Talking about the end of life is always a dark and solemn affair. Last words can be shocking, heartbreaking, or touching—and these haunting deathbed moments might just make you contemplate your own mortality. Buckle up, because saying "goodbye" is one of the hardest parts of being human.
My dad was in the hospital and found out he had lung cancer. It was him, my stepmom, and a nurse in the room. He told my stepmom to get him something just to get her to leave the room. The nurse said that before she could stop him, he made a drastic decision. He took off his oxygen mask, said "I'm done" and lost consciousness immediately.
He was on life support for a day or so, but he was already gone. When we pulled the plug, his body went in less than five minutes. I guess he really was done.
I worked as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home, for just two months, brand new. This gentleman was assigned to my caseload the entire time I had worked there, and was in hospice the whole time, but had seemed to be doing well. This night, I was working with him, and he seemed off. I talked to him and explained what I was doing to care for him, but he just sounded so angry and confused.
I was new to this, so I didn’t know quite what to do, so I pressed on. He got so freaked out—he did the unthinkable: He took his oxygen tubing and tried to wrap it around my throat to choke me. I got away, told the nurse, and was told that confusion and aggression were common when people were dying, he needed his care regardless. I went to care for him again a few hours later, and he looked so docile and defeated.
His eyes filled with tears as he looked at me, and told me, “I’m real sorry for what I did earlier, ma’am, that’s not who I am. I’m so sorry.” I told him it was okay, and that I just wanted to make him comfortable. He thanked me, and said the line, “I’m going home.” He just kept repeating it and sounded so urgent. “I’m going home. I’m going home. I’m going home.” I thought he was still confused…
He passed one and a half hours later, right after my shift was over. I was the one to hear his last words. Upon learning that he passed, I immediately thought of those last words. Sticks with me to this day. This was almost 12 years ago, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
My great-grandmother lived a very long and interesting life. She was in her 20s during the great depression. Over the course of her nearly 100-year life, she had collected owls. Literally thousands of owl figurines. She had clocks, wall-hangings, potholders, lamps, stained glass art, salt shakers, and more little figurines than you could imagine, all depicting owls.
We all wondered about the importance of the owls. She never talked about them, and we just all assumed she loved owls. Well, when she was nearing the end of her life, at the age of 98 or 99, and the docs said she had days, my grandparents went and talked to her, and they asked her if she had anything she wanted to share or ask before she goes.
She thought for a moment, then said, "I never understood the owls." It turns out, she didn't really care at all about owls. Near as we could piece together, sometime in the 40s or 50s perhaps, she bought either a trivet or a set of salt and pepper shakers that were owls. Then someone got her the other. Those were the oldest owls anyone could remember.
But from there, someone got her an owl to match, probably a potholder or placemat. And all of a sudden, her kitchen was owl-themed. From there, it snowballed. The owls flowed like a river, baffling her for 60 years, eventually taking over as the bulk of her personal belongings.
Lad comes in after a car accident. His work van had flipped and rolled. The fella was wheeled in fully conscious, no pain or disorientation. However, his lower half was something straight out of a horrifying hospital drama. He was completely twisted in half from the midsection down. There was no way he would survive “untwisting,” but the blood vessels must’ve been cinched in such a way that he didn’t bleed out.
The doctors and nurses explained the situation to him and suggested his family come to say goodbye. He looked like he was lounging on the couch watching TV with a blanket over his lower half. Once the realization set in, he replied with, “How will I explain this mess?”
Right before he kicked the bucket, my great uncle made a crazy confession: He admitted to having two illegitimate sons right in front of his own children and grandchildren. The crazy thing was that none of his children knew this life of his. Not even my great aunt knew about it because she would have made a huge fuss if she was alive at that time and knew. But that wasn't the wildest part.
Sadly, his two sons already passed five and seven years before him respectively. He was 98 years old, and his “invisible” sons had been 65 and 69 years old. The children found out that one of his invisible sons actually was a teacher at a school that his granddaughters attended when they were in high school. Nevertheless, his children decided to reach out to the children of his invisible sons.
They connected and learned even more things about my grand uncle. The weirdest part was that I actually dated one of the granddaughters of one of the invisible sons. Talk about a few degrees of separation!
