Until someone figures out a way to defrost Walt Disney, we all currently only have one life to live—and how it ends usually isn’t up to us. Sure we can hope for a Hollywood ending surrounded by loved ones as some sort of profound wisdom slips out with our last breath but, as you'll see, fate usually has other plans.
1. Regrets, She’s Had A Few…
I work as a paramedic, and one day, a call from a casino about someone experiencing chest pain took me there. Upon arriving, I found a man in his 60s. He was alarmingly pale, drenched in sweat, and seemed to be in extreme pain.
When I connected him to the monitor, the signs were clear—his septal leads showed a tombstone elevation, a name given due to its dire implications. The man was having a severe heart attack.
His wife was also at the scene, preparing to accompany us. I was assisting her into the ambulance when she remembered that she had left her cashout voucher at the slot machine. For those not familiar with casinos, they pay out winnings in paper slips. She insisted on going back for it, even though I asked her to come with us right away.
Even with my urgent request, she didn't seem to grasp the severity of the situation. Eventually, I had to tell her outright, "Your husband might not make it through the night". But she replied nonchalantly, saying she'd follow in her car. That decision turned out to be the gravest mistake she ever made.
Sadly, on the way to the hospital, her husband passed. His last words were a plea: "Where's Helen?"
2. Our Deepest Fear
In my role as a hospice caregiver, I focus on helping people in their final days, and sadly, I've come across many tragic stories. The one that struck me the most was of a lovely woman who had led an incredibly tough life. She became an orphan at a very young age, grew up in destitution, and later left Korea to marry an American soldier.
Unfortunately, her husband was terrible, and she eventually left him. She spent her life trying to make ends meet as a waitress and lived in seclusion. She was alone in the world, with no friends or family. It broke my heart to sit beside her in the hospice, holding her hand and shedding tears as she bravely battled terminal pancreatic cancer. I will always remember her final words to me...
"Stop crying. I'm going to live a happy life in the afterlife". It was the most distressing thing I've ever heard from any of my patients.
3. Above And Waaaay Beyond
When I was a nurse in a children's intensive care unit, we once had a baby girl who had been legally abandoned there by her parents. Tragically, she had an uncurable brain tumor. The poor child cried constantly, both day and night, and it was clear to everyone that she wouldn't survive.
One day, while in her room, I decided to hold her. Carefully navigating around the medical wires, I began to dance with her. In my hoarse voice, I sung a Beatles song to her and jokingly told her not to laugh at my awful singing. Miraculously, she stopped crying and let out a small giggle.
From that point onward, I was the only one who could soothe her tears. I knew then what my next steps would be. I completed all the necessary paperwork to adopt her. She lived with me until she gently passed.
There's some solace knowing that she didn't have to spend her remaining life in a hospital, and that I could sing her to sleep every night. After her passing, I left the children's ICU but she's always in my thoughts.
4. Brave ’Til The End
My sister is a nurse and she once took care of an old gentleman in his late 80s. He was critically ill with a terrible, painful disease. I can't recall what exactly it was, but despite constant pain, he managed to keep a cheerful demeanor whenever someone was in the room. My sister discovered this when she accidentally walked in on him enduring his suffering quietly alone.
One afternoon, she was in the room along with the man's wife. They had been married for six decades and their love for each other was palpable. As they all were joking around, the man requested his wife to fetch him a glass of water. Although my sister volunteered, he gently declined her offer. He mentioned that his wife should take a quick break because the room was getting a bit stuffy.
Once his wife had left the room, he reassured her of his love. As soon as she was gone, he turned to my sister and asked if his wife had indeed left. Upon confirming she had, he uttered the most poignant words: "Tell her she was the best thing that ever happened to me".
Much to my sister's surprise, he peacefully closed his eyes, and within moments, he had passed.
5. A Heartbreaking Profession
For a period of five years, I worked in a children's intensive care unit. Many of the little ones were too young to communicate verbally, but a particular boy stands out in my memory. He had cystic fibrosis in its final stage. In his fragile state, he contracted the flu which left him incredibly weak.
Despite his mother's insistence on the most thorough treatments, each time the breathing specialists came into his room, he pleaded with them, asking them to let him slip away. From the nurse's desk opposite his room, I heard his cries through an oxygen mask as he prayed for his time to end.
