. That was very–that’s really what he was practicing for. It’s like the Dalai Lama said something that really made him smile. He said, ‘And what do you do in the morning?’ He said, ‘I do my practice, I do my mantras, I do my spiritual practice.’ ‘And how do you know it will work?’ ‘I don’t. I’ll find out when I die.’

“And it was so great, but it’s like, that was it. I’m practicing this so that when I die, I will know how to leave my body, and I’ll be familiar, and I won’t be frightened.”

On an English talk show in the 1980s, George explained, “When I went to Rishikesh, in India, I went into meditation and had some good experiences. So I believe what it says in the scriptures, and in the Bhagavad Gita, it says, ‘There was never a time when you didn’t exist and will never be a time when you cease to exist.’ The only thing that changes is our bodily condition. Soul comes in the body, and we go from birth to death, and it’s death, how I look at it, is like taking your suit off. The soul is in these three bodies, and one body falls off.

“It’s just the method by which you die. I think it’s nice if you can consciously leave your body at death.”

George’s wife, Olivia, said he ‘lit the room’ when he died

During the last summer of George’s life, he and Olivia vacationed together and looked back on their 30 years of marriage.

“We had this whole 30 years together, and then at the end, you’re able to just decant that time,” Olivia explained in the documentary. “We spent that summer together, and we had so much fun. It’s amazing… At the end of your life, here’s the conversation: ‘I hope I wasn’t a bad husband.’ ‘Well, I hope I was an OK wife,’ you know? Uh, ‘How did we do? How did we do?’ And then you think, ‘Oh, I’m so glad. I’m so glad that we just kept walking this path together. And all those other things that came and went, we just swatted away and batted away in between us, you know?’

When it finally came time for George to leave the material world, Olivia said he just lit the room. “There was a profound experience that happened when he left his body,” she explained. “It was visible. Let’s just say you wouldn’t need to light the room if you were trying to film it. You know, he just lit the room.”

Ravi Shankar, George’s musical mentor and close friend, arrived with his daughter Anoushka Shankar and quietly played the sitar in the background. Shortly after George died, his family released the following statement: “He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.'”


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Many of George’s friends couldn’t believe how peacefully he died

When his father died, Dhani couldn’t believe that George didn’t bear any scars from the 1999 attack. He said his father was like a Yogi who moved on from things like that.

Watching her “Uncle George” die was also a profound experience for Anoushka. She told People, “He had a look that I’d never really seen before, so full of love and peace. He wasn’t able to say anything with his lips, but his eyes were saying it. That house was just so full of love.”

With the press’ hounding that last year, Tom Petty couldn’t believe that George died with so much dignity. “I’ll tell you, the media wasn’t very sweet in the last year of his life,” Petty told Rolling Stone. “He was probably the most hounded of his whole life when he was trying to deal with that. Especially in Europe, he never got a moment’s peace. He would have helicopters follow him when he left the house.”

It was his spirituality that allowed him to die with dignity, Petty said. George let go of the pestering press just like he let go of the 1999 attack. “He is just a really brave guy, and he died with a great deal of dignity,” Petty said. Graham Nash, George’s friend, agreed. Nash told People, “He faced the end with such courage and quiet dignity, which is how he lived.”

Watching the profound moment her husband died also dissolved Olivia’s fears of death. While she waits to reunite with George, she stays in communication with him through prayers.