When my grandma was dying, we had her at home. I stayed up with her at night to check on her and keep her comfortable. A couple of days before she passed, she sat bolt upright in bed stretched out her arms, and screamed "Daddy!" in the most excited and childish voice. Her father had passed in an accident when she was a child. She then laid back down and never opened her eyes or spoke again.
She was gone a couple of days later. I am convinced when she called out it was because her dad came to get her, and after that, it was just a body taking time to shut off.
I worked as a night janitor in the children's cancer ward at my local hospital. There was a little boy laying in bed and he called me into his room because he wanted help adjusting his pillow. He was hooked up with wires and stuff, so he couldn’t roll over to place the pillow how he wanted. Figuring I'd be allowed to do it since a nurse wasn't really needed for it, I parked my cart outside of the room and went in.
In the room, he started asking me different questions about my job. The first being, "Are you a nurse?" I said, "No." He asked me if I had seen his mom in the hallway and told me that she'd gone down to the cafeteria to get him strawberry milk and a donut, I said no to that too. He was quiet for a second. Then he looked me right in the face and said, "If I pass soon, I hope that my mom is not sad."
That hit me. Like really, really hard. This kid was 100 percent aware that he could die, and his mother would be affected by it. I didn't even know how to feel so I told him that he wasn't going to pass away, and hundreds of people survive cancer. I left shortly after and broke down crying in the bathroom. A few days later, I was wiping down the wooden support railings along the walls of that hallway—and noticed something absolutely heartbreaking...
His room was "closed for cleaning + disinfection." That sign is only hung outside of rooms when someone passes.
I was taking care of a patient who was expected to discharge that day. They suffered an unexpected massive stroke and passed despite everything we did to save him. Once things settled down, we attempted to locate family members or friends to contact. This patient was between homes, a very clean, nice man, who was a recent immigrant from Asia.
We couldn’t find any contacts for anyone to notify of his passing. As we went through his wallet, we made the most devastating discovery. We found handwritten cards he had made to hand out to others, with his email address, and a message saying: “Can we make friends?” I walked straight to the bathroom and started crying. This happened just a couple of weeks after I had tried to save the life of a neighbor who had been hurt, who also passed, and it was all just too much for me.
It was already sad that this nice man had no one for us to call, when I read those cards, it absolutely broke my heart.
So, this happened a couple of years ago. We had an ex-gang member who was dying of cancer, and he confessed that he was the gang hitman for many years. He wanted to confess to all the hits and show the investigators where the bodies were buried. He felt like he'd get closure knowing that the surviving families of his victims would find out where they are.
We had to get the hospital law team involved because we had no policies to deal with that. Detectives got involved, and the dude confessed to gang murders from decades ago.
When my grandpa was passing, he was in full-blown sundowners. He wasn't coherent, couldn't really speak except in the early mornings, and was hallucinating all sorts of things like late family members and stuff. Most of his communication was just paranoia about the nurses trying to hurt him and awful stuff like that. I was a young teen, so my mom didn't really want me to be around him when he was like this.
The last time I saw him, something clicked on in his head. It was like he fought through the cloud of unreality in his head and made direct eye contact with me and grabbed my hand. "Determination, that's what's important," is all he said, but it was like he knew it was the last time he would see me. It was like someone said, "Alright you've got four words, make them count."
Immediately after that, he went back to a semi-vegetative state and started mumbling. He left not long after that, and those words have pulled me through some of my toughest days. It was like the last lesson he had for me, and he had to tell me this. It took me a long time to really understand those words, but I made it. Thanks, grandpa. You were the best.
I had a patient whose memory had been fading for years. It’s weird, right before a patient passes, sometimes they’ll suddenly be doing a lot better. Anyway, he thought I was his late wife. I played along and just listened to him while he recalled his engagement, his wedding, his first child's birth, and a few other memories for me.
At one point, he said something that absolutely broke my heart: “Oh! Irene, there you are! Sorry, you know my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. Well, thank you for listening to an old man tell his stories. I hope you have great stories to tell one day too. I’m coming, Irene.” And then he passed. He was my first long-time patient.
I had to tell my grandmother that dialysis would only give her another week or so to live and it was her choice to try or not. She was in and out of consciousness at that point and was in a clear state for the moment. She asked, “Will I die?” I said, “Yes.” She looked me in the eye and smiled just a little and said, “Sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to do.”
She closed her eyes, squeezed my hand, and slept until she passed a day later. When things get hard, I always hear her say, “Sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to do.”