One day, he couldn't fight any longer. It was likely the first moment of tranquility he'd experienced in weeks. Fast forward two years, I found myself in a relationship with a grown man who also had cystic fibrosis. The echoes of that young boy’s cries still haunt my dreams.
6. A Hug In A Mug
During my college days, I worked at a nearby hospital, serving food and drinks to patients. I encountered a lady in the cancer unit who was sophisticated, headstrong, and a bit grumpy.
The first time I served her, she requested an espresso. My cart only carried basic coffee, tea, and soda, but espresso was available in the doctors' lounge, so I fetched her one. From then on, each night I worked in the cancer unit, I'd bring her an espresso and we'd have a little chat.
I felt a pang of sadness for her, as she had no visitors. Over time, I discovered she was quite a lovely woman. After a couple of months, her health began to decline. Even so, she still wanted her espresso, just for the aroma, she'd tell me.
One quiet night, close to Christmas, I was working in a different department. A colleague sought me out, saying a grumpy lady in the cancer unit was asking for me. I instantly knew who he was referring to and stopped by the doctors' lounge en route. When I entered her room, coffee in hand, there was a gloomy odor in the air.
She seemed so pitiful lying in that huge hospital bed. I approached, placed the coffee on the bedside table, and she grabbed my hand.
Locking eyes with me, she said, "I know you weren't supposed to bring me those espressos. But you did, and you also spent time talking to me. You've shown me more kindness than those close to me have in the past few years. Always remember, it doesn't take much to brighten someone's day".
I stayed with her until she fell asleep. The next time I went to see her, she was no longer there. A nurse told me she had passed the night I brought her last coffee. I often remember her, especially around Christmas. It may seem odd, but her words have stuck with me.
My memories of her often serve as a gentle nudge, nudging me to always go the extra mile for others.
7. Life Can Change In An Instant
In my past life as a first responder, I remember a time when I was returning from a family vacation. We spotted a car toppled on its side near the highway. Visibility was poor due to heavy fog and there weren't a lot of people on the road, but we decided to pull over and help. As I got hold of my emergency kit, always kept handy, my wife dialed 9-1-1.
Inside the car was an elderly couple. Though injured, the husband could move around, yet the wife was far worse off, unresponsive and hanging upside down, secured by her seatbelt. We swiftly shifted the husband out of sight of his wife, then managed to extract her from the vehicle. Despite my efforts at CPR, there was no sign of life.
Thankfully, another car paused, and I was able to delegate the CPR duties as I battled to secure her airway. It wasn't an easy task. Eventually, an ambulance pulled up but it was far from a relief as the attending EMT seemed relatively inexperienced. They invited me to join them, allowing me to carry on CPR and attempt intubation en route to the hospital.
Miraculously, about five minutes into the journey, she came around. As we soothed her, she quietly muttered, “He’ll be so alone,” before drifting off again. Despite managing to intubate her, we later discovered she passed not long after reaching the hospital. That incident has stayed with me.
This couple had spent nearly their whole lives together, and suddenly she was gone. No time for a farewell. But at least her final thoughts were for him.
8. Dancing Days Are Here Again
My mom was blessed with wonderful grandparents who loved each other deeply. Her dad passed in 1970 and her mom, 23 years later, in 1993. As a child, she found it disconcerting that her mother would often have chats with her deceased husband, expressing out loud how much she missed his presence, with words like, "Oh, how I wish you were still with me, my love".
At the age of 90, my mom's mother moved into a nursing home as dementia began to affect her. Regardless, she kept interacting with her late husband. During one visit, my mom found her in a delightfully upbeat mood, excitedly declaring, "Your dad came to visit today! He's taking me out dancing tonight!"
Given her dementia, my mom assumed she was confused. But an eerily coincidental twist of events followed. The nursing home rang later that night with the news that my mom’s mother had passed. She was found sitting peacefully in her chair, with her favorite dance tunes filling the room.
Pondering over this story always gives me a hint of goosebumps, but in a sweet sort of way.
9. Sweet Sorrow
My job is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and one day, I was called to a situation where a man was having a tough time catching his breath. His condition, referred to as agonal breathing, meant that his heart and body were gradually closing down; he had only minutes before he passed.
His life partner, who had been by his side for more than half a century, was the one who had made the distress call. He'd been fighting cancer for the last seven years. She confirmed that he was on hospice care and was under a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. We stayed there with her, patiently waiting for his time to come.
There was a moment when his breathing stopped and his pulse weakened, only to start again. His wife, tears streaming down her face, kissed him on the head and whispered, "It's OK, darling, you can let go. I love you". Shortly after this moment, the man passed. It was a deeply moving moment, and something I still remember clearly today.
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10. The Best Sound In The World
My grandpa was approaching the last phase of his fight against lung cancer and was being taken care of at home through hospice services. We all sensed that his time was coming, and as we were all with him, he suddenly woke up and softly exclaimed, "PURRRRRRR"...
At first, we assumed it was merely a murmur, but then it clicked—he was asking for his beloved cat, "Purr". We promptly fetched his cat, and he gently pet Purr one last time before peacefully drifting off with a big smile on his face. This is a memory that will remain dear to me always.
11. When You Least Expect It
I'm an intensive care worker and I've got quite a collection of strange tales. This one time, we had a patient who sadly passed, and the doctor confirmed it. The patient stayed in the room for a while after. At some point, I asked a colleague to assist me in preparing the patient for transport, which involves smoothly placing them into a body bag.
We entered the room, detached all the health monitors, and then—we couldn't believe our eyes. Unbelievably, the patient abruptly sat up. He stayed in this position for about five seconds, then reclined back down. I turned to my colleague and asked, "Did that just happen?" It pretty much topped my list of eerie experiences at work.
I'd heard of such occurrences before—a sudden surge of body chemicals can trigger it, but I hadn't witnessed it firsthand. Usually, if it happens, it's shortly after someone passes, but this was a fair while later. To say the least, we were seriously spooked.
12. A New Mother Cries
My grandma had been in the hospital for several weeks, and we could all sense that her time was drawing to a close. She oscillated between consciousness and unconsciousness for nearly five days, which led the doctors to warn us about her impending departure.
During this time, I found myself expecting my daughter, and I actually went into labor while my grandma was fighting for her life in the ICU. On the day I was to deliver, my sister made a trip to see my grandma, letting her know that the baby was arriving. Once my little girl made her debut into the world, I wanted her to meet Nanny.
As we introduced the newest member of our family to her, my grandma was initially unconscious. However, after a moment, her eyes fluttered open as she asked, “The baby is here. Is she safe? Are you safe?" Feeling overwhelmed but touched, I assured her, "Yes, Nanny. The baby is perfectly fine, and I'm doing well too".
Her reply was simple yet moving, “I can go now. I love you!” Shortly after, she slipped into a deep coma, bidding the world goodbye the next morning. As I embraced the joy of a new life, I had to cope with the sorrow of an old one departing. This experience has left an indelible imprint on my heart.
13. A Good Question
I work as a bomb disposal specialist in the army. The most heartbreaking farewell I've ever heard came from my closest friend; an event that seems as fresh to me as if it happened only yesterday. I rushed to his side, aware that his chances of survival were incredibly slim. His profuse bleeding and increasingly rapid, shallow breathing painted an alarming picture.
As he met my eyes, he uttered my name and after a pause, he asked, "Why are we even here?" I could only look back at him and reply, "Buddy, I have no answer". He let out a weary sigh and murmured, "Such a waste". Those were his final words. It's a tale I am bound to share with my kids, should they ever contemplate an army career.
Moreover, it's a story I will share with anyone considering backing a war with neither a clear adversary nor a compelling reason. As far as I can control, this will be my final deployment.
14. The Best Of What’s Around
I work as a nurse in a pediatric oncology unit, specializing in bone marrow transplants. The children under our care usually stay for extended periods, often up to a year or more. I once had a 15-year-old patient battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was incredibly mature for his age, instantly forming a close bond with me and his family.
Being his nurse for three 12-hour shifts weekly for nearly a year, I saw him bravely endure the harsh chemotherapy and a painful bone marrow transplant with complications. I even celebrated his 16th birthday with him, his family, and friends in our unit. His initial treatment eventually led to a remission, but sadly, it didn't last.
He was too physically and mentally weakened to further continue his treatment and chose not to attempt another transplant, fully understanding the consequences. He faced this with exceptional bravery. During this period, he decided to use his pending Make-A-Wish he had been saving for brighter times.
He was a tremendous fan of the Dave Matthews Band, even having the band's albums and posters adorning his room. He wished to see the band perform live at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He did make it to New York, but unfortunately, the day of the concert, his health took a turn for the worse.
His condition required a hospital admission for a blood transfusion, leading him to miss the concert he so looked forward to. His return home was made in disappointment and worsening health. His condition got to the point where he needed nearly daily transfusions just to survive.
Physically frail, weak, and now nearing his life's end, he was a shadow of the lively, funny, and incredible kid I first met. His care plan altered to palliative care at this stage. A week after they returned home, we found out about Dave Matthews Band's upcoming show in our city.
Somehow, Dave Matthews got to hear about the botched Make-A-Wish situation and resolved to improve it. After their concert in front of a massive crowd, Dave Matthews and his entire band made a special visit to my patient's home. There, on his sofa, they performed his favorite songs just for him.
Just seeing the pictures of Dave Matthews on the couch with him, his frail face lit up with joy, was truly moving. Sadly, my brave patient and friend passed the following day, but he left this world content and fulfilled. Now, as a hospice nurse, I share his inspiring story with my colleagues and patients, never without a tear or two.
15. An Alaskan Nightmare
Once, I was an EMT volunteer out in a far-off Alaskan village. I got a distress call about a young boy with severe burns. This poor kid had been living all alone in an old, deserted shack, using a propane heater to stave off the cold.
Shockingly, the heater sparked a fire, resulting in serious facial and scalp burns, along with complete wraparound burns on his hands and wrists. His clothes were charred and fused to his skin. Quite honestly, it was a horrifying sight.
To get him help, we had to sleigh him on a snowmobile to the closest ambulance, driving about two miles to the community hospital. Considering the severity of his burns, especially concerning his airway, we wanted to gather as much information as possible before he was sedated and given a breathing tube.
Turns out he didn't have anyone—not a single person—either in town or elsewhere. He was truly on his own. As he was about to be sedated, he asked about his home. We informed him it was completely destroyed. His heartbreaking cry of "My poems!" haunted me.
Feeling terrible about his situation, I stuck around to get him onto a medical evac heading to Seattle, since Alaska doesn't have a single burn ward. Come morning, I visited the still-smoking remains of his shack, searching around. Despite my efforts, I didn't discover anything that survived the fire, especially not his precious poetry.
After some time, I heard from someone that he was going to require skin grafts on his hands and that his recovery might extend several years, if not for his lifetime. Thankfully, though, he did pull through.
16. Listen To Your Doctor
My sister works as a doctor, and she's told me that, quite often, patients aren't fully aware or able to communicate in the moments leading up to their demise. They might not manage to talk at all. If they do, their speech might be confused or unclear. Their last fully aware moment might've actually happened a day or even weeks before, followed by a gradual, unavoidable decline.
She shared this with me because it really distresses her when families misunderstand this aspect of dying—it's not like what you see in the movies. Some people assume they'll be able to talk to their loved ones right till the end and then become upset when this doesn't happen, often feeling they've been denied closure.
One story my sister shared involved a young patient of hers nearing the end. This man's wife didn't fully grasp that while her husband would soon become unconscious, it'd take him several more days to pass. Therefore, she made a terrible mistake.
Instead of using the remaining lucid moments to connect with him, she told him she would return the next day. Despite my sister's urgent advice that this could be their last opportunity to truly communicate, the wife left the hospital. Her husband never regained consciousness.
Not only did this woman miss her last chance to speak with her spouse, but imagine how lonely he must have felt. I wanted to share this with you, because it's crucial to understand that the moments right before one's passing aren't necessarily the ones that matter the most.
17. One Very Powerful Four-Letter Word
I once crossed paths with a guy in a mental health facility who shared with me his poignant journey to becoming a patient there. He narrated to me a tale tinged with despair, about a time when he felt so low that he drove to the end of an isolated road on a mountain.
He sat there on a small hill for hours, the sheer weight of his depression pushing him to consider ending his life. He wasn't exactly sure how he'd do it, until he noticed some car lights twinkling down the mountain. Walking down from his hill, he stationed himself in the middle of the winding road, choosing a blind spot right before a sharp bend.
He believed this would prevent any incoming driver from seeing him in time. He stood there, eyes shut, until he heard the horrifying sounds of a tire screeching and a loud crash. His plan had drastically backfired. The unsuspecting driver had spotted him last minute and, in an attempt to avert him, lost control and veered off the road.
Tragically, this led the vehicle to tumble over the side of a cliff, resulting in a hundred-foot-drop. Rushing down the steep ravine, he discovered a mangled vehicle with an elderