Unforgettable Final Moments
Being present for someone’s last moments isn’t something anyone wishes for, but it has a way of sticking with you. Each of these Redditors was on hand to hear a person’s last words, and whether they’re chilling or heartbreaking, they’re all unforgettable.
1. Regrets, She’s Had A Few…
I’m a paramedic and I was called to the casino for someone with chest pain. I got there to find a man in his 60s who was a very pale grey, pouring sweat, and in level 10 out of 10 pain. I put him on the monitor and he had tombstone elevation in his septal leads—they call it tombstone elevation for a reason. He was having a massive heart attack.
His wife was there and she was getting ready to come along with us. I was helping her step into the ambulance and she realized that she didn’t get her cashout voucher from the slot machine. I’m not a casino guy, but I guess they pay out in paper slips. Anyway, she says “I have to go back and get it”. I said, “We’re leaving now and you should REALLY come with us.”
She didn’t seem to understand me. Finally, I said, “Your husband could die tonight”. She replied, “Well, I’ll be right behind you in my car”. Biggest mistake of her life. You guessed it. Her husband perished on the way to the hospital and the last thing he said was, “Where’s Helen”?
2. Our Deepest Fear
As someone who works as a hospice caregiver and primarily deals with the terminally ill, I’ve seen and heard a lot of sad things. The most heartbreaking was a beautiful woman with no family and who’d lived a very cruel life. Her parents passed when she was very young, she grew up in poverty, and eventually, she left Korea to marry an American GI.
Her husband ended up mistreating her for years until she finally left him. She struggled to get by as a waitress, and for most of her life, she lived alone. She had no friends and no family. I sat there in the hospice holding her hand and crying as she suffered from the final stages of pancreatic cancer. I will never forget the last thing she said to me…
“Don’t cry. My next life will be a happy one”. It was the most heartbreaking statement I’ve ever heard from any of my patients.
3. Above And Waaaay Beyond
When I worked as a nurse in a pediatric ICU, we had an infant who had been dropped off by her parents and left there. There are some hospitals where you can do this and, yes, it’s legal. The child, who had a non-operable brain tumor, cried and moaned all through the day and night. Everyone knew she wasn’t going to make it.
One day I was in her room and I decided to pick her up and start dancing around the room with her while trying to avoid getting caught in all the wires. I started singing a Beatles song (even though I can’t sing at all) and told her not to laugh at me. Her crying stopped and she let out a small giggle. From then on, I was the only one who could make her stop crying. Right then, I knew what I had to do.
I had all of the paperwork done to adopt her and she stayed with me until she slipped away. I feel some comfort in the fact that she didn’t spend the rest of her life in the hospital and I could sing her to sleep every night. I left the pediatric ICU after that, but I still think about her all the time.
4. Brave ’Til The End
My sister, who’s a nurse, had a male patient in his late 80s who only had a few days left to live. I don’t remember what he had, but it was a painful disease. My sister said that he was always pleasant and would never show a sign of pain until someone left the room. She knew this because she once forgot something in his room and caught him suffering.
Anyway, this man had a very loving wife, and they had been together for over 60 years. My sister was in the room with both of them and they were all joking around. The man asked his wife to go fetch him a glass of water. My sister offered to get it, but he refused. He said, “She needs to get out of here for a little bit. It’s stuffy”.
His wife agreed. He thanked her and told her how much he loved her. After she left the room, the man asked my sister if his wife was gone. When my sister confirmed that she was, he said the most heartbreaking words: “Let her know she was the best thing that ever happened to me”. He closed his eyes, and within a minute, he was gone.
5. A Heartbreaking Profession
I worked in a pediatric ICU for five years. Many of the kiddos were too young to talk, but the one that I remember the most was a boy with end-stage cystic fibrosis. He had caught the flu and it really knocked him out. His mom ordered maximum interventions, but every time respiratory therapists went into his room, he asked them to just let him perish.
I sat at the nursing station across from his room and listened to him scream through an oxygen mask—begging God to take him. One day, he just lost his battle. I imagine it was the first moment of peace he had had in weeks. Two years later, I started dating an adult man with cystic fibrosis. I still hear that kid in my nightmares.
6. A Hug In A Mug
I worked at my local hospital serving drinks and food to patients during my college years. There was one female patient in oncology who was posh, proud, and a little cranky. When I first asked her what she wanted to drink, she asked for an espresso. My drink cart only had regular coffee, tea, and soda, but we had espresso in the doctor’s lounge, so I got her one.
After that, I continued to get her an espresso every night that I worked in oncology, and we always had a little chat. I felt sorry for her because she never had any visitors. Once I got to know her, I saw that she really was quite sweet. After two months, her condition became much worse, but she still wanted her espresso—just to smell it, she said.
One night, it was close to Christmas and the hospital was almost deserted, I was working at another department when one of my coworkers came looking for me. He said some cranky lady in oncology had asked for me. I immediately knew who it was, and visited the doctor’s lounge on my way there. When I walked in with my espresso, the room had an ominous smell.
She was a little pile of misery in that big hospital bed. I walked up to her and put the espresso on the nightstand. She grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes. “I know you weren’t allowed to bring me those espressos, but you did, and you always took the time to talk to me. You gave me more kindness than anyone close to me has in the last couple of years. Don’t forget that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day”.
I sat with her until she drifted off to sleep. The next time I went to her room, she was gone. The nurse said she’d passed on the same night I had brought her that last espresso. I still think about her every now and then, especially around Christmas. It sounds silly, but I really took her advice to heart. Even though it’s pretty obvious, my memory of her always gives me that extra push when I’m hesitant to go out of my way to help others.
7. Life Can Change In An Instant
I used to work as a first responder and one time I was coming back from a vacation with my family and we saw a car on its side at the edge of the highway. It was very foggy and not many people were on the road, so we stopped. My wife called 9-1-1 while I grabbed my jump bag, which I always keep with me, and went to check out the scene.
There was an old married couple in the car. The husband was battered but ambulatory and the wife was unresponsive—not breathing and hanging upside down by her seatbelt. We moved him to the side of the car where he could not see his wife and then we got her out and on the ground. I continued CPR but she was unresponsive.
Finally, another car stopped and I was able to get someone else to continue CPR while I tried to intubate, which was proving to be challenging. Finally, the ambulance arrived, but there was no paramedic and the EMT was a bit clueless. They actually had me load up with them to continue CPR while attempting intubation again on the way to the hospital.
About five minutes into the ambulance ride she came back. We calmed her down and she just looked off into space and said, “He’ll be so alone.” A few minutes later she was gone again. We got her intubated but found out she passed shortly after arriving at the hospital. Out of a lot of calls, that one sticks with me. This couple had been together for almost all their lives and now, just like that, she’s gone.
No goodbye. At least her last thoughts were of him.
8. Dancing Days Are Here Again
My maternal grandparents had a fantastic marriage and they adored each other. My mom’s Papa passed in 1970 and her Mama passed in 1993. My mom said that when she was a kid she used to get a bit scared because she often heard her Mama talking to her Papa as if he were still there. She would overhear her Mama saying things like, “Oh, I wish you were still here with me my darling, I miss you so much”.
Mama was 90 when she went to live in a nursing home. She had started to get dementia, but she still talked to Papa often. My mother went to visit her one day and her Mama was very happy. She said, “Papa visited me today! He is going to take me dancing tonight”! She was very excited and it was all she would talk about. My mother thought she must have been confused because of her dementia.
That night, the nursing home called with some heartbreakingly uncanny news: Mama had passed in her chair, listening to her favorite dancing records. It always gives me a little chill when I think of that, but in a nice way.
9. Sweet Sorrow
I work as an EMT and one day I responded to a call where a man was struggling to breathe. He was experiencing agonal breathing, which means that his heart and body were in the process of shutting down and it would be a matter of minutes before he perished. His wife was the one who had called. She said they had been married for the last 50+ years.
She also said he had been battling cancer for the last seven. He was on hospice and we confirmed with her that he was a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). So, we stayed with her and waited for him to expire. At one point he stopped breathing and his pulse slowed but then it started again. His wife kissed him on the head and with tears in her eyes she said, “It’s OK, baby, you can go. I love you”.
The man slipped away right after that. It was touching, to say the least, and I still remember it vividly to this day.
10. The Best Sound In The World
My grandfather was nearing the end of his battle with lung cancer and was in his bed at home with hospice care. We all knew it would be soon, and as were gathered around him, he woke up and said, “PURRRRRRR”… At first, we thought it was just a gurgle, but then the truth dawned on us. He was calling for his cat named “Purr”.
We went and got his cat for him and he stroked Purr one last time while closing his eyes. He just nodded off like that with a huge grin on his face. I will cherish that memory forever.
11. When You Least Expect It
I work in intensive care and have quite a few stories. One time, we had a patient perish and the doc pronounced. The person laid there for quite some time afterward. Eventually, I asked my coworker for help to place the patient in a body bag. We went into the room, removed all the electrodes, and then we got the shock of our lives.
