Talking about the end of life is always a dark and solemn affair. Last words can be shocking, heartbreaking, or touching—and these haunting deathbed moments might just make you contemplate your own mortality. Buckle up, because saying "goodbye" is one of the hardest parts of being human.
1. Resigned And Done
My father was admitted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He shared the room with my stepmother and a nurse. Wanting a private moment, he asked my stepmom to fetch him something to get her to momentarily exit the room. Before the nurse could intervene, my dad made a heartbreaking choice.
He removed his oxygen mask, declared, "I'm done," and swiftly slipped into unconsciousness. He remained on life support for roughly 24 hours, but it was clear, he had already departed. We made the painful decision to end life support, and his body succumbed in less than five minutes.
It seemed his declaration of being "done" was sadly accurate.
2. Confusion In Hospice
I spent two months at the early stages of my career as a nurse's aide in a nursing home. Among the residents, there was an elderly man who was under my care for the whole period. He had been in hospice care the entire time. Up until one particular night, he seemed to be doing okay. But on this evening, there was something strange about him.
When I spoke to him and explained how I was caring for him, he came across as upset and disoriented. As a novice in the field, I didn't know how to handle the situation, however, I pressed on. His bewildered state escalated to the point where he did something unimaginable—he attempted to choke me with his oxygen tubing.
Fortunately, I managed to escape the situation and alerted the nurse on duty. I learned that confusion coupled with aggression is a common behavior among people nearing the end. Regardless of his violent outburst, he still needed to be cared for. When I returned a few hours later to continue his care, he seemed much calmer and looked defeated.
With teary eyes, he turned to me and apologized, "I feel really bad about what happened earlier, ma'am. I assure you that is not who I am. I'm truly sorry". I reassured him it was alright and my sole intention was to comfort him. Gratefully, he thanked me and repeated insistently, "I'm going home. I'm going home. I'm going home".
I couldn't shake off the feeling that he was still confused... He passed 90 minutes later, right after my shift ended. Upon hearing about his passing, his final words strongly resonated with me. They echo in my mind even to this day. It has been almost 12 years since that happened, and I don't think I will ever be able to forget it.
3. Crazy About Owls
My great-grandmother lived an incredibly long and remarkable life. She was a young woman during the grim era of the Great Depression. Over nine prolific decades, she had amassed a plethora of owls. We're talking about thousands of owl trinkets, from clocks and wall decorations to potholders, lamps, and stained glass creations, salt shakers, and a countless array of miniatures, all embodying owls.
The fascination with owls was a mystery to us all. She never really brought it up, so we simply concluded she had an affinity for them. However, as she was approaching her life's twilight, when she was 98 or 99, and the doctors signaled she might have only days left, my grandparents thought it prudent to have a heart-to-heart.
They asked if there was anything she'd like to share before her time came. Upon reflecting a bit, she made a surprising confession, "I never understood the owls". To our surprise, she didn't particularly have a fondness for the feathered creatures.
From what we understood, somewhere around the 1940s or 1950s, she had purchased either a trivet or a set of salt and pepper shakers bearing owl-themed designs—and that's where this all started. That lone, innocent purchase snowballed into an avalanche of more owl-inspired gear.
For six long decades, this owl craze left her baffled, eventually overtaking the majority of her possessions.
A guy comes in after a car crash. His work van had toppled and tumbled. The man was rolled in fully alert and surprisingly unfazed or confused. But his lower body looked like something from a gruesome medical drama, yet somehow his blood vessels remained intact to prevent him from bleeding out.
The medical team carefully broke the news to him and recommended that his family should come in to bid their farewells. He gave an illusion of just chilling on the sofa, watching TV, with a blanket cloaking his lower half. Once the reality of the situation dawned on him, he blurted out, “How am I going to explain this disaster?”
5. The Other Family
Just before he passed, my great uncle dropped a bombshell: He confessed to fathering two secret sons. And he did this right in front of his family, including his children and grandchildren. What's wild is that none of his kids were aware of this secret life.
Even my great aunt would have been in the dark, because if she had known while she was still alive, she would have created a big scene. But that's not the craziest revelation. Unfortunately, both of these secret sons had passed five and seven years respectively before him. At 98 years old, his "hidden" sons had been 65 and 69.
The shocking thing for the family was learning that one of these previously unknown sons had actually been a teacher at the same high school his granddaughters went to. Still, his children felt it was right to connect with the offspring of these secret sons. Upon meeting, they learned more surprising facts about my great uncle.
Ironically, it turns out that I had actually dated one of the granddaughters of one of the secret sons.
6. Reunited At The End
When my beloved grandma was nearing the end of her life, we had her at home with us. I would often stay awake at night ensuring she was comfortable and well taken care of. Just a few days before she peacefully passed, an unexpected incident took place.
