http://www.ymba.org/parable/parabfr3.htmPARABLE 019: DEATH OF HONEN, FOUNDER OF JAPANESE PURE LAND
"At the hour of the serpent (10 a.m.), on the day of his death, his disciples brought him an image of Amida, three feet high, and as they put it on the right side of his bed, asked him if he could see it. With his finger pointing to the sky he said, 'There is another Buddha here besides this one. Do you not see Him?'
Then he went on to say, 'As a result of the merit of repeating the Sacred Name, I have, for over ten years past, continually been gazing on the glory of the Pure Land, and the very forms of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but I have kept it secret and said nothing about it. Now, however, as I draw near the end, I disclose it to you.'
The disciples then took a piece of cord made of five-colored strands, fastened it to the hand of the Buddha's image, and asked Honen to take hold of it."
(Honen, the Buddhist Saint: His Life and Teaching, p.636.)
Note: It is an ancient practice in northern India (and later China and Japan) to exhort a dying person to face west, holding onto a thread attached to the finger of an Amitabha Buddha statue. This practice, which stems from a samadhi ("light") in the Avatamsaka Sutra, is meant to remind the dying of their vow to be reborn in the Pure Land.
"To exhort the dying to remembrance of Buddha, / And show them icons for them to behold,/ Causing them to take refuge in the Buddha,/ Is how this light can be made." (T. Cleary, Flower Ornament Sutra/Avatamsaka Sutra, v.I p.350)