A couple of days before my grandmother passed, she was really confused and was talking about my mother having a child a year or so after my own birth that was sent for adoption. She was talking about how sad and horrible this was and that I deserved to know. After my grandmother passed, I confronted my mom about it, but she didn’t admit anything. A couple of months later, I found out the harrowing truth.
It was actually my grandmother who put a baby girl up for adoption who was born to one of her children. I still don’t know if it was my mom or my aunt.
I'm a CNA going to school to be a nurse and I work in a nursing home. The most haunting thing I ever heard was from a resident we had who was the strong and silent type. We always had to basically pry answers out of him because he grew up in a time where men just shrugged things off, and expressing issues was just complaining in their eyes.
When he was nearing the end, I worked an overnight where he was awake, which was not normal for this guy. He slept through the night every other time I had worked with him. Towards the end of the night, around 4 am, he starts hollering out for us to come help. Working in a nursing home you usually think "fall," so we grabbed our vitals cart and a mechanical lift and when we opened the door he was just laying in bed.
I flipped on the light to see if maybe he injured himself and I can remember clear as day the expression on his face. His eyes were wide with tears streaming down each side of his face as he stared mouth wide open towards the ceiling. A man I always equated to kind of an old-school dad was laying there trembling with his hands clenched deeply into the comforter.
I walked up to him and asked what was wrong, kind of hoping maybe it was a night terror but when I got close, he grabbed my scrub pocket and pulled me as close as possible, and wrapped his arms around me. He sobbed into my shoulder for what seemed like forever, just repeating, "I don't want to go." We gave him Ativan and morphine not too long after, and he was gone before my shift was done.
I looked after a guy with end-stage heart failure. He kept having episodes where if he coughed or leaned forward—anything to increase his intrathoracic pressure—he would pass out. He would come back after a few minutes and gradually go from purple back to pink. "How long was I out for that time?" He was fully mentally fine—sharp, witty, and at peace with what was going to eventually happen to him.
He and I were joking that one of these episodes was going to end him as he sipped his tea and we talked rubbish. Five minutes later it happened again, and he didn't come back. He had a DNR order, which was sensible. Very eerie to talk to somebody so vibrant and alert minutes before he went. Such a nice dude, I want to be in that mindset when I go too.
During the last few months of her life, my great grandmother would sleep on the couch instead of her bed. Her reason was terrifying. She kept saying that “the lady” was sleeping in her bed. She also saw a campground in her back yard and would constantly ask my grandmother if she should cook dinner for the campers. But the hallucinations didn't end there.
She also told my grandmother to call the city to get them to get the cat out of the street. There was no cat in the street. There were also people she saw living in her car. Hearing her talk about this stuff was strange to say the least. We didn’t understand it, but we just let her talk.
My mother ran a nursing home growing up. From when I was five to ten, I spent every weekend with residents. Because I was a kid, residents often confessed stuff they thought I wouldn’t understand. One woman I met was maybe about 96. Even had her last burst of energy where she thought she was better. A Black delivery man came with some flowers.
After he left, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t believe I’m dying without having been with a colored man.”
I’m not sure where I stand in terms of religion, but my grandmother was deeply religious. She had been deaf for over 70 years. She talked like a deaf person and sang like a deaf person. We had her at home, and she passed in her bed. But two minutes before she passed, she sat up in bed screaming at the top of her lungs: "They’re here! They’re here!" But that wasn't the creepiest part.
She also said it in the clearest, nondeaf voice. She then started singing a gospel song. She passed about halfway through the song. I will never forget it. I have no earthly explanations for how she sang and talked so clear at the end. I have been with many patients, and usually, there isn’t anything that happens. They usually stop talking and responding altogether, and they just have the agonal breathing at the end. Nothing like when my grandmother passed.
My great aunt passed a couple of years ago. She was suffering from viral encephalitis and fluctuated in and out of consciousness. It was truly painful to watch. Although a lot of family tended to be around her in those last days, I once happened to be alone with her—and she made some fairly odd remarks. On the day in question, I was playing games on my phone in her hospital room when she started to audibly mutter to herself.
It became more urgent and intense, and eventually, she explicitly called me to her side. Her eyes looked huge and confused, I doubt she knew who I was. She spat out her words, most of which were barely comprehensible, putting particular emphasis on "boy" and "ingredient." I sat there for 15 minutes, listening to her erratic account of, as I finally gathered, how she sometimes used to cook eggs in the urine of a stable boy instead of water.