She abruptly straightened herself up in her bed, extended her arms, and cheerfully called out, "Daddy!" It was absolutely astonishing as her childish voice echoed, even more so because her father had passed in an accident when she was just a little girl. After this sudden outcry, she lay back relaxed, and never moved or spoke again.
In the subsequent days, she deteriorated fast. The moment she called out for her father has led me to the steadfast belief that her dad had come to take her with him. From then on, it seemed as if only her physical body was present, biding its time to finally rest.
7. A Sad Night
Once, I used to be a nighttime custodian in the pediatric cancer wing of my local hospital. One night, a little boy who was bedridden called me into his room because he needed assistance adjusting his pillow. Affixed to various machines and tubes, he couldn't even roll to the side to position his pillow correctly.
Realizing this was something I could help with and didn't require a nurse's intervention, I left my janitor trolley outside and walked in. Inside the room, the little boy began asking me various questions about what I do for a living. His first one was, "Are you a nurse?" To which I replied, "No".
Then he inquired if I'd come across his mom in the corridor, informing me that she had gone to fetch him a donut and strawberry milk from the cafeteria. I hadn't seen her, so my answer was also a no. After a moment of silence, he fixed his eyes on me and stated something that shook me to my core: "If I don't make it, I hope my mom won't be sad".
That statement... it hit me like a punch in the gut. This young child was fully aware of the direness of his situation, of his mortality, and he was more concerned about his mother's wellbeing. I was taken aback, didn't really know how to respond, so I assured him that he wasn't going anywhere and that numerous people recover from cancer.
I left the room soon after, unable to control my emotions, and ended up tearfully processing the conversation in the restroom. A few days later, while I was busy cleaning the wooden support railings lining the hallway, I happened upon a sight that broke my heart completely...
His room was marked with a "closed for cleaning + disinfection" sign—a sign only used after a patient has passed.
8. I Want To Be Friends
I was taking care of a patient who was expected to discharge that day. They suffered an unexpected massive stroke and passed despite everything we did to save him. Once things settled down, we attempted to locate family members or friends to contact. This patient was between homes, a very clean, nice man, who was a recent immigrant from Asia.
We couldn’t find any contacts for anyone to notify of his passing. As we went through his wallet, we made the most devastating discovery. We found handwritten cards he had made to hand out to others, with his email address, and a message saying: “Can we make friends?” I walked straight to the bathroom and started crying.
This happened just a couple of weeks after I had tried to save the life of a neighbor who had been hurt, who also passed, and it was all just too much for me. It was already sad that this nice man had no one for us to call, when I read those cards, it absolutely broke my heart.
9. All The Hits
A few years back, we found ourselves in an unusual situation. There was a former gang member, battling terminal cancer, who decided to come clean about his past. He admitted to being the hired hand for his gang for a prolonged period. His wish was to disclose all the murders he had committed and to guide investigators to where he had buried the bodies.
He believed that by doing so, it would offer him some peace and give closure to the victim's families by letting them know where their loved ones were. Due to the unique nature of this situation, we had to involve our hospital's legal department, as we didn't really have any precedents or policies to deal with this sort of thing.
Soon, detectives were pulled into the case, and there he was—the guy revealing the secrets of all the lives he'd taken.
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10. Words That Count
During my grandfather's final days, he was suffering from severe sundowners syndrome. Unable to communicate clearly and often hallucinating, he would usually speak only in early mornings. He saw imaginary figures and expressed fear towards the nurses attending to him. As a young teenager then, my mother preferred to keep me away from these distressing scenes.
However, during our last meeting, a remarkable change occurred. His vacant stare transformed into a focused gaze that met my eyes. As if tearing through the veil of his disturbed state, he clutched my hand. "Determination, that's what's important," he managed to convey.
The conviction in his voice hinted that he knew this would be our final exchange. It felt as if he had been granted four words and he chose them wisely. Soon after this incident, he relapsed into his semi-vegetative state and his words became a mumble once more. He passed shortly thereafter, leaving me to ponder his profound statement.
This life lesson from him has since served as a mantra during my most challenging times. It took a while to appreciate the depth of his words, but I finally did. I owe you big, Grandpa. You were truly exceptional.
11. End Of The Stories
For a long time, I cared for a patient who was losing his memory. It's peculiar, but sometimes, just before a patient's life is about to end, they seem to improve for a short while. Oddly enough, he started remembering me as his deceased wife. I didn't correct him but instead, I played along, offering him a listening ear while he recounted events from his past.
He shared stories about his proposal, his wedding day, the day his first child was born, among others. There was this moment that completely shattered my heart.
He looked at me and said, "Oh! Irene, there you are! I apologize, you know my eyesight isn't as sharp as before. Anyhow, thank you for allowing this old man to share his tales with you. Here's hoping that one day, you will have fascinating stories to tell as well. I'm on my way, Irene".
And, just like that, he left us. He was the first patient who I had looked after for a significant period.