This patient just sat straight up in the bed for about five seconds then laid back down. I looked at my coworker and said, “Did you just see what I saw”? It was the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. Even though I’d heard about these things happening—some sort of flux of chemicals can cause this—I had never actually seen it. I think it’s supposed to happen within a few minutes of demise, but this was a decent amount of time after.
It was extremely unsettling.
12. A New Mother Cries
My grandmother had been in the hospital for a couple of months and we all knew the end was near. She had been in and out of consciousness for about five days and the docs told us to be prepared for her passing. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and I ended up going into labor while my grandmother was in the ICU.
When I went in to give birth, my sister went up to visit my grandmother and told her that I was having the baby. After my daughter was born, I asked if I could take her to see Nanny. When we brought her in, Nanny was unconscious, but then she opened her eyes and said, “The baby is here. Is she is safe? Are you safe”?
I replied, “Yes, Nanny. She’s just fine and I’m OK, too”. To which she replied, “I can go now. I love you!” She then fell into a deep coma and passed the following morning. A new life came into the world and another left. Nothing has ever stuck with me as much as that moment.
13. A Good Question
I’m an explosive ordinance disposal tech in the army, and these are the saddest last words I remember. This happened to my best friend and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I got to his side and knew that there was no way he was going to make it. He was bleeding too much, and his breathing was getting shorter and faster, which is never a good sign.
He looked me directly in the eyes, said my name, paused, and then asked, “What are we doing here”? I looked back at him and said, “Friend, I don’t know”. He gave a ragged sigh and said, “What a waste”. Those were his last words. This is a story that I will definitely recount to my children if they ever consider joining the service.
I’ll tell it to everyone who considers supporting a battle with no real enemy nor purpose. If I can help it, this will be my last tour in service.
14. The Best Of What’s Around
I’m a pediatric oncology nurse, and in the bone marrow transplant unit, kids tend to stay with us for months on end. They may go home for a few days, but they often spend over a year of their lives in the unit. I had a 15-year-old patient who had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was an old soul and I connected with him and his family immediately.
I was there with him for three 12-hour shifts a week for almost a year. I watched him go through dreadful chemo and a horrendous bone marrow transplant that caused weeks of pain and rejection. I even spent his 16th birthday with him and his family and friends on the unit. After months of treatment, he finally went into remission, but quickly relapsed.
He was too weak and mentally exhausted for any further treatment at that time so he decided to forego another attempt at a transplant. That meant that he would perish. He accepted it with more courage than most grown men. While he still had some energy, he decided to use the Make-A-Wish that he had been saving for when he was better.
He had always been a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. He had posters on his walls and played the albums constantly. He decided that his Make-A-Wish experience would be to go see the Dave Matthews Band play a live show at Madison Square Garden in NYC. He made it to New York, but on the day of the show, disaster struck.
He was too sick. He had to be admitted to the hospital there for a blood transfusion, which caused him to miss the show completely. He and his family returned home the next day—disappointed and feeling worse than ever. He had gotten to the point of needing almost daily transfusions just to stay alive. He was thin, frail, weak, and nearing the end.
He had become a shell of the strong, hilarious, and amazing kid I met a year before. At this point, he was receiving palliative care only. About a week after he and his family returned from NYC, we learned that the Dave Matthews Band had a show scheduled at the stadium in our city. Somehow Dave Matthews found out about the Make-A-Wish failure. He decided to take the situation into his own hands.
Following their show for 40,000+ fans at the stadium, Dave Matthews and his entire band drove their tour bus over to this kid’s house, sat on his couch with him, and played all of his favorite songs. His mom sent us pictures of him and Dave Matthews holding guitars on their couch. His hollow, pale cheeks were beaming with happiness.
My dear patient and friend slipped away the next day, content and fulfilled. I now work in hospice and I share this story with all of my colleagues and patients. I have yet to get through telling it without shedding a few tears.
15. An Alaskan Nightmare
I was a volunteer EMT in a remote Alaskan community and was responding to a call for someone with third-degree burns. Apparently, some kid had been living in an abandoned shack and using a propane heater to warm the place, but it caught fire leaving him with bad burns on his face and scalp, and full-circumference burns on his hands and wrists. His clothes had melted and stuck to his body. He was a total mess.
We had to snowmobile the patient to the ambulance and then drive about two miles to the hospital. With so many suspected burns in his airway, we tried to get some info from him before they knocked him out and intubated him. This kid had no one, not a soul, in town or anywhere else. He was a total loner.
Then, just before the doctor knocked him out, he asked about his place. We told him it was totally gone. “My poems”! he screamed. I felt awful for him. I stuck around and got him on the medevac to Seattle since there is no burn ward in all of Alaska. In the morning, I went to the ashes of the structure, which were still smoking, and looked around.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that made it, least of all any poetry. A while later, I asked around and someone let me know that he needed grafting on his hands and likely won’t be the same for years (if ever), but he did make it.
16. Listen To Your Doctor
My sister is a physician and she told me that most patients are not really lucid right before they expire. They may be unable to speak at all or, if they can speak, they may only be able to mumble incoherently. Their last moment of real clarity might have happened the day before or even days or weeks prior, and what follows that is the final slow and inevitable decay.
I say this because it really upsets my sister when so few families seem to understand that the end of life isn’t like what they see in the movies. The families often think that they’ll be able to talk to their loved ones right up until the final moments. These families then get frustrated because they can no longer speak with their loved ones and they don’t get closure.
My sister told me one story about a young patient of hers who was close to the end. This patient’s wife could not understand that even though her husband was going to lose consciousness very soon, it would take him several more days to perish. So, instead of spending the extra time talking to her husband, this woman told him she’d be back the next day.
Despite my sister’s repeated warnings that the husband would not wake up again and these were probably his last good moments, the woman left the hospital. The man wasn’t ever conscious again. This woman lost out on her last opportunity to truly speak with her husband, not to mention how alone he must have felt when she left.
I just felt like I should share this because I don’t want anyone to get the impression that the moments right before the end are necessarily the ones that count the most.
17. One Very Powerful Four-Letter Word
I once met a man in a mental hospital who told me the story of how he was first admitted. He had been depressed for years and decided to drive to a dead-end road on a mountainside. He spent a few hours sitting atop a small hill and decided that this was the day he wanted to end it all. He didn’t know how to do it until he spotted some headlights further down the mountain.
He walked down to the hill and stood in the middle of the road. He picked a spot where there was a sharp turn so that the next car that came by wouldn’t see him until it was too late. After a minute or so of standing there with his eyes closed, a car finally came around the turn, but all he heard was a screeching and a loud crash. His plan had gone horribly wrong.
The driver had seen him at the last minute and took the turn too wide so that he could avoid him. Unfortunately, this sent the car over the edge of a cliff and down a hundred-foot-drop. The man climbed down the ravine and found the car wrecked with the driver, an older man, bleeding and trapped between the twisted metal.
He called 9-1-1 and waited with the old man as he perished. The old man only said one word before he started coughing up blood: “Live”. The guy who caused the accident was put into the mental hospital and was never charged for anything related to the old man. After that, he also gave up any idea of ever hurting himself again.
He felt he owed that man a debt and that he was obligated to pay for his sacrifice by living as long as he possibly could. After hearing that story, just that one final word has stuck with me so much—even though I wasn’t there to hear it. It convinced me that my self-harm would have collateral damage even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
18. Real Talk
I’ve never told anybody this story before. In May, my mother succumbed to cancer. I go to school out of state and wasn’t able to be there for her final moments, but I did see her the weekend before. The last time I saw her was because I had had several phone calls from my father saying something along the lines of “You’d better make it up here. Your mother doesn’t have much time”.
Each time I flew in, her condition had improved, so I’d fly back to university the next day. On this last trip, I flew home that afternoon, saw my mother, stayed the night, and was set to fly back to school the next morning. Naturally, I thought I’d visit the hospital one last time before I dropped off the rental car at the airport.
Unfortunately, she’d deteriorated overnight. She could barely string a sentence together without breathing heavily and she couldn’t look at me. To call her a husk of the woman she had been even a month before would be an understatement. Anyway, I talked to her as much as was possible, we said our goodbyes, and I turned to leave.
I was already running late, but I turned back to say goodbye. She was fully focused on me, looking me square in the eye. She said, “Bye”. I impatiently said, “Bye, bye” and turned around and scuttled off. As I was driving to the airport, it hit me—that wasn’t any ordinary goodbye, that was the last goodbye. And holy shiitake mushrooms, I had just brushed off my mother’s final goodbye for the sake of catching some stupid flight.
I couldn’t (and still can’t) fathom my selfishness. Sure enough, a week later, I got the call that she had finally passed. Never will I get another opportunity to say goodbye again. I’m going to forever live with the knowledge that I prioritized catching a flight over properly saying goodbye to my mother. Feels bad, man.
19. Hope They’re Bitin’
My friend’s awesome grandmother in South Dakota was a long-time widow who had been married to a man named Rudy. She got sick at the end of her life and fell into a coma shortly after she was hospitalized. She was clearly circling the drain, but after several days, she unexpectedly came out of her coma. She was completely lucid when she uttered her last words.
She told her daughter, “Tell the family I love them all. I’m going fishing with Rudy in heaven”. She then closed her eyes, went back into the coma, and took her last breath.
20. Out Of The Mouths of Babes
When I was a med student, I saw a 16-year-old boy with end-stage brain cancer where the tumor had grown so large that it was deforming the back of his head. He was quite close to dying. As the pediatric oncologist, his parents, and I were all struggling to find the words to comfort him, he was by far the most comfortable and accepting of his fate.
His voice sounded like an adolescent but his words were far more mature and calm than anyone else’s in the room. And, as all of us were holding back tears, all he was concerned with was that his parents weren’t sad, that his little brother was OK, and that he wanted everyone to give his dog a kiss. It was heartbreaking and hopeful all in one breath.
21. Wise Beyond Her Years
My mom, who is a doctor, told me a story about a 15-year-old girl who had cancer. My mom encountered the girl during her residency, and this girl had begged her parents not to put her through cancer treatment. Instead, she wanted to use the money they would have spent on treatment to travel the world and go on adventures like she’d always dreamed of.
This girl didn’t want to survive and live miserably for a long time, she wanted to live fully during the little time that she had. I couldn’t get over how mature she was for a girl that age. Most adults don’t even think that way. Anyway, before she passed, she said two things that stuck with my mom forever.
All of her friends and family were huddled around her in tears. This girl just smiled and said, “Don’t be sad for me. I’ve done all I would have in a longer life and didn’t even have to deal with all of that terribly boring grownup stuff. And I’m about to solve the biggest mystery of them all. How exciting”! She said this about an hour before she succumbed to the disease.
Just before the end, she told the story of Robin Hood, which was her favorite story. The way she told it, the last thing she said was, “And he died happily…” It was the last thing she ever said before she slipped away. That girl is the bravest, happiest, and most spirited person I’ve ever heard of.
22. He Did It All For Love
I work in the intensive care unit and one time we had a man come in with a COPD exacerbation. He was about 60 years old and had to be put on a ventilator. After a week, it was clear that this man would have to spend the rest of his life on life support. We asked him if he wanted to withdraw care because ventilator therapy is not only gruesome but also extremely painful.
We said, “Do you want us to continue using the ventilator? Your lung function is so poor that you won’t be able to live without it”. He asked us what day it was by writing on a piece of paper since he was unable to speak. We told him and he then wrote down a date that was about six months away. We looked at him quizzically.
He then wrote that he got married six months ago and his new wife will not be able to get his benefits unless they are married for a year. Before he passed, his last note was: “I love E”. His wife’s name started with an E.
23. All I Want For Christmas…
I used to work in food and nutrition at a large hospital. Over the holidays, I would play Santa Claus and visit all of the pediatric units. One time I visited with this little girl who will always stick with me. She was 11 years old and past the age of believing in Santa, but her face totally lit up when I came into the room.
Her parents stepped out of the room for a minute and she told me that she knew she wasn’t going to make it too long past the holidays. She said that all she wanted was to be able to make it through for her parents and her little brother. She did not want Christmas to be associated with her passing, so she asked Santa to do anything he possibly could to make that happen.
Santa damn near lost it right there and then. I later found out that she had passed a week into the New Year. Santa really did lose it then.
24. One Tough Realization
I was in a high school program called “health occupations”, which was basically nurse assistant training. For part of it, I had to do 35 hours of community service at an old folks’ home. While I was there, I noticed a group of nurses gathered around a specific room. I went over and there was a man in his late 50s laying there.
He was so skinny and wrinkled, and he was shaking uncontrollably. His eyes rolled up into his head as he went in and out of consciousness. He had a wet cloth over his forehead and was hooked up to some kind of machine. I broke down crying, which I wasn’t supposed to do, while everyone else stayed calm. I left the room and talked to one of the nurses.
Apparently, he had been like shaking like that for days, just holding on. She told me that he had no family—not even a documented record of family. He was completely alone. I wasn’t allowed to stay in the room because I was there to complete duties, but I so desperately wanted to hold his hand. By the end of the day he had lost his battle, alone, and I hadn’t been able to help.
No one showed up to say goodbye or even claim his body. That was the day I made the most devastating realization: I was too empathetic to work in the health field. I knew it would destroy me.
25. Magic Moment
My grandfather always used to talk about how much he loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but it wasn’t until he was nearing the end that I realized how much he actually meant it. I don’t live close to home and I knew my grandfather had been sick. One night my dad called me to tell me that if I wanted to see Grandpa one last time I should come home soon.
The next morning my wife, baby, and I drove in to visit him. There were probably 20 people in his room and Grandpa was resting quietly in the bed. When we came in, one of my aunts told me that he hadn’t spoken to anyone or moved for hours, so I shouldn’t be offended if he didn’t acknowledge me. I walked over to his bed with my wife and one-year-old son.
My son reached up and grabbed Grandpa’s finger. A moment later, feeling the little fingers on his hand, Grandpa smiled and turned his head to see my baby. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Grandpa passed in his sleep that night.
26. Amazing Grace
As a nurse, I’ve witnessed some terrible endings, but the most beautiful one is still quite clear in my head. It’s not what the patient said so much as the choices he made and how his loved ones responded. One early morning in the intensive care unit, there was an elderly man who had been placed on comfort care the night before.
This man had managed to beat cancer about 20 years before, but this time he and his family knew that the end was near. He expressed his preference to succumb to his disease in relative comfort instead of prolonging the course with a painful operation that was unlikely to help him. As he drifted into unconsciousness and his vitals worsened, his large family gathered beside his bed.
As the sun rose over Mount Rainier and began to light up his room, his family joined hands and sang his favorite hymns for the final hour of his life. Let me just say, there were a lot of tears at the nurses’ station that morning.
27. There’s Always Room For Jello
I’m a lifeguard and one of my instructors told us this story when he was giving us a lecture about how to deal with fatalities. It happened shortly after he had entered nursing and, for some reason, he was stationed in a ward for the terminally ill. He was relatively new there and learned that one of the patients he attended to was nearing the end.
Now, this was one of those situations where the man’s time was up. No one thing was going wrong, just all of his body systems were shutting down. The guy knew it and he was pretty much ready. The nurse walked in and started talking to him and asking the typical questions about whether he had family or friends whom they could contact for him.
The old man didn’t have anyone. The nurse asked if there was anything that they could do for him. The old man thought for a second before looking at the nurse and saying, “I’ve kinda been craving jello all day”. The nurse shouted out, “You’ve got it”! and sprinted to the cafeteria. He walked into the kitchen and announced that he had a fading man with a last request for jello.
The next thing you know, they’ve assembled a smorgasbord of jello in every flavor across the spectrum. They brought it to the old man and his eyes lit up like Christmas lights. As he started eating, he looked at the nurse and said, “I know you have more important patients to attend to. I’ll let you know if there’s anything else I need”.
So the nurse left and started making his rounds. At one point he passed the old man’s room and poked his head in. The old man, jello and spoon in hand, smiled and flashed him a thumbs up. The nurse smiled and returned it, and then left. About 30 seconds later, he heard the sounds of the man’s alarms and machines flatlining.
28. Small Gestures, Huge Impact
I was really close with my grandparents. I lived with them in high school and throughout college up until I moved in with my girlfriend. I experienced two moments with them that were quite defining. My grandfather was 98 when his health started to decline, and about a month before he passed, he was very weak and could hardly hold his head up.
When I went into his room to visit him, he was sitting in his recliner, and I had to kneel down to look him in the eyes. He said he just wanted to hold my hand. So I just held his hand and told him I loved him. He nodded and I think we both knew his time was almost up. When he put his hand on my head and held it there, I broke down.
A month later, we brought him home from the hospital. He was very delusional, but he perked up, sat up in bed, looked around, and said, “I don’t have your picture in here”. My grandmother rushed out of the room and brought in a portrait of me in kindergarten—I was 24 at the time—and that made him so happy. Right after that, he started laughing.
He pointed to the air between me and the portrait—and said something a little unsettling: “I see an apparition”. Apparently, he could see a man’s head floating next to me. Everyone else was kind of creeped out, but he and I thought it was hilarious. Later that afternoon, he fell asleep and the following morning he passed. I was in his room with him and the silence woke me up.
When my grandmother’s time eventually came, she had a massive stroke. Even though she was awake after it, she couldn’t talk or move much. She was able to grab with one hand and her eyes were very active. When I walked into the ER, she looked straight at me and reached out to me—my whole family was in there and she didn’t do that for any of them.
Before that had happened, I had always worried that my having a child outside of marriage made my grandmother lose her respect for me. She lost her battle about a week later, but that one gesture is what I will always hold on to.
29. Expect The Unexpected
My grandparents always expected my grandmother to go soon after my grandfather. So when my grandmother passed first, it was a shock to us all—especially my grandfather who had no plans for what to do in the event that she went first. His mind had been slipping for quite a while, but he used to tell us stories about how after she was gone he could still see her.
His heath and lucidity declined fairly rapidly after her passing. About a year and a half after my grandmother passed, my grandfather had some chest pain and his live-in nurse took him to the ER. At that time, my mother was on a cruise ship halfway to Europe on the first vacation she’d taken in years, and I was in midterms.
The ER doctor called me, explained the situation, and said that my grandfather was completely stable. I asked if I should hop on a plane down there or try to get a hold of my mother. The doctor said to not bother coming down or upsetting my mother’s vacation because it was likely my grandfather would be heading home in the morning.
I reluctantly stayed home but kept in close contact with his live-in nurse who was staying at the hospital in shifts with some other family friends. That night, I went to bed at about 2:00 am and woke up at exactly 5:20 am, for no reason. I remember looking at my clock and thinking how odd it was that I’d woken up after only a few hours of sleep.
I tried to shrug it off and eventually fell back to sleep. At 6:00 am my phone rang. It was a nurse from the hospital telling me that at 5:15 my grandfather had said, “I have to go find the room where my wife is”. He then closed his eyes and slipped away. I feel absolutely terrible that I wasn’t there for him. I felt even worse that I had to tell my mom.
I called her via satellite phone and told her that her father was gone. It was pretty hard for her to be stranded on a ship in the middle of nowhere, unable to do anything about it. But in the grand scheme of things, my grandfather was 97 years old and passed in his sleep with thoughts of his wife as his last words. I’d say if there is a way to go, that sounds pretty good to me.
30. I Once Was Lost…
When I was a hospice nurse, I had a patient who was very close to the end. I had been called to come check on him, and his wife of 40+ years was in the room. Unfortunately, she kept having to run back and forth from his room to their business, which she was trying to run in his absence. Each time she left, she was gone 45 minutes or so, and would then would rush back to his side.
During her last absence, he began to have agonal breathing, which meant that he was very close. I phoned her, but couldn’t get ahold of her. I was praying that she would get back in time. When I realized that it wasn’t going to work out that way, I sat next to his bed, held his hand, and, for some reason, started singing “Amazing Grace”.
I am not religious and I don’t know why I felt the strong urge to do this. He passed very peacefully as I sang. When his wife arrived, I had to catch her at the door to let her know. I mentioned that I sang that song, and she quietly cried and said that the song was his favorite. It had been played at their wedding, at each anniversary, and at the births of all of their kids.
I feel like the divine had definitely intervened that day.
31. Considerate To The End
My father had bladder cancer that had metastasized over a period of years. His last words to me were, “I’m sorry I won’t make it to your 16th birthday”. My birthday was six days away, so I didn’t think much of it. Unfortunately, he perished about five hours later. We held his wake on my birthday, so, whether he knew it or not, he did make it.
It was a cold and somber day for everyone, and I was too numb to speak on his behalf. I still can’t believe that he knew he was going to pass, and yet I was still the first thing on his mind. Here’s looking at you, dad.
32. The Long And “Shorts” Of It
My friend was visiting the hospital during his grandfather’s final days, and at one point he was alone in the room with the man. His grandfather could barely speak, so he motioned for his grandson to lean in. The grandson did so and said, “What is it Grandpa? I’m here for you”. His grandfather mustered every last bit of strength and started to speak…
In a labored voice, his grandfather said, “Shorts…are the key”. After that, he faded away. This experience has forever haunted not only my friend but also those of us who he told the story to. Because a) he misheard his grandfather’s last words, b) his grandfather was not in his right mind, or, the scariest option, c) Shorts really ARE the key.
This happened more than a decade ago, but to this day, whenever the word “shorts” enters a conversation, I will say, “Shorts are the key”! and hope for a moment of clarity. Thus far, it has eluded me. If some task is frustrating me, I will think to myself, “Will shorts help this situation? Are shorts the key”? Unfortunately, most times the answer is no.
33. Deep Wisdom
Intensive care nurse here. If patients are able to speak, a lot of the time they talk about the importance of having no regrets. The one experience that stuck with me happened with a lady who had been on a ventilator for a week while her family decided what they wanted to do. Finally, her brother flew in and gave consent to withdraw life support and start comfort care.
The thing is, her brother didn’t even come in to say goodbye. He just made the decision and left. It was about 2:30 am when her heart slowed down to 20 beats per minute. I went into her room and just held her hand while she took her final breaths. Since then, I have always made it a point to be in the room with someone when they are close. No one should leave this world alone.
Her experience is a memory that will stay with me forever. I walked into the room and saw her lying there in the soft glow of light from the monitor and IV pumps, and I realized that she was utterly alone with no loved ones watching over her. There are many days I come home from work exhausted but deeply thankful for the family I have.
Just remember to tell the people you care about that you do care about them. You never know when the day will come when you can not.
34. A Class Act
One of my first calls as an EMT was for a 101-year-old lady with a pacemaker that had failed and she had declined surgery. Because she had a do not resuscitate order, my job was to just stay with her while we transported her to the hospital. There was nothing I could really do as she had made it clear that she didn’t want any treatment.
She knew she didn’t have much time but she was not bothered at all. She told me, “I am old, but I have had a great life. I have no regrets”. I asked her how she stayed so positive, and what she said really stuck with me: “The trick is, if you can’t laugh, then smile”.
35. One Amazing Woman
My great-grandmother was a heck of a woman, though she’d knock me silly for using such language in reference to her. To this day, I tell stories about her at parties that get people laughing their heads off. She lived to be 102, and she was sharp as a tack and able to walk right to the end. She was a tough old Baptist from Eastern Europe who had had an astounding life…
There was absolutely nothing she couldn’t do. Not only did she work as a missionary in Brazil, but she also operated a lumber mill, raised four kids as a single mom during the Depression, and was a farmer in northern Ontario. She never took any sass from anyone, regardless of whether they could understand each other or not.
When we’d ask how she was, she’d always say, “Every night I pray for God to come in the night and take me so I can leave this old sack of bones behind. Every morning I wake up disappointed”. Eventually, she decided to stop eating because, as she said, “God has forgotten me, so I’m going to go to him”. Two weeks later, my mother was sitting with her.
My great-grandmother had always just called her “meita” or “girl”, as she was my mother’s grandmother-in-law. Just before my great-grandmother passed, she called my mother by her name for the first and only time. She then told my mother that she was going to be “with God” a few times while pointing up to the sky. She went out with a smile on her face and on her terms.
She also forbade us all from crying at her funeral. I hope I’ll be able to live a life half as badass as hers and leave it in a manner that would do her proud.
36. Insider Knowledge
I’ve worked as a paramedic in the ER for two years and for a little over a year on the ambulance. I’m here to say that people’s last moments are not like in the movies (surprise!). Most people go out in one of the following ways. Trauma patients who are circling the drain suddenly swear a lot and say things like, “Oh shoot, oh fudge, I’m going to go”.
Then there are those who have a terminal illness. They know it’s coming, they are sedated, and they’ve had time to prepare themselves. Another common one is just silence. These are a mixed bag, as some know it is coming and some are very sudden. A couple of other points: Yes, when you pass on, you soil yourself, and, no, most people do not have a transcendent moment.
When people ask about the dark side of this job, I tell them that after a while it doesn’t really affect you. People are essentially machines, and at some point, they stop working. The only exception, to me at least, is children. A person’s eyes always stick with me, though. There is something about the change from “there” to “gone” that is tragically poetic.
37. Every Picture Tells A Story
My grandmother had very advanced Alzheimer’s. She had spent the past year or so in a nursing home and her health was deteriorating. My father is a registered nurse and arranged for her to spend the last few weeks of her life in my grandfather’s home. She hadn’t recognized me or anyone else for close to a year at this point and she could barely speak.
My dad put a picture of my brother and me near her bed and simply said, “These are your grandbabies, mom, and they love you very much”. She grabbed the picture and held it to her chest. About five minutes later she passed.
38. The Spice Of Life
I was about five or six years old when my grandfather was approaching his 11th hour at the hospital. We were all gathered around him and the last thing he did was put his hand on my shoulder and say, “No wonder you never liked my spicy food”. About 10 seconds later he passed. Needless to say, we were all super confused.
About three months later, something crazy happened: I almost lost my life from suffocation after eating some salsa. At the hospital, I was diagnosed with an allergy to capsaicin, which is found in spicy food. Before he said what he did, no one knew I was allergic and I had never shown any signs. To this day, it still creeps me out.
39. Do As I Say, Not As I’ve Done
I was a pre-nursing student and there is one patient that I remember very well. We got to know each other a little bit before the end, so he knew that I was in pre-nursing. During my last moment with him, he told me that he always regretted not being able to go back to school to study his passion, interior design.
This patient went on to tell me that his life choices had been influenced by the fact that his father would repeatedly say that no respectable man would ever go into that profession. He then stared into my eyes and urged me to make sure I’m following my dreams and not just studying something that my parents pressured me into.
That conversation really had an impact on me. I switched from pre-nursing to pre-med, which I had never gone into in the first place because I was always being told by my parents that I was too stupid to do pre-med even though I would much rather be in the diagnostic and operations area of the medical field. I wished I could’ve thanked this man for setting me straight.
40. The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer…
While I was going to music school, I also worked part-time as a housekeeper in a long-term care facility. Because I was the youngest on staff and everyone else had families with kids, I offered to take the Christmas morning shift. I didn’t have any small children to disappoint, so I figured, why not? As I was sweeping the halls, I was singing Christmas carols that our university choir had performed a week or so previous.
I wasn’t really thinking too much about what I was doing. I passed the room of an old woman who reached out and took a swipe at me from her wheelchair. She was quite far gone with Alzheimer’s, and her family didn’t visit her too much. Just then a middle-aged woman poked her head out of the room and looked at me weirdly.
I apologized and said, “I’ll stop singing”. She said, “Don’t you dare! It’s the only thing calming her down”. She then ducked back into the room. I found out later that the woman with Alzheimer’s was spitting and cursing at her family as they gathered around for her last days. She only calmed down enough to listen to anyone when she heard me singing.
Now I always sing when I clean because you never know.
41. Keep Smiling
This happened to me when I was working the overnight shift as hospital security. It was about 3:00 am and I was sitting in the ER as I normally did at that time because it is the only place in the hospital with any activity. I was sitting on a stool and reading my book when I got the sense that someone was looking at me.
I glanced up from my book to see a very elderly woman staring at me and smiling from one of the beds. It was a very warm, grandmotherly smile that would melt stone, and I returned it in kind along with a wave. She lifted her hand, returned my wave, and closed her eyes. Within seconds, the machines she was attached to started beeping and booping.
The nurses ran over, checked her chart, and began unhooking her. At that moment, I realized that of the presumably thousands of people this woman met throughout her long life, I was the last person she ever saw. To this day, I still smile every time I think of her and am so happy that I returned her smile and waved. She went out peacefully.
42. His Heart Was In The Right Place
I have worked in the ER for many years, so I have my fair share of stories, but to be honest, there was this one patient who had a real impact on me. This guy was brought from the triage area to one of my ER rooms. His chief complaint was chest pains, and when the nurse doing triage handed me his chart, I could see that he was in the middle of a heart attack.
I grabbed one of the ER doctors and we went into the room to start working on the patient. The doctor asked him how he was feeling as I got the IV ready. I looked up at the guy just as his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he began to go into V-Fib (a dangerous heart rhythm). I began CPR immediately and yelled for a crash cart.
After one round of CPR, the patient became alert and started pushing my hands off his chest saying, “Why are you doing that”? Before we could get him stabilized, he crashed again. We worked on him until he came back and then we sent him off to the cath lab. Almost two weeks later, this man and his wife came back to the ER and gave me and the ER doctor a bag of Life Savers candy.
He gave me a big hug and thanked me for giving him more time with his wife and daughters.
43. An Emotional Roller Coaster
I am an emergency medical technician and a couple of years ago I was doing hospital rotations when an old woman pulled up to the sliding doors that are typically reserved for ambulances. One of the doctors saw her and told me to go see what was up. Truth be told, I was already on my way because something definitely seemed off.
I keyed in the door code and the little old lady pointed to her car and said, “My husband is having a heart attack”! I turned to the nurse behind me and told her to call a code blue. I then turned to the very well-built doctor next to her and said, “Come on, I need some help”. We hoisted the woman’s gargantuan husband out of the passenger seat of the car.
As the doctor started assessing him, the man opened his eyes for a few seconds and said, “You’re not the man I married”. He then lost consciousness and we started chest compressions. We then wheeled him inside where the real fun began. He had no pulse and was not breathing for three minutes, which is legally deceased in my book.
Just before I cycled in to do chest compressions on him, I thought of the thing he said before he stopped breathing and I laughed a little bit. I turned for a moment to try to contain myself and maintain that “professional’s face”. After I giggled to myself, I laid my hands on him and, I kid you not, heard the doctor exclaim from behind me, “We have a rhythm”!
I couldn’t believe it. The dude actually lived.
44. So Many Feels
My father’s parents both had severe Alzheimer’s and went within a few weeks of each other. When granddaddy passed on, it was so difficult to have to keep explaining it to grandmother over and over again. When we would visit, she would say things like, “I can’t find Robert”, or she would get mad and say, “I can’t believe that man left me after all these years”!
When her time came, the hospice nurse called my father to come to say goodbye. He left work, went to her side, and held her hand. He told her how much he loved her, how everyone was going to be fine, and that now she could go be with grandaddy again. She took a long sigh and that was it. I’ve never been so proud of my father. He was such a good son to her, even when he had to let her go.
45. A Love So Pure…
I worked in an Alzheimer’s unit for a long time and have seen many people pass, but there was one that I’ll never forget. She was in her early 80s and was on comfort care. Her husband was 10 years younger and still worked so that they could have the insurance. Every afternoon he would show up, take off his shoes, climb into bed with her and tell her stories or sing to her.
He told me they had a puppy he had got right before she became sick, and he wished she could see it. One day, right after my shift started, he came in and asked for some water. I left to get him some and while I was gone, his wife passed. I came into the room and he looked at me and asked if I would take care of the puppy for a while.
I figured he would be busy with making arrangements, so I agreed. I left to call hospice to report her passing and when I got back, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was lying there with his head on her chest, holding her hand with a smile on his face. He had no illness, but he slipped away right there with the woman he loved. I sat and cried until hospice showed up.
I went and got the dog, and after 15 happy years, I had to put her to sleep three days ago. I haven’t really quit crying yet. I am a 60-year-old man, still a nurse, who was lucky to have found someone 12 years ago that I love as much as he loved her.
46. A Terrible Accident
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.”
47. Reconciling The Past
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.
48. Ignorance Really Is Bliss
I am a deputy sheriff in Texas, and one time we were called to a scene where a surgeon had flipped his truck and was ejected along with his dog. The dog was a little beat up but was going to make it. The EMS was on the scene treating the doctor, and I heard him tell them who he was. They told him to hold on because the chopper was on the way.
The surgeon began feeling himself all over. He then said, “Cancel the bird, I’ve got maybe two or three minutes.” He told us his wife had passed and asked us to give his dog to his grandson. He then said that he hated that he knew how long this would take and that he would rather not know. He then said, “Ohhh well…” and that was it. He was gone.
49. Deal With The Devil
I was looking after an elderly woman who had gone downhill and was on her last legs for about a week. She kept asking me to read the Bible to her, and as soon as I would start, she would scream that he was coming to get her and that he was waiting right behind me. It was very unnerving to hear at 3 AM. Finally, I asked her who was coming to get her.
She replied with, “The Devil’s coming for me because I let my husband hurt our kids and did nothing”.
50. Guardian Angel
I recently cared for a woman who had multiple acute strokes in a short amount of time. A week before, she had been independent, riding her horse every day, and still taught part-time at the local school, despite being in her 80s. By the time she got to me, she was completely nonverbal, incontinent, and unable to feed herself.
I had a feeling that she was neurologically intact enough to understand what was going on, so I talked to her as much as I could when I was in the room. I talked to her about her daughters who had called every day, her husband who hadn’t called—but I left that part out—the weather, her horses, and her students who had sent a card.
On the last day of my workweek, her daughter from out of state had finally found a flight up. They sat in silence and held hands for hours. Visiting hours ended right at shift change, so I walked in to give a report as the daughter was saying goodbye. The patient then spoke what I knew were going to be her last words. They were heartbreaking.
She said, “I’ll always be looking after you”. She pointed to her daughter, then at me, and then she fell asleep. Two days later, when I came back to work, I was informed she had passed in the night.
51. It Was Par For The Course
When my grandmother was taken off of life support, my father and grandfather stayed with her that night in the hospital. At around 7 AM, my father left the room to go get breakfast. My grandmother woke up, looked at my grandfather, and said, “Buy the new golf clubs. I love you,” and passed. He and my father had been talking about how my grandfather’s golf clubs were more than 20 years old, and he was thinking about a new set.
My grandmother hadn’t been lucid and had barely been conscious for a week at that point.
52. Those Hollywood Nights
I worked in a nursing home for about a decade doing hospice, rehab, and all kinds of long-term care. I had a fellow who had worked at the Army Film Unit in Los Angeles during active combat. When it looked like he wasn’t going to make it through the night, I sat with him and just talked. He was remarkably lucid the entire time.
He told me that he had been present at the “Zoot Suit Riots.” He even admitted to taking a man’s life, but he was never prosecuted. I never could find any evidence of anyone having been slain during those five days in LA when the riots took place. But that wasn’t all. He also told me about getting frisky with Rosemary Clooney in a bar on Sunset.
53. She Didn’t Give A Hoot
My great-grandmother lived a very long and interesting life. She was in her 20s during the great depression. She had a wild streak from those days that we don’t know much about, to the point that we actually don’t know our great-grandfather’s name. We only know the husband she took later. Over the course of her nearly 100-year life, she had collected owls.
She had literally thousands of owl figurines and doodads. 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 what the importance of the owls was. She never talked about them. We just all knew that she loved owls.
When she was nearing the end, at the age of 98 or 99, and the doctors said she had mere days left, my grandparents went and talked to her. They asked her if she had anything she wanted to share or ask before she went. She thought for a moment, then said something that made our jaws DROP: “I never understood the owls”. It turned out she didn’t really give a darn about owls.
From what we could piece together, sometime in the 40s or 50s, perhaps, she bought either a trivet or a set of salt/pepper shakers that were owls. Then someone got her the other. Those were the oldest owl things anyone could remember. From there, someone got her an owl to match, probably a potholder or a placemat. Then, all of a sudden, her kitchen was owl themed.
From there, it snowballed. The owls flowed in, baffling her for 60 years, eventually taking over as the bulk of her personal belongings.
54. She Had Enough Of The Stuff
My dad loved small-town auctions. Over the years, he had collected all those boxes of stuff that would go to the lowest bidder. He amassed quite a collection, filling the garage and a workshop out back. He always promised my mom that he would sell it all someday in some big garage sale or auction of his own. One day, my mom’s cancer had returned, and the doctors told us this time it wasn’t a fair fight.
Two weeks before she passed, I was sitting with her in the hospital. We had run out of things to talk about. She looked up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the pain, and said, “Thank God, at least I won’t have to deal with your dad’s stuff”. My mom and I just burst out laughing.
55. It Was Lights Out For Grandma
My friend Tom had a grandma who was a real hippy. She had traveled all over the world with three young boys in the 60s. My friend was also a total hippy himself as a teenager and doted on his grandma with all his heart. They spoke about everything in life. At a ripe old age, she lay on her deathbed in hospital and flatlined with her sons around her. But she wasn’t actually deceased.
A few moments later, she let out a gasp and said, “Tell Tom I never saw a light”, and took her last breath.
56. His Words Made Me Cry
I was a scrub nurse. My job was to assist the surgeon during surgeries. I was preparing an elderly patient for a pretty high-risk surgery. There was a good chance he was going to be fine, but there was also a decent chance things were going to go south and he knew that. While the CRNA was doing her thing, getting the anesthesia ready, I was standing next to the patient going over his chart and the signed releases.
Then, he said to me, “I need you to tell my wife I’m sorry for all the times I raised my voice at her. There weren’t many times. But right now I wish there weren’t any”. That was the first time I ever got choked up at the bedside. I so badly wanted to tell him everything was going to be okay but no one knew if it was going to be.
So, I said back to him, “I’ll do anything you need me to, but right now let’s think about some happy memories before you go under”. I asked him to tell me about his and his wife’s first date. Once he was under, I excused myself before scrubbing in to stop myself from crying.
57. Spending Spree
My friend’s grandpa was always known to be a loving but stern man. He used to drink and sleep a lot. When the end was near, he asked my friend to come closer. He told him something that left a smile on his face: “I’ve left a lot of money to you. Life’s not worth it. Spend it all. Spend it all on ladies of the night and illicit substances”.
He passed about a week later. I don’t know if he did spend it on what his grandpa said to, but he did spend it.
58. Dear John
My grandma suffered from dementia for many years before she passed. It got so bad she didn’t remember who any of her family were and would barricade herself in her home because she was scared of everyone. She even forgot she smoked and would find her smokes months later after she would forget where they were and claim she was desperate for one.
The only memories she had left at the end were of her sister being able to play the piano beautifully and that her husband—her childhood sweetheart—was gone, but she didn’t know where. He had passed some time earlier. She spent her days waiting for him to come home from wherever he was. She would say, “My John will be home soon,” or someone would walk past the window, and she would do a double-take and say, “Thought that was my John”.
It was heartbreaking watching her deteriorate until she was near the end, unaware of anything or anyone. I went to say my goodbyes to her in the hospital, and she held my hand and told me how much she loved me but how she was ready to go be with John now. At that moment, she remembered who I was, what was happening to her, and that her husband, my grandad, was gone already.
Not long after that, she closed her eyes forever.
59. He Had A Tale To Tell
Around the time my grandfather was really declining, he started making strange remarks about a group of people who we were unfamiliar with. He was telling us a lot of battle stories, as well as the word “Kitchens” over and over. He started talking about “Kitchens,” and we just thought it was ramblings and nonsense. After he passed, when we were cleaning out his house, we came upon an old family book that was handwritten by his grandfather.
It was about the Denver bootleggers, focusing on a certain character who managed to run one of the bigger bootlegging operations in the area during the Prohibition era. Then, we came across some pictures in a box with a bunch of pins and a sash that was from the Masons. The pictures all had my grandfather and his father posing with family members, as well as a random old guy dressed in what can only be described as a 1940s-era suit and hat that made him look like an old-school bandit.
We then found out that there was a house that my aunt used to go to when she was a very young child that was supposedly owned by that old man in the photos. When I did some scoping on the property, it did not have a registered number on the street it resided on. Instead, it was registered as an address that was one block over.
The house had no real address, and it was owned by a company that was run by some guy that my aunt and mom knew to be related to us. At this point, we believed that “Kitchens” was actually a pseudo name for someone my grandfather was associated with within the Masons. This “Kitchens” fellow may be the man in the photos as well as even the inspiration for the main character in the handwritten book we found buried in the closet.
60. She Was A Wild Thing
One of the most challenging moments I had was with a patient—a woman in her 80s—who had advanced dementia and trying to recover from a severe bed sore that had gone septic. She often confused me with her second husband because, according to her daughter, I looked a lot like him. The patient would often talk about “our” kinky exploits—including swinging and partner swapping—as well as very wild “adventures”.
I had given up on trying to tell her I was not her husband because it just confused her and upset her, so I learned to play along. She talked to me often about “our” children and other family members, as well as many other tamer adventures she had with her husband. It made her happy to talk about it and often left me with a smile.
In my first year as a nurse, I worked in palliative care. I had a patient who was 28 years old and losing her battle with cancer. She moved from Canada to be with her boyfriend, who left her a year after moving. We weren’t expecting her to deteriorate so fast. I held her hand as she passed alone without her family or friends. Right before she passed, she made a tragic confession.
She told me she wished she had never left Canada and cried. Her family was overseas and couldn’t make it in time.
62. Straight From The Horse’s Mouth
I had a woman who was over 100 years old tell me she had been badly tormented by her first husband but was stuck in the marriage because of the culture at that time. He’d been thrown from a horse—that he’d also been very mean to—and kicked several times. She ignored his cries for help and let him perish. She said she had never told anyone about it, but she felt guilty about it for over 80 years and could still hear him screaming for help.
63. She Knew Something Was Up
When my great-grandma was on her last legs, she was convinced that my mom was having a baby and wanted to know if it was a girl or boy. My mom replied by telling her that she was not pregnant, and after asking the same to my aunt she said, “Oh, guess I was wrong”. Here’s where it gets unsettling. Exactly nine months later, I was born.
64. He Saw The End Clear As Day
One day, the whole family was with my grandparents. My grandpa had Alzheimer’s, and we were practicing the piano together when he suddenly said out of nowhere, “I’m going to die soon, but it’s so nice that we gathered here today and are able to see each other one last time”. I just smiled and said I would definitely come back next Sunday, and he didn’t have to worry.
My grandfather had a cerebral hemorrhage the next day and went into a coma. He was in a coma for four days before he would finally leave this earth. I believe that on that particular day, he knew for one last time who he really was, who we were, and that his end was coming soon.
65. It Was All Hard To Accept
My friend had a patient who was hours from the end. He told her, “The only thing I regret in life is not telling my baby boy that I accept him”. It didn’t hit hard until she was told that the patient’s son was a transgender male. Sadly, the man lost his life at just 50 years old to terminal cancer, and he never got a chance to tell his son that.
66. Her Confusion Eventually Led To The Truth
A couple of days before my grandmother passed, she was really confused. She talked about my mother having a child a year or so after my own birth who was given up 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, who denied it, and I truly believed her.
A couple of months later, I found out the sad truth. It was my grandmother was the one who had put up a child for adoption. It was a baby girl who was born between my mother and aunt.
67. His Tormented Past Caught Up With Him
My partner’s grandfather never spoke about his WWII service. He joined after lying about his name and age, so we couldn’t find any records, but he would have been 16 years old. He was in the Pacific somewhere, and when he got back, his lie was exposed. Because he was 18 by then, he was drafted under his real name and promptly taken into custody.
He was going to do anything he could not to get sent back to fight, so he got trashed and self-harmed. His adult life was mostly spent under the influence and being a terrible husband and father. However, in his later years, he was able to do some good. Having grandkids softened him. In his last hours, he relived his time in the service.
He said, “Oh God, they are here. The Japanese are behind us, sir. Get him. Get him. Jab him. Help! Medic”! He also had a string of names he kept saying. He had such a tormented, broken mind.
68. His Confession Didn’t Change Anything
My father told me and my mother that he had swiped my mother’s wedding jewelry a couple of years earlier and sold it to invest in stocks he thought were a sure thing. He lost all the money. Everybody in the family had blamed my oldest brother because he had a bad gambling addiction, and he had taken stuff from everyone multiple times before.
We never told anyone about this. Years later, everyone still thinks it was my brother.
69. Beasts Of Burden
I worked at a hospital in a small town near Munich. My job there was not fancy at all. I moved people around, threw out the trash, and occasionally did some maintenance work. I got to see a lot of patients come and go. I remembered a few instances of people confessing to me their biggest regrets. There were two that stood out.
One was a Polish lady who told me that she used to be a lady of the night during WWII. She said that she slept with “very high up” people in the government. She told me that although she did not regret that part of her life, she could not tell anyone about it either. She told me that was a heavy emotional burden on her. She also told me that she aborted more than five babies during that time.
The other was an old truck driver who used to work for an Eastern German company. He told me that he once ran over some kids with his truck but was too afraid to stop and check if they were alright.
70. Family Rivalry
One of the hospice workers had a patient who was a bed-bound woman in her 90s. She was generally unresponsive but had flashes of recognition and engagement. It’s hard to gauge the level to which unresponsive patients are detached from their surroundings, so they encourage family members to keep them company in hopes of soothing the patient.
This patient was from a US state that prided itself on its state university and the university’s football team. The woman’s family had attended this university for four or five generations. During her hospice care, however, her great-granddaughter was the first in their family to decide to go to a different school—the rival state’s university.
Her family was supportive of her decision but often joked about her being the “rebel” or “Judas” or what-have-you. One day, they were all sitting around the woman’s bedside, teasing the girl about her decision. Suddenly, the patient sat up, looked at her great-granddaughter—and uttered an unforgettable last word. She said, “Traitor,” and then bit it.
71. A Special Last Day
I worked with the elderly at a day center. A 90-something-year-old man who was very loved by everyone was going to use euthanasia—which was permitted in our country—that afternoon. All the nurses and social workers were pretty emotional on his last day. It can be weird to talk to someone in the morning, knowing they will end their lives that afternoon. I went on a walk with him.
I was pushing his wheelchair, and we just talked about life. In that one hour, he taught me so much about life. He told all about his experience from WWII, how it affected him, and how he overcame it. He never told anyone, not even his wife, about everything that happened. He gave me so many life lessons that day, and I will always be thankful for that.
I had a great aunt who was a nun. When she met my wife before we got married, she point-blank asked if we were already doing the deed. I sheepishly replied yes, waiting to be chastised for having pre-marital relations. Her response shocked me. She replied, “Good, it is important to know the quality of the product before you buy it”.
It was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard coming from a 90-year-old nun dressed in a full habit.
73. Coming To America
My grandmother was from Spain. At some point in my life, I was like, “Why don’t I know how to speak Spanish”? So, I asked my mom since I had never heard her speak Spanish either. She said, “My mom came to America and was one of the ‘we are in America now, so we speak English now’ people”. When we started pestering her to teach us Spanish, she claimed that she had forgotten how to speak it.
We all kind of thought she was full of garbage, but she was adamant about it. She was sharp as a tack until her mid-90s and lived alone. Finally, we had to move her to our house and then to assisted living because she wanted to be closer to her friends. When she ended up in a nursing home because she was on her last legs and her mind started to go, we caught her speaking Spanish to the primarily Hispanic staff.
She basically had to go senile to forget that she told us that she couldn’t speak Spanish. It was an unintentional confession that she always knew how to speak the language, but she just didn’t want to because it wasn’t the American thing to do.
74. A Final Send-Off
My step-father had emailed me the night he passed. In general, he was always in pain from chemo, cancer, medication, and whatnot. He did not want to continue spending money as he withered 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”.
After that, he was gone.
75. There Was Nothing More She Needed To Say
I walked into my mom’s room, and she was just sitting in her chair with her head tilted and looking off into the distance. After a minute, she looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, that’s it then, there’s nothing more to do”. She wasn’t very lucid at the time, so I just carried on with our visit, and when they brought her supper, I told her goodnight.
A few hours later, the nurse called me and said that she had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. I held her hand while she passed, but she never said anything more.
76. His Last Words Were The Key To My Devastation
My husband had a cardiac event that required an ambulance. As the ambulance was arriving, I asked him what the code to open his phone was. I repeated some numbers, and he confirmed them. Then, he looked up at me and said, “I am so sorry”. He had a successful surgery but had several strokes on the operating table and was taken off life support after seven days.
When I opened his phone, tears sprang to my eyes. I found out he was having an affair. The same code to his phone also opened his laptop, where I found telephone recordings of him and his girlfriend, as well as screenshots of their chats. It was absolutely devastating to me.
77. The Train Finally Left The Station
I once cared for a man who was in the hospital because of his cancer. He was partially paralyzed from the waist down. One time I walked up to him in his room. He was sad and emotional. So I sat next to him and let him talk. He said that he was done living, and he didn’t want to be in the hospital. At the end of the conversation, he said, “I wish a train would pass by”.
Ten minutes after my shift was over, he passed. It wasn’t and still isn’t obvious what caused him to go right then. For all we know, he couldn’t get to the train, so the train got him.
78. The Big Reveal
My aunt watched her elderly mother fall down the stairs. Just before she lost her life, she made a shocking confession. She revealed that she wasn’t my aunt’s 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, which was a common way of handling it back then.
She revealed it in her very last breath.
79. Was She Guilty?
While on her final legs, my grandma confessed to taking someone’s life. Usually, you’d think it was the pain relief meds, but she was such an eccentric–it was actually believable. We traced all her ex-husbands, partners, and any other likely candidates. Fortunately, none of them had gone missing or met any type of untimely passing. However, sometimes, I wonder.
80. A 22-Caliber Mystery
I was taking care of a WWII Veteran with dementia. He would say the number “22” over and over, and the family never knew the significance of it. The number didn’t line up with any significant events or dates that they were aware of. The day before he passed, his mental state became incredibly clear, and he started telling the staff, “Twenty-two men. I offed 22 men over there”.
The poor guy had lived with that anguish for more than 50 years.
81. Special Delivery
My mother ran a nursing home when I was growing up. From the ages of five to ten, I spent every weekend with residents. Because I was a kid, residents often confessed stuff they thought I wouldn’t understand. Two stick out. One funny, one not. One woman who was about 96 was nearing the end. She had her last burst of energy/life where she thought she was better.
An African-American delivery man came in 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”. The other occurred while I was reading Bible verses to a resident. Suddenly they said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to drop that baby in the well”.
82. He Wasn’t Worth The Money
My great-grandfather was not a nice man. He had left home at just eight years old and fended for himself for his entire life. He beat his children, and I assume he did the same to his wife. She left him and the kids behind. This occurred during the 30s, so I assumed that he didn’t allow her to take the kids with her, especially since women’s rights were not great back then.
While on his last legs, my nasty great-grandpa told his boys that he had a bunch of money stashed on the old property and that if they went to see him, he would tell them where it was. No one went.
83. The Final Piece To The Puzzle
My mom was adopted. My grandparents never kept it a secret and they loved my mom like their own. When she was growing up, she tried to find out as much as she could about her and her adopted brother’s birth parents. Back in those days though, information like that wasn’t exactly the easiest to find. My mom and uncle were brought to the orphanage with little to no information on each of their biological parents, or it was requested to be kept secret.
Eventually, my mom found enough information from notes she had gathered, like which families might have been most likely to be related to her, some property information that one can find at the library, etc. She sort of pieced this puzzle together about her life. At a certain point, she was able to get the names of her mother and her brother’s mother.
She was able to find out she was part of a big family, with lots of brothers and sisters. However, for my uncle, he found out that his mother had passed not long after placing him for adoption. By the time she had gathered all of this information, my mom was married, had my older sister, and was pregnant with me. Somehow, she got a phone number. That phone number went to the house of her biological mother.
She called, and the voice of a young boy answered. My mom asked for the name she knew, and she heard, “Yeah, one second. Hey Mom, phones for you”. The woman and my mother spoke. It wasn’t an easy conversation. This woman was not comfortable with my mom contacting her at all. She didn’t ask my mom a lot of questions, but my mom said that she was just going to talk, and if she wanted to hang up at any point, she could.
My mom gave her a short version of the story of her life, and then the conversation was over. After that, my mom’s biological mother would send letters to her on occasion, but she made a point of telling my mom she could never be found out by the rest of her family. This woman carried that secret with her until the day she was about to leave the earth.
While on her last legs, one of her daughters asked her, “Will you tell us where you went when you went away that time”? The woman finally confessed that she had gone to a home for unwed mothers all those years ago to have my mom, who was the child of her affair with the milkman.
84. A Haunting Confession
My perfect mother said she was harmed by her older cousin and named him when she was a small child. I didn’t ask her to go into details, and she passed a few hours after telling me. I never told anybody, not even my dad, who later passed. I have no idea if he even knew. I’m afraid this was something my mom held inside and suffered alone with her whole life.
It hurts and haunts me to think that.
85. He Finally Gave Up The Goods
I worked for a federal law enforcement agency. We covered major offenses, some of which were related to organized syndicates, not Mafia per se, but open-ended illicit enterprises. We had a mid-level player as a suspect for a string of cargo thefts, heists, etc. We knew him for years and had taken him into custody several times.
He taunted us a fair bit, but lung cancer got a hold of him before we could build a solid case. Things went downhill fast. We went to see him at home, just before he transferred to hospice. That he did at least half of what we suspected was an open secret. I knew it and 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, but he assured me that it could wait, so I agreed. He told me, “I know that you are looking at me, but I didn’t do it”. He admitted wanting to do the job, then told me who was actually responsible and where we could find solid evidence to implicate 5–6 people.
When I asked him why he decided to tell me, he said, the other guy “never treated anybody right”. I did not ask him to elaborate. I shared the information about three weeks later, after the informant passed. However, I never had to share information about the source because he pointed us to substantial corroborating evidence.
86. The Right Track To A Tragic End
There was a gentleman nearing the end who was 56 years old. He was mad and yelling that he started at an early age going to preschool, to get into the right grade school, to get into the right high school, to get into the right Ivy League university, and to finally get a high-paying job. That was the year he was supposed to set up his family for life, being able to fund their college and pay off the mortgage.
This went on for about four hours before he passed. It was truly tragic.
87. He Just Wanted To Go
When my uncle was 13, he had a brain tumor and was hanging on for dear life. My grandmother refused to leave the hospital, and he asked her to go home to eat and take a shower. He was paralyzed at that point—it was pretty horrific. As soon as she got home the phone rang and he had passed. My mom said the nurses told them he was holding on because she was there.
He didn’t want to go while she was with him because it would be hard on her. The nurses said a lot of patients do that.
88. I Didn’t Do It!
I had an uncle who was a heavy drinker and just known for being a bit crazy—wild, not mentally unwell, although I suspected the latter was also true. The morning after a family party, a mattress in the house was found reeking of pee. No one knew who the culprit was, and he naturally got the blame, though he vehemently denied it. His last words while he was near the end were, “It wasn’t me that peed the bed”!
It had clearly bothered him for years that he had been blamed for that, which was a minor thing compared to the many other things he had done!
89. A Regretful Choice
I had a patient who was perfectly fine. But when I came back the next night, they’d taken a turn for the worse. They’d had a massive stroke mid-morning. The family had decided against surgery due to age factors and other things. The wife was telling me they had a good life together and had been married for about 40–50 years. She kept vigil at the bedside all night.
All the kids and grandkids were there too. I told them although the patient was unconscious, they could still hear. So, I encouraged the family to keep talking to them and tell them everything they wanted to say before it was too late. Around 4 AM, I could tell the patient was close to the end, and the wife asked me if it was time.
I gave her an honest answer, and she became inconsolable, clutching the patient’s hand. She kept crying that she wasn’t ready to say goodbye, that she had so many other plans for them to live out. She said that she didn’t want them to go, and she wished she hadn’t withdrawn treatment so that they could have more time together. The patient passed 15 minutes later.
90. Making Amends
I had one male in his 90s talk about how he had been a part of a prejudiced group in his youth and how ashamed he was of disturbingly mistreating people of color and even some white Catholics. He’d had several CNAs and patient care techs who were minorities, and he was always polite and even loving towards them. I could tell how deeply his past haunted him.
He asked me not to share this information with any of the staff. In the last days before he became too weak to speak anymore, he asked one of the African-American RNs I worked with if she forgave him. She didn’t know what he was asking forgiveness for but told him she did and helped him, “Get right with Jesus”. He passed peacefully a couple of days later.
91. He Thought Of His Wife To The Very End
My great grandfather was in his mid-90s when he passed. His health had always been good, but a benign tumor that was deemed too dangerous to operate on at his age went septic. He was gone a week later. Before he passed, 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 several years before, so we stopped seeing them.
Even so, I constantly ran into my great-grandpa at the store, and we always had nice chats. While in the hospital, he told me not to worry about him. Most everyone he had ever known was gone, and he was ready to go as well. 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 while she had Alzheimer’s, and he wouldn’t pass until he knew she was taken care of. They had been married for over 70 years.
92. That Was It
Two days before my father passed from heart failure, my older brother and sister sat by his bed talking to him. He was conscious and able to speak. My siblings reminded him of how he was really good and kind to his parents. He cried, and he said, “ I am happy that I was a good son. I love all my kids because they are kind and good to me”. Then he said every kid’s individual name.
Later that day, his only surviving brother called him and wished he would come home. My dad said, “I am not coming home. This is it for me”.
93. Friends And Enemies
This man in hospice was a heavy drinker. This isn’t usually a problem because when in hospice, you can get whatever you want as long as it is not against the law. However, when he drank, he became violent, so he was forbidden from having booze as a result. Between his requests for booze, he talked about how he and a friend got into a massive fight over some land and his equipment being borrowed.
As a result, they hadn’t spoken in 20 years. He said he didn’t even know why it was such a big deal and regretted being that aggressive. Basically said he missed his best friend and wished they didn’t lose all those years.
94. Stop The Music
My grandfather lived into his 90s. According to my grandma, his last lucid words the day before he passed was when he called out, “Unpoop my pants”! It wasn’t very profound but very memorable because that song was popular at the time. Now I always imagine that line sung in Toni Braxton’s voice.
95. Unfinished Business
I had this one older man where I used to work who would never talk unless his daughter was in the room. She asked something about her stepmother, who had passed a couple of years before I started working there. Her passing was the reason this man had to come to the nursing home. One of the days after she left, I was getting him ready for bed—and that’s when he dropped his bombshell confession.
The last thing he said before passing was, “I should have finished the job of drowning her and burning down the house”.
96. The Rule Of Three
I had an old lady who gave me some questionable advice. She was this 90-something Italian nonna, all dressed in black skirts and dripping with rosary beads and crucifixes. She was very Catholic—and yet her last words were so naughty. She told me, “To be happy in life, you need three men. One for the money, one for the love, and one for the boom-boom-boom”.
It was certainly memorable.
97. She Had Enough
My grandma had a tough life. She was always harmed physically and emotionally by my grandfather. When she started showing signs of Alzheimer’s, my grandpa turned up the dial—and started kneeing her and pinching her. As a result, we took her in during her last months. A few days before her passing, my grandpa came visiting and pinched her cheeks and messed with her, expecting no resistance.
However, she had a moment of clarity and snapped. She swatted away his hand and shouted, “Stop it. I’m sick of you and your ways. Go, leave, now. I don’t ever want to see you again, not ever”. She was always a sweet and happy woman and watching her stand up for herself at last always makes me smile.
98. Six Degrees Of Separation
My great uncle actually confessed in front of his own children and grandchildren to having two illegitimate sons right before he kicked the bucket. 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 if she did know.
What was crazier was that these two sons already passed five and seven years ahead of him, respectively. He was 98 years old, and his “invisible” sons were 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 got connected and learned even more stuff about my granduncle. The craziest thing was that I actually dated one of the granddaughters of one of the invisible sons. Talk about a few degrees of separation!
99. Breathing On Her Own
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.
100. The Big Question
I’m an oncology nurse and the statement that has always stuck with me the most came from a pancreatic cancer patient who was a 42-year-old mother of four. She’d been on and off our unit with infections and other complications for months. She and her family were very religious, so they were doing a lot of praying and Bible reading.
I worked nights at the time and she was in for anemia of unknown origin. She was very weak and was receiving a lot of blood products. I went in to check on her—and she was staring at the wall in the dark. It took me a minute to determine if she was gone or just staring. I checked her fluids and she quietly asked me, “What if there’s nothing”?
I stood there, dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. Finally, I said, “Either way, it sounds peaceful”. She nodded and closed her eyes. The next day she succumbed to a massive hemorrhage.
101. A Fleeting Glance
As an EMT, I don’t see as much trauma as you might expect, but when I do, it’s almost always automotive accidents. One time when we were responding to a single-vehicle accident, our basic life support rig arrived eight minutes before the paramedics. It’s important to note that in my state basic-level EMTs cannot pronounce anyone deceased.
We arrived on the scene to find a mid-90s vehicle with a T-top, which appeared to have been off before the accident, but it was hard to tell. There was a man in his mid-40s who was really banged up, but still in the driver’s seat. There was a lot of blood, but he was semi-conscious. He was screaming for his wife, who was nowhere to be seen.
My partner told me to go look for her while he held pressure as we waited for the fire department to extricate the husband. His wife wasn’t hard to find. She was lying in a pile of tall, autumnal grass that had been stained red. She was very, very gone. At this point, law enforcement arrived, and they stayed with the body while I went to find someone I could help.
My partner looked to me questioningly, and I could only shake my head. The woman’s husband saw this and I watched the moment of realization and then defeat wash over his face. He knows she is gone and he just gives up. I will never forget that moment. I watched a man—who, while unstable, was still in a very survivable state—just give up on living.
His vitals crashed very shortly after and, despite our resuscitation attempts, we were unable to bring him back. To this day, I believe I saw a man lose his life from many complications, but the main one was his broken heart.
102. Family Strife
A guy I sort of knew said that he was supposed to cheat with his fiancé’s best friend the night before their wedding, but she died in a car accident on the way to the hotel. She spent her last moments getting ready to betray her closest friend in the world.