She insisted that he was handsomely compensated for his services, but now and then, she started to cry and couldn’t stop. I googled these weeks later, and there indeed exists a traditional dish described in the West as Virgin boy egg. Apparently, this concept had fascinated her, and she frequently recreated this herself and served it to her family without explaining what it was.
I am not sure if she felt shame or enthusiasm about this; she often stammered something about "the secret ingredient," but it quite obviously haunted her towards the very end of her life.
This was during my final year as a medical student, I was working an internship. It was late and we were doing our last rounds for the night, right before the shift change. There was an elderly gentleman who came from an at-home hospice with stage 4 cancer. COVID had limited family visits to short, short increments. The family often had to wait in the lobbies or go back home until another visiting time slot was opened.
He held on for a few days. When we were alone, we had spoken during moments of his lucidity. He had expressed his guilt over the pain his dying was causing to his loved ones. He looked at me with a weak but genuine smile every time I asked if he was ok. He never once complained of pain. He even outright denied pain medication when offered. His reasoning was that someone else would need it and not him.
We all knew he was hurting. But on that last night, he said to me: “I want this to be my final lesson to my family. I want to show them how to die with dignity.” A few moments later, he asked me if I could say to him it was ok to go. To find peace and rest. He said he couldn’t bear the thought of his family seeing him like this. He wanted to hold on because he was his family’s whole support system. But he finally said his pain was too much.
He was ready to pass. I told him that he didn’t need to keep fighting for his family’s comfort. If he was truly in pain and ready to go, it would be ok. His family would understand. Once I gave him the “Ok,” he started the process. Delirium, heavy breathing, and fidgeting. And then he was gone. He was such a great man, a kind, and gentle soul. I didn’t know him for long, but I genuinely miss the man. Rest In Peace, Sir.
My grandfather was put into a 24/7 care home with severe Parkinson's. My mom and grandma had spent four years basically taking care of him constantly and needed a break for a couple of weeks. I went one day, alone, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “I need you to get me home so I can pass, I can’t do it here.” I tried saying everything I could to the nurses and my family to get him home without saying what he told me.
24 hours later he got rushed to the ER. As he was dying, he looked at me and said, “Don’t let it bother you,” and passed. It still bothers me.
I was an EMT for four years. My worst call was a 20-year-old who was in a head-on collision. Due to the high impact speed, his car was wrapped around him, and he was hopelessly trapped. A piece of the car had impaled into his stomach, and he had several other injuries. He was losing a lot of blood. When we got there, he was awake and alert, and in a lot of pain.
All we could see of him was his head and part of his shoulder. He was calm at first, and we were talking to him, just trying to keep him awake while the local volunteer fire department tried to extract him. As time went on, he lost more and more blood and he started to slip out of it. He just started talking about how scared he was.
All I could do was hold his shoulder and tell him I was here, and that I wasn't going anywhere. The fire department couldn't get him out. I watched him pass, and there was nothing we could do.
When my sister was on her deathbed, she would point and ask who the people were in her room when no one else was there. Then I’d see her having conversations with these invisible people. I finally asked her what she was talking about and with who? Her response chilled me to the bone. She said she was talking to our late grandfather. He told her he was there to help her cross over.
She told him she wasn’t ready to go. He said to her that it has to be her decision and when she’s ready to take his hand he will guide her across.
My dad had Alzheimer's and ended up in a secure ward. He was blind and almost deaf. I was visiting him one day. He didn't know who I was, but he started talking about me. I was shocked. He said I had done better than him in life and that he was proud of me. He was a quiet man my whole life and had never told me that when I was growing up.
Looking back, he did things that I never realized were for me. For example, when he retired back in the 1970s, his colleagues asked what he'd like as a present. He chose a scientific calculator. He had no use for it. He gave it to me for university. I thought he was just passing it on, not realizing that he'd asked for it with me in mind.
We were sending this middle-aged guy home after his ER visit. As soon as we moved him off the bed, he became unresponsive and had no heartbeat. We did a couple of rounds of CPR, and he began to come to. He blinked a couple of times and the doctor running the code jokingly said, "Sir, you almost left us!" The man said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to" in a sad way. That was the last thing he ever said.
His heart then stopped again and we couldn't get him back. It was most likely a saddle pulmonary embolism. He was there for something pretty mild, but he threw a clot right when he was being transferred. He had classic cape cyanosis across his chest, which is indicative of a big pulmonary embolism.
In my first semester of nursing school, we were placed in a long-term care unit in the hospital. I met an elderly gentleman who barely spoke. He slept for most of the day, and never had any visitors either. Every time I walked by his room he was just sitting there, like a piece of furniture. The unit was so busy there was never any extra time to spend with the patients.
I walked by his room around lunch and noticed his tray had been delivered but it hadn’t been unpacked, and he was staring at it. I came into the room, sat on his bed, and fed him through my lunchtime. He didn’t speak. He ate about 80% of the tray, taking his time. When he was finished, I cleaned his mouth and tidied his bed. As I was leaving the room, he looked at me, and with all of his energy and might, he smiled at me.
Then in the feeblest voice I’ve ever heard he said, "Thank you." He ended up passing a few days later. I’ve thought about him almost every single day since then.
I've written about this before, but I'm a palliative nurse and there is this trend I've noticed. Sometimes when people are in the process of dying, they can become delirious and hallucinate. I've heard from at least five people that they are scared of "the dog" in the room and they want me to remove it. Like completely different people in completely different rooms over the span of two years telling me to take the dog out of the room because they don’t like it staring at them.
I'm a nursing student in Canada, and on my palliative rotation, I had a patient that was getting medically assisted dying the next day. He was an elderly cancer patient. He told me he was a "self-ordained minister, nothing official —but an at-home type preacher" and that I could confess to him anything I wanted. I humored him and whispered to him some of my biggest secrets.
He told me it was alright, and I could tell he appreciated that I confided in him. He also told me his email address and said that while he would not be sending emails in return, he would be receiving them. He was a cool guy.
My grandparents have three daughters. Everyone always said that my mom was my grandfather's secret favorite, but he never agreed with them. I heard he was on his deathbed on April 6th and went to see him on April 8th. He was looking really scary and unwell, and the doctor kept saying he didn't understand why he hadn’t passed yet.
On April 9th, everyone but my mom had the chance to come and say goodbye. She doesn't drive and my dad works 10 hours away. My grandpa kept saying her name in a whisper to the nurses, so my mom came by on the 10th. He looked at her, smiled, and whispered "My Amy." Amy is my mother’s name. He closed his eyes and never opened them again.
I used to plan fundraising events and held a candlelight memorial walk around our Hospice House campus every year. One year, there was a hospice patient in the house in her final hours. She told all of her family, "Don't worry, I’m leading the parade today." As she passed later that day, her family saw us setting up. When we told them what we were doing, they all started to laugh and cry.
They brought her photo out with them that night as they led the procession.
My stepfather emailed me the night he passed. In general, he was always in pain from chemo, cancer, medication, and whatnot. He did not want us to continue spending money as he wasted away. He asked me to never tell the rest of the family: "I'm taking all my sleeping pills tonight after your Mom goes to bed. With luck, she'll never know the truth. It would break her."
My great grandfather was in his mid-90s when he went. His health was always good, but a benign tumor deemed too dangerous to operate on at his age went septic. He passed a week later. I went to visit him in the hospital. My family used to see him a lot, but there was a falling out between him and my grandma, so we stopped seeing them.
In the hospital, he told me not to worry about him. Most everyone he's ever known was gone, and he was ready to go too. The week he felt himself getting sick, he knew something was off and made arrangements to get my great-grandma into a nursing home. He took care of her with her Alzheimer’s, so he wouldn't go until he knew she was taken care of.
They were married for over 70 years—and there's one story I'll never forget. Every Sunday for over 50 years, he would drop my great-grandma off at church, and then sit in the car and wait for her. Hated religion but loved his wife.
My mom has been a nurse for more than 30 years, and she says the number of patients that tell their nurses “I’m going to die today,” or “I’m about to die,” or some version of it is staggering. She said they often seem to know, and you learn to believe them. Once when I was 16, I passed out, and while my brother calls 911, she tried to get me upright to ask some questions for info for the paramedics.
At one point I said, “I don’t want to die,” and she said afterward that nothing in all her decades of hearing patients say things like that and worse, has ever scared her more. Thankfully, obviously, I am alive and well.
I worked for a federal law enforcement agency. We had a mid-level player as a suspect for a string of cargo thefts. Knew him for years and brought him in several times. He taunted us a fair bit. Lung cancer got hold of him before we could build a solid case. Things went downhill fast. Went to see him at home, just before he transferred to hospice.
That he did at least 50% of what we suspected is an open secret. I knew it. He knew it. For whatever reason, he chose to give me a break. He said, “If I give you something, will you sit on it for a few weeks?” Initially, I could not agree. What if he was going to leak info about something in progress? He assured me that it could wait, so I agreed.
So, he said, “I know that you are looking at me for what you’re investigating. I didn’t do it.” He admitted wanting to do it, told me who was responsible, and where we could find solid evidence to implicate five to six people. Why did he tell me? He said the other guy “never treated anybody right.”
The summer of my third year in nursing school, we were going to different types of hospitals to do our clinical and stayed at a certain type of hospital for a week or two. Our last stop was a general hospital. On the second to last day at that hospital an old lady, who had no family come to visit her the whole time, was close to going, and she looked at me while I was doing my rounds and asked me, “Please, can you stay with me a little longer and hold my hand?”
I pulled up a chair and held her hand while she took her last breaths. I never finished nursing school. I’m just not mentally stable enough to witness things like that.
I had a client pass recently—and it's stuck with me ever since. She was very elderly, had various physical ailments associated with age but still ran a tight ship. Hair and nails done, house tidy. She had been feeling unwell for weeks, just enough to be bothersome but not bad enough for hospitalization. She could feel the change in the wind.
She had a grumble in her refined way, saying, “I’ve been through terrible things!” The strain was clear on her face. But she turned to the window where it was a bright blue sky and said, “Never mind that. What a beautiful day it’s turned out to be." She passed suddenly an hour later. And I always felt her last statement to me wasn’t about that day, but a comment on her entire life.
Realistic, but happy with the results anyway. She was classy in a way they just don’t make anymore.
A good friend's daughter passed from cancer. I used to head over to keep her company in the evenings after work. A lot of times, one parent would be there, but they'd close their eyes for a nap when she did. I'd walk in and she would wake up but "shush" me so her mom or dad could sleep. We would snuggle on her bed, and she would ask me questions about my life or the world.
Sometimes we would draw, or I'd bring her a puzzle book. If she was having a "good" day, we would sneak out and go get snacks from the nurses. One of the last times I visited her, she asked me if I believed in heaven. I'm an atheist, but I told her I absolutely did. We ended up coming up with some questions for her relatives that were already there. I walked out of there absolutely gutted.
She was so smart and such a genuinely lovely kid. I still think about her and what she could have been.
The last conversation I had with my grandfather has always stuck with me. He had Parkinson’s and lived on a farm outside of town. One day he looked at me and said, “I’m getting too old to take care of your grandma. I need you to do that for me, okay?” His health deteriorated pretty rapidly from that point onward. I still call my grandmother every single day and try to get back home whenever I can to help out around the farm.
My grandfather had pretty terrible dementia and he kept making deathbed confessions as he knew he didn’t have much time left. They were often about witnessing a murder and not telling anyone, but each time he confessed to us the details changed. It happened a couple of times a day over the course of his final week. We finally figured out that he would watch the local news and hear about these things happening, then would think he had actually witnessed them.
My aunt watched her elderly mother fall down the stairs and confess just before she passed that she wasn't her biological mother. She told my aunt that her oldest sister was actually her mother. The sister had gotten pregnant too young, and the mom said it was hers. A common way of handling it back then. She revealed it in her very last breath.
My mom had pretty bad dementia and rarely made sense. Right as she was passing, she suddenly looked at me with remarkably clear eyes and said, "The colors are beautiful," and then went into decompensation euphoria. She gave me the best smile I'd seen on her face in 15 years. She suddenly looked much younger. She went about two minutes later.
My great uncle had pancreatic cancer and was very frail because of it. I helped him bathe, use the restroom, and change each morning. Not his last words to me, but something he said that has stuck with me since was "I hate feeling so useless, I can't do this anymore, I'm so sorry you have to do this." I told him I never minded doing this for him, I loved him so much, and I'd always be there for him.
I had to move away a few weeks later because my mom wanted me back home. He passed shortly after, and his cat he had for almost 30 years followed him a few days later. He was a good man.
I told my maternal great-grandmother, "Thank you for being such a great grandmother"—but her response threw me for a loop. She said, “I’m so sorry.” She responded that way because when I was born, it was out of wedlock. So, I think while she was civil towards me, she harbored not-so-good feelings for me. I accepted her apology and, in a way, probably made her spirit happy because I ended up naming one of my children after her.
I've had multiple patients ask me how the process of dying happens, what they should expect in those last few hours and days. This is usual with terminal patients where you can clearly see the beginning of the process. I'll not forget the one patient who asked directly for me. He said, “If she arrives, please let her report to me immediately. I'm dying and she has to tell me how that works, exactly. I want to know."
I went in, answered his questions as well as I could. And a few hours later he passed.
I was about to go to Rome for a school trip and my family told me to go to set my mind on something else for a few days. Before I left, I wanted to say goodbye to my grandfather, as it was possibly the last time I could talk to him, and he was sick. He told me: "Have fun boy, I'll see you next week." I went to Rome, and when I came back, he was already in a deep sleep due to medication.
He wanted to peacefully pass away while sleeping. I came back the next week, and he was sleeping when I went to visit him. I told him everything I did in Rome even though I knew he wouldn't wake up. The next morning, he passed. My grandmother said to me: "He waited for you." I still miss him so much.
I provided hospice care for a loved one so she could pass in her own home rather than a hospital. In the end, she became convinced that taking morphine for the pain was hurting her. She would lay in agony asking me for help but refused the pain meds. I resorted to just raising and lowering her bed to help her get comfortable. The day she went, her cat went from being aloof to sleeping on the bed with her. Cats know things.
I was an EMT that got a call about a hit and run. The area of the city I worked in was rough. Some guy and his girlfriend had got into a fight in the parking lot, and it ended with the guy running over his girlfriend...then backing up over her. Needless to say, she wasn’t doing well, and her vitals were tanking. We loaded her up, with a fireman with us in the back of the rig.
She kept mumbling, “Tell my mom. Please tell my mom,” and naturally I figured it was her asking us to let her mom know she was hurt. The hospital takes care of that, so I put it out of my mind rather quickly as we were working over her. She flatlined before we arrived. They did not get her back. My partner was finishing up her paperwork and we turned to give her wallet back to the staff.
The nurse on duty, who I knew pretty well, was reading a dirty piece of paper. She looked disgusted. When I asked what was up, she simply put the piece of paperwork down. It was a letter that was picked up near her purse on the scene. She had gotten accepted into a college. I realized then that in the ambulance, she was asking us to tell her mom she got into college.
That is a deep sadness I have never forgotten.
I was with my mother when she passed. She needed a high-pressure ventilator to survive as her lungs were so honeycombed. Not enough oxygen getting to her bloodstream. After a lung collapsed, she decided enough was enough and told the nursing team to take her off the high-pressure ventilator and let her try to breathe by herself, knowing full well she wouldn't be able to.
After some preparation and a load of morphine to help her, they did as she asked. She started to panic almost immediately and grabbed my arm. Her last words were "Help me." I've never felt more helpless. She slipped into an unresponsive state soon after and passed the next day. It was only a couple of years ago but it's right to talk about these things rather than bottle it up.
When I started my job as a railroader, I got told a story of a guy getting caught in between two carriages while shunting a train. He was crushed in a way that all bleeding was stopped, and he was perfectly stable. When the emergency services came, they gave him painkillers and kept him comfortable long enough for his family to come and say their goodbyes.
Once his family had left, he thanked the emergency people and they asked him if he was ready. His last words were, "As ready as I’ll ever be.”
I was working in a hospital at the time. There was a spiritual, non-religious man I had a good connection with. He requested me to his room, so I came over. He motioned me to crouch by his bed and spoke in a whisper: “Do you see my brother in the corner?” I told him I don’t, but I believe he is seeing him. He was completely lucid and calm as he explained he has been in the corner and he has been talking with him, hashing things out, and coming to forgiveness like they weren’t able to do before the brother passed.
He worried the nurses would think he was crazy and try to medicate him. When I assured him I believed him and just wanted to listen to what he had to say, he revealed the eeriest part of all: “I see Death, too. She was in the parking lot; I could see her from my window. She had my brother with her. Now she’s in the room. She’s all black but… she ain’t ugly.” He was totally at peace. Went a few days later when a tumor invaded an artery.
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