12. The Final Lesson
Conveying to my dear grandma that undergoing dialysis would possibly extend her life by just about a week and the decision was hers to make, was one of the toughest things I had to do. During this moment, she was lucid, despite her consciousness fluctuating.
On asking, "Am I going to die?" I replied affirmatively. A slight smile appeared on her face as she met my gaze and uttered, "At times, we have to confront what we don't want to do". She then held my hand tighter, closed her eyes, and drifted into a deep sleep from which she never woke up after a day.
In difficult times, I can still hear her last words.
13. A Secret Sibling?
A few days before my grandmother passed, she seemed quite bewildered. She spoke about my mother having another child about a year after I was born, who she then gave up for adoption. She expressed how tragic and terrible this circumstance was and insisted that I deserved to know the truth.
When my grandmother was no longer with us, I questioned my mom about this revelation, but she denied everything. A few months later, however, the awful truth came out. It turned out that my grandmother was actually the one who had given up a baby girl, born to one of her own kids, for adoption.
I still haven't figured out if it was my mom or my aunt who was the child's birth mother.
14. Bottled Up Emotions
I'm a Certified Nursing Assistant, currently studying to become a nurse, and I work in a nursing home. One experience with a resident still sends chills down my spine. This particular resident was usually reserved and quiet.
Because of his generation's mindset, where men were expected to suppress their problems, he hardly shared anything about himself. Most times, we had to coax out answers from him. The situation happened when he was approaching his final days. During one night shift, something unusual happened.
He stayed awake all night. It was completely out of character because, until then, he had always slept soundly whenever I worked. At around 4 am, he began to cry out for assistance. Working in a nursing home, my first instinct was to suspect a fall.
We quickly gathered our medical equipment and a patient lift; however, we found him lying in his bed when we entered his room. As I turned on the light, I was met with the most heartbreaking sight. His face was etched with an expression of pure terror as tears streamed down his face. His eyes were wide open, and his mouth agape, staring at the ceiling.
This man, who I had always viewed as a stoic 'old-school' dad, lay there, his body trembling and his hands gripping the comforter tightly. I approached him and asked what was wrong, secretly hoping it was just a nightmare. But as I got closer, he pulled me in by my scrub pocket and held me tight.
He sobbed into my shoulder for what seemed like an eternity, repeating over and over, "I don't want to go". Not long after that, we administered Ativan and morphine. Sadly, he passed before my shift ended.
15. Talking Over Tea
I once cared for a man suffering from severe heart failure. His condition was so delicate that any increase in his chest pressure from events such as coughing or leaning forward, caused him to faint. It would only last a few minutes each time, and his color would then slowly return from purple to pink.
"How long was I unconscious this round?" he'd ask. He was completely lucid—bright, funny and at peace with his impending fate. We had an odd sort of camaraderie, joking together that one of these fainting spells would be his last. We chatted about nothing in particular as he casually sipped his tea. Just five minutes later, it happened.
This time, he didn't wake up. His Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was in place, and it made sense considering his condition. It was surreal to have been speaking with someone so full of life and awareness only moments before he passed. He was a truly kind soul, and I hope that I can face the end with the same calm acceptance when my time comes too.
16. Spirits In The Street
In her final months, my great-grandma took to sleeping on the sofa rather than her usual bed. Her reason was quite alarming, she'd insist that "the lady" was occupying her bed. Not only that, but she'd hallucinate a camping site in her backyard and would repeatedly ask my grandma if she should prepare dinner for the campers. But these weren't the only strange visions she had.
She even instructed my grandma to contact the local authorities to rescue a cat she claimed was in the middle of the street, despite there being no cat there. Furthermore, she believed there were people residing in her car. Listening to her talk about these odd experiences was undoubtedly peculiar. We couldn't quite comprehend her illusions, but we let her voice them anyway.
17. Relationship Regrets
When I was just a kid, my mom used to run a nursing home. From the time I was about five to ten years old, I spent all of my weekends there amidst the residents. The funny thing about kids is, people sometimes share secrets with them under the assumption they won't understand.
There was one lady I met there who was around 96 years old. She had just experienced what seemed like a resurgence of energy, making her feel rejuvenated. One day, a Black gentleman arrived as a delivery man bearing flowers.
Once he had departed, she gazed at me with tear-filled eyes and revealed, "It breaks my heart that I'm nearing my end and I’ve never been with a man of color".
18. Sudden Clarity
My own stance on religion is somewhat ambiguous, however, it was crystal clear in the case of my dearly devotional grandma. She battled deafness for an impressive stretch of over seven decades. Her remarks and songs bore the innate tone of a person with hearing impairment.
She eventually met her end in the comfort of her own home, specifically in her cozy bed. However, the eeriness of her final moments still freaks me out. In the quiet before life left her, she abruptly sat upright in bed. With a chilling scream, she declared, "They’re here! They’re here!" What followed was even more mysterious.
With an unprecedented voice quality, remarkable in its clarity and perfectly uncharacteristic of a deaf person, she began a soulful gospel melody. The song didn't see its end, as she passed midway through her hymn. This was an experience that would remain etched in my mind forever.
It was impossible to tie it down with any logical explanation, considering her impaired hearing, and her vocal prowess at the very end was an unexplained phenomenon. I've been present for many patients in their final moments, but normally it’s quiet, with no extraordinary events.
The usual pattern is they cease to converse or react, and their last breaths come in agonal gasps. None of their departures were anything like my grandma’s unexpected farewell.
19. Stomach-Churning Secret Ingredient
A few years back, my beloved great aunt departed this life. She was struggling with viral encephalitis, often drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness. It was heartbreaking to witness. Even though our family was usually by her side in those final moments, there was one day when I found myself alone with her—and she began making some strange comments.
On this particular day, I was keeping myself occupied with games on my phone while sitting in her hospital room, when suddenly she started talking to herself aloud. Her talk gradually gained seriousness and intensity, until she distinctly beckoned me over. Her eyes, large and confused, made me doubtful if she recognized who I was.
Her words came out in whirls and depictions, barely making any sense, but she repeatedly used the words "boy" and "ingredient". I spent about a quarter of an hour, trying to make sense of her haphazard narration, which, to my astonishment, revealed that she used to occasionally cook eggs in a stable boy's urine instead of water.
She made sure to mention that the boy was generously remunerated for his contribution, although intermittently, she'd shed tears uncontrollably. A few weeks later, I did some internet research and came across a traditional dish from the West known as Virgin boy egg.
Apparently, my aunt was enthralled by this odd delicacy and made her own version of it frequently, serving it to her family without telling them the unique ingredient involved. Her feelings towards this were unclear, as she often hesitated when she referred to the "secret ingredient".
However, it was clear that this peculiar practice had a deep-seated impact on her, and it seemed to preoccupy her thoughts right up until the end of her life.
20. Getting Permission
In my last year of medical school, I was completing my internship. It was late into one of our shifts when an old man, a stage 4 cancer patient from a home hospice, was admitted. COVID had made visiting hours scarce and brief, so his family sometimes had to wait in the lobbies or return home until the next available visit.
He clung onto life for a few more days. During our moments alone, we had a chance to talk during his coherent periods. He shared his guilt about the sorrow his imminent end was causing his family. Every time I asked if he was alright, he would smile weakly but genuinely.
He never complained about any discomfort and even declined pain medication because he thought others might need it more. We could all see his suffering. But on his last night, he told me: "I want to set an example for my family. I want to show them how to exit this life with grace and dignity".
Shortly after that, he asked me for reassurance that it was okay to let go, to find peace, to finally rest. He was pained by the thought of his family seeing him in this condition, but he was their rock, their support system. However, he finally admitted that his agony was unbearable.
He was prepared to leave. I assured him that it was not his responsibility to endure torment for his family's sake. If he was ready to move on, then that was alright, and his family would accept it. His permission granted, he navigated the ensuing phases—delirium, laboured breathing, restlessness. Then he was gone.
Even though I hardly knew him, he left a strong impression —a kind, gentle soul. I genuinely miss him. Rest in peace, sir.
21. I Need To Get Home
My grandpa was moved into a round-the-clock care facility due to his severe Parkinson's disease. After providing for him non-stop for four years, my mom and grandma certainly needed a breather. On one of my solo visits, he met my gaze and pleaded, “I want to go at home, not here. Please, help me get back home".
I made desperate appeals to the nurses and my family to bring him home, careful not to disclose his secret request to me. No more than a day later, he was quickly transported to the emergency room. As he lay on his bed, he turned to me and murmured, “Don’t let this trouble you,” just before he slipped away.
That sentiment, however, still weighs heavily on my mind.
22. Slipping Away
I worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a span of four years. The most challenging call I had involved a 20-year-old young man who had suffered a severe head-on car crash. The collision's force was so intense that it crushed his vehicle around him, leaving him fatally pinned.
Terrifyingly, a part of his car had pierced his abdomen, and he had experienced numerous other serious injuries. His blood loss was alarmingly high. When we arrived on the scene, he was conscious and highly aware of the agony he was in. Our limited view of him only included his head and a portion of his shoulder.
At the beginning, he managed to stay composed. Through conversation, we were desperately trying to keep him alert as the local fire volunteers set to work, trying to free him from the wreckage. As time ticked on and the blood loss intensified, he started to fade. His fear of the situation came into heart-wrenching focus as he began to express his terror.
I was helpless, doing the only thing I could—holding his shoulder, reassuring him that I was there for him and wasn't leaving his side. But despite the heroic efforts of the fire department, they just couldn't release him from the wreckage. I was forced to watch, powerless, as he slowly slipped away, with no means for us to intervene or aid him further.
23. A Grandfather’s Guidance
My sister, when she was nearing the end of her life, would often point and inquire about the people present in her room, even when it was only the two of us. I could see her having discussions, in spite of being apparently alone. Curiosity overcame me and I had to ask her who she was conversing with. Her answer shook me deep down.
She seemed to be speaking with our departed grandfather. He had apparently visited her and claimed to be there to assist her with what we often call the final journey. However, she informed him that she wasn't prepared to leave just yet. He acknowledged her feelings, stating it had to be her choice.
He promised, though, that when she was prepared, his hand would guide her onto the next phase.
24. Quietly Caring
My old man suffered from Alzheimer's and found himself in a secured ward due to his condition. To make matters more complicated, his ability to see and hear also dwindled with time. One day, during one of my visits, we experienced a peculiar interaction. He wasn't aware of who I was, yet astonishingly, he spoke highly of me.
This front-row seat to him praising me as having exceeded him in accomplishments in life, and not hiding the pride he evidently felt for me, was honestly nerve-wracking. Throughout my life, he was a man of few words who never shared sentiments like these with me growing up.
In hindsight, there were selfless gestures he made that I utterly failed to appreciate during those times. For instance, when he hung up his work boots in the 1970s, his workmates sought his preference for a retirement gift. Surprisingly, he asked for a scientific calculator—a peculiar choice given he had no need for one.
This gizmo ended up in my hands for use during my university studies. Initially, I wrongly assumed he was merely offloading an unwanted item. However, I now see that he had me in mind all along when he requested it.
25. I Didn’t Mean To
We were helping this middle-aged man get discharged after his visit to the ER. When we transferred him off the hospital bed, he suddenly passed out and his heartbeat stopped. After several rounds of CPR, he began to regain consciousness.
He blinked a few times, and the doctor leading the code operation light-heartedly commented, "Sir, you almost slipped away from us!" The man apologized in a regretful tone, saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to". These were his last words.
Soon after, his heart stopped beating once more, and despite our best efforts, we couldn't revive him. The probable cause was a severe pulmonary embolism. He initially came in for something rather trivial, but a blood clot formed just as he was being moved. He had this typical blue discoloration across his chest, a classic sign of a severe pulmonary embolism.
26. The Last Lunch
My initial semester in nursing school had me positioned in a long-term care department in a hospital. I encountered a senior man who hardly communicated. His days primarily consisted of sleeping, with visitors noticeably absent. Each instance I passed his room, he was just idly sitting. The department was always bustling, leaving no spare time to interact with patients.
One day around lunchtime, as I was passing by his room, I noticed his meal tray was untouched and he was just gazing at it. I ventured into his room, took a seat on his bed, and used my lunch break to assist him with his meal. Despite the silence, he managed to eat nearly 80% of his food, unhurriedly.
Once he finished, I wiped his mouth and neatened his bed. As I was about to exit the room, he gave me a heartfelt smile. Subsequently, in the most fragile voice I've ever listened to, he muttered, "Thank you". Unfortunately, he departed a few days after. Ever since, hardly a day goes by that I don't reflect on him.
27. The Dog’s Omen
In my earlier posts, I've touched upon this topic, but let me revisit it as it's an intriguing aspect of my job as a palliative care nurse. I've spotted an odd pattern. At times, as people approach the end of their lives, they experience bouts of delirium, which often bring along hallucinations.
An uncanny example which stands out is about, of all things, a dog! I can't forget the at-least five incidences over a span of two years where individuals, in totally separate instances and spaces, implored me to take "the dog" away. They found its unblinking gaze discomforting.
This mysterious "dog" they spoke about was apparently a universal hallucinatory experience they shared.
28. Listening To The End
As a nursing student here in Canada, I once had a memorable experience during my palliative rotation. There was this elderly man, a cancer patient, who was scheduled for medically assisted dying the next day. Influenced by his own spirituality, he described himself as a "self-ordained minister, never officially recognized, but more of a homely preacher".
He invited me, in a friendly manner, to share with him any burdens I might carry in my heart. Assured by his sincerity, I decided to go along with it and shared some of my deepest secrets. He gave me a comforting assurance that everything was fine, and I could see that he became genuinely thankful for the trust I placed in him.
He went on to share his email address saying, although he wouldn't be sending any replies, he would be happily receiving any emails sent to him. He was a really amazing person.
29. Who’s The Favorite?
My grandparents are parents to three daughters. Often, people would consider my mom as my grandfather's covert favorite, but he never admitted it. I received news that he was critically ill on April 6th, so I went to visit him two days later, on April 8th. His appearance was quite alarming and he seemed seriously sick.
His doctor was puzzled as to why he hadn't passed yet. By April 9th, all his children, except my mom, had managed to visit him and say their final goodbyes. My mom, who doesn't drive and my dad, who works far away, couldn't make it that day.
Throughout the day, grandpa softly uttered my mom's name to the nurses, so she managed to visit him on April 10th. He caught sight of her, broke into a smile, and in a gentle voice said, "My Amy". Amy is my mom's name. After that, he shut his eyes and didn’t open them again.
30. At The Head Of The Parade
I have a history of organizing charity events, including an annual candlelight memorial walk around our Hospice House grounds. One year, a patient at the hospice was nearing the end of her life. She reassured her worried family, saying, "No need for concern, I'm the parade leader today". Sadly, she departed later that day.
Her family saw our preparations for the evening's event. After informing them about it, they reacted with a mix of laughter and tears. On the night of the walk, they participated, carrying a picture of her with them. They were leading the procession, just as she said.
31. The Last Email
My stepdad sent me an email the evening he passed. Overall, he was constantly suffering due to the aftermath of chemotherapy, cancer, medication, and the like. He didn't want us to keep pouring out cash while he was gradually deteriorating.
He entrusted me with a secret, asking me not to reveal it to the rest of our family: "I'm going to take all my sleeping pills tonight, once your mom has gone to bed. Hopefully, she'll never discover what really happened. It would shatter her".
32. Everything Is Taken Care Of
My great-grandfather was already in his 90s when his time came. Despite his hearty health, a benign tumor considered too risky for surgery due to his old age became infected. About a week later, he bid his farewell. I had an opportunity to visit him during his hospital stay.
We had once been very close to him, but a disagreement between him and my grandmother ended up driving a wedge, and we stopped visiting them. During my visit at the hospital, he comforted me not to worry about his condition.
He explained that most of those he had known in his life had already left this world, and he was prepared to join them. Sensing the change in his health the week his illness took hold, he organized for my great-grandma, stricken with Alzheimer's, to be moved into a care facility.
He was her primary caregiver, and he had chosen to hold on until he ensured she was well-cared for. They shared a loving bond that lasted over seven decades, and there's a particular anecdote I will always cherish.
Every Sunday for more than half a century, he would drive my great-grandma to church and then patiently sit in the car waiting for her, an act of love since he was not a fan of organized religion but utterly devoted to his wife.
33. Mom’s Worst Scare
For over three decades, my mom has worked as a nurse and has shared with me that it's astonishing how many patients openly say, "I'm going to die today" or "I think I'm about to pass". She has often observed that they somehow sense the impending end, and she has learned over the years to trust this instinct.
I remember this one experience from when I was 16 years old. I had fainted and while my brother was dialing 9-1-1, my mom was trying to sit me up to ask some questions, hoping to gather critical information for the paramedics.
During this ordeal, I blurted out, "I don't want to die". I learned later that my statement shook her more than any other she had heard in her many years of nursing, even though she encountered these kinds of declarations frequently. My mother was more terrified in that moment than she had ever been before.
Thankfully, and as is evident, I survived that episode and I'm perfectly healthy now.
34. The Chase Is Over
I was employed with a federal law enforcement organization. We had identified a mid-level individual as a suspect in multiple cargo heists. We'd been familiar with him for several years and brought him in for questioning multiple times. He often mocked us.
Sadly, lung cancer got to him before we could put together a strong case against him. His health deteriorated rapidly. I visited him at his home prior to his moving into a hospice care facility. It was a widely recognized truth that he was responsible for at least half of the heists we suspected him of. Both of us were aware of this.
For some reason, he decided to cut me some slack. He proposed, “If I confess something to you, will you keep it under wraps for a few weeks?” I was initially reluctant to consent. I entertained the idea that he might expose information about an ongoing operation. He assured me that it wasn't urgent, thus I agreed.
So, he said, “I’m aware that I’m the prime suspect in your current investigation. However, I didn’t do it". He confessed to having the intention to commit the heist, shared with me who the real culprit was, and where we could discover substantial proof to implicate five or six people. What prompted him to admit this?
According to him, the other person “never treated anyone decently".
35. Holding Her Hand
In the summer before my final year of nursing school, we were completing clinical rotations at various kinds of hospitals, staying about a week or two at each. Our final placement was at a general hospital. During our penultimate day there, I had an encounter that I'll never forget.
An elderly woman patient, who hadn't had a single family visitor during her entire stay, was nearing the end of her life. As I was making my rounds, she looked at me and pleaded, "Could you stay with me a little longer and hold my hand?" I dragged over a chair and clasped her hand as she breathed her last.
After that encounter, I never completed my nursing degree. The emotional intensity of such experiences was more than I could psychologically handle.
36. A Simple Life Statement
I recently experienced the passing of a client, and the incident stayed with me. She was an elderly woman, dealing with the various health issues that come with age. Yet, she managed to carry herself with grace. Her hair and nails were always taken care of, her house in perfect condition.
Lately, she’d felt somewhat under the weather, not to the point of needing a hospital stay, but enough to cause discomfort. She somehow sensed change was coming. In her elegant manner, she'd complain, exclaiming, “Life has thrown such hardships at me!” Her expression clearly exhibited the strain.
However, she'd look out towards the open sky, its striking blue hue spread out, and say, “But look at this, what a splendid day it has turned out to be". She passed unexpectedly a mere hour later. I have always felt that her last words were not just about that particular day, but more of an overall reflection of her life.
She was a realist, who was content with what life handed to her. She embodied class in a way that is rare to come across these days.
37. Questions For Later
My buddy's little girl passed due to cancer. After I clocked out from work, I'd usually swing by to keep her entertained. Often, one of her parents would be with her, but they'd seize the opportunity to catch some shut-eye when she decided to rest.
Upon my arrival, she often woke up, but she'd motion for me to keep quiet so her mom or dad could continue sleeping. We'd curl up on her bed where she'd grill me with questions about things happening in my world or elsewhere.
At times, we would spend time drawing, or I'd bring along a puzzle book for her. If she was feeling sprightly, we'd sneak out to grab some snacks from the nurses. One of the final times I was with her, she asked me if I had faith in heaven. Despite me being an atheist, I assured her that I wholeheartedly did.
We then composed some questions to ask her loved ones already residing there. Upon leaving, I was heartbroken. She was extraordinarily intelligent and a genuinely delightful kid. I often wonder about the person she could have become.
38. Final Requests
The final chat I had with my granddad is etched into my mind. He suffered from Parkinson's and resided on a farm on the town's outskirts. He once turned to me, saying, "I'm outliving my ability to tend to your granny. Could you step in for me, alright?" His health took a nosedive soon after.
I ring up my granny daily, never failing to do so, and make trips home whenever possible to lend a hand around the farm.
39. A Changing Confession
My grandpa was struggling with severe dementia and he started making final confessions knowing his time was limited. He'd frequently confess to having seen a murder and not reporting it, but the specifics fluctuated every time he shared his tale. Several times a day during his final week, we'd hear these confessions.
Eventually, we realized he was hearing incidents on the local news, which he would misconstrue as his own experiences.
40. The Sister’s Secret
My aunt experienced something unexpected when she witnessed her older mother trip and tumble down the stairs. Just before she breathed her last, she made a startling confession, revealing that she wasn't my aunt's biological mom. She shared that the person they knew as the eldest sister was, in fact, my aunt's real mother.
The supposed sister had become pregnant at a very young age, and their mother took the responsibility as her own, claiming the child as hers. That method of dealing with such situations was quite typical during those times. She disclosed this earth-shattering news with her final breath.
41. Smiling To The End
My mother was severely affected by dementia, her thoughts often jumbled and hard to comprehend. However, just as she was on the brink of departure, she gazed at me with incredibly lucid eyes and voiced, "The colors are splendid". Following this, she slipped into a state of euphoric disintegration.
The smile that graced her face was the most radiant I had seen in the past 15 years. It was as if youth had suddenly returned to her. Just around two minutes after this moment, she departed.
42. The Feeling Of Frailty
My dear great-uncle was battling pancreatic cancer which made him incredibly weak. Every morning, I assisted him with bathing, using the toilet, and getting dressed. Although they weren't his last words to me, a sentiment he once expressed has stayed with me.
He said, "I despise feeling so helpless. I can't bear this burden anymore. I'm terribly sorry that you have to go through this with me". I promptly reassured him that I didn't mind helping him at all. I loved him deeply and promised him I'd always be there by his side.
A few weeks later, I had to relocate, since my mother wished for me to return home. My great-uncle passed not long after my departure. Following him shortly, was his faithful feline companion of nearly 30 years. My uncle was one of the good ones.
43. A Confession Of Feelings
I once expressed my heartfelt thanks to my great-grandmother on my mother's side, saying, "Thank you for being such an incredible grandmother". Her unexpected response, however, caught me off guard. She simply said, "I'm so sorry". Her apology was due to my birth circumstances of being out of wedlock.
I suspect that while she treated me cordially, she grappled with some negative emotions towards me. Despite it all, I forgave her, unintentionally easing her troubled mind in the process. The icing on the cake is that I honored this complex relationship by naming one of my kids after her.
44. I Must Know Everything
A number of my patients have inquired about the process of dying—how it unfolds, what to expect in its final hours and days. This is particularly common among terminally ill patients who are noticeably at the beginning of this journey. One patient, whom I'll always remember, specifically requested my presence.
He said, “When she gets here, I want her to come straight to me. I'm near the end and I need her to explain to me exactly how that happens. I want to understand". I went into his room, addressed his queries as comprehensively as I could. And just a few hours later, he peacefully departed from this world.
45. Waiting For Your Return
My family encouraged me to take a break and enjoy a school trip to Rome as a way of escaping my daily routine. But before leaving, I felt I needed to see my grandfather. He was unwell, and I was afraid it might be the last time we'd have a conversation. He told me to go and enjoy myself, reassuring me that we'd chat when I returned.
Upon my return from Rome, I found my grandfather in a medicated slumber. He had chosen to leave the world peacefully, in sleep. When I saw him the following week, he was still in that peaceful sleep. Even knowing that he wouldn't awaken, I recounted my adventures in Rome to him. The next day, he quietly passed.
My grandmother told me, "He was waiting for you". I miss him greatly, every single day.
46. The Cat Knows
I looked after a dear family member in a home-based hospice setting to let her spend her final days in the comfort of home instead of a hospital. When the end drew nearer, she strongly believed that the morphine intended to alleviate her pain was causing her more harm.
Despite enduring excruciating pain, she would plead for my help but adamantly declined any pain medication. My only solution was to adjust her bed height frequently, to provide some comfort. On her last day, her typically distant cat altered its behavior entirely, choosing to snuggle up in bed with her. Cats have a keen sense of knowing.
47. The Acceptance Letter
I used to work as an EMT, and I received a call one day about a hit-and-run. The job was located in a tough part of the city. What had happened was a man and his girlfriend had an argument in a parking lot that escalated terribly. The guy ended up running over his girlfriend with his car, not once, but twice.
She was in a critical state with rapidly deteriorating vital signs. We quickly loaded her in our vehicle, alongside a firefighter who accompanied us. Throughout the trip, she kept murmuring, "Tell my mom. Please tell my mom". At the time, I thought that she wanted us to inform her mother that she had been hurt in an accident.
It's common procedure for the hospital to notify family members, so I didn't dwell on her request for too long as we were focused on stabilizing her. However, her health deteriorated further, and she lost her heartbeat before we reached the hospital. Despite the medical team's best efforts, she didn't survive.
As we were wrapping up and my partner was filling out the paperwork, we reached out to the hospital staff to return her wallet. A nurse, whom I knew quite well, was looking through a piece of crumpled paper and seemed deeply upset. When I asked her what the matter was, she handed me the paper.
It was a letter that had been found near her handbag at the scene of the accident. The letter confirmed her acceptance into a college course. Suddenly, I understood what she had meant in the ambulance. Her dying wish was for us to tell her mother she got into college, not that she was gravely wounded.
That heartrending revelation is an intense sadness I still carry with me to this day.
48. Breathing On Her Own
I was present with my mom during her final moments. Her lungs were heavily damaged, making them almost impossible to function without the support of a high-pressure ventilator. She wasn't getting enough oxygen to her bloodstream.
When one of her lungs collapsed, she made the bold decision to stop using the ventilator, attempting instead to breathe on her own—despite knowing that she most likely wouldn't be able to. The medical team prepared for the transition and provided her with copious amounts of morphine for relief.
However, as soon as she was off the ventilator, fear gripped her, and in a moment of panic, she reached for my arm. Her final plea to me was, "Help me". Never have I felt so powerless. Shortly after, she fell into a non-responsive condition, and by the next day, she was gone.
This happened a few years back, yet I believe it's healthy to discuss such experiences rather than suppressing them.
49. A Terrible Accident
When I first embarked on my career as a railway worker, one of the first tales I heard was about a fellow worker who sadly got pinned between two train carriages while performing a shunting operation. The unfortunate accident crushed him in such a way that it abruptly halted any bleeding and left him surprisingly stable.
Upon their arrival, the emergency response team administered pain relief to make him as comfortable as possible. They ensured he maintained this state of stability while his family made their way to the accident site to bid their poignant farewells.
After his loved ones had departed, he gratefully acknowledged the efforts of the rescue team. They tenderly asked him if he was prepared for what was to come next. His response was a stoic, "As ready as I’ll ever be".
50. Reconciling The Past
During my tenure at a hospital, a connection grew between me and a man of spiritual but non-religious beliefs. One day, he summoned me to his room. On arrival, he gestured for me to come closer to his bed and in a low whisper, asked, "Do you see my brother standing over there in the corner?"
Even though I couldn't, I told him that I believed that he could see his sibling. Remaining steady and composed, he detailed their interactions; they were reconciling, discussing unresolved issues, and ultimately reaching a forgiveness that they could not achieve before his brother's passing.
He expressed concern that the nurses might perceive him as insane and attempt to give him unnecessary medication. Once I reassured him that I trusted him and was only there to hear him out, he shared something rather chilling: "I see Death, as well. She was in the parking lot, where I could see her from my window. My brother was with her. Now, she's in the room. She's enveloped in black yet... she isn't hideous".
He was in a tranquil state of mind. A few days later, he passed due to a tumor invading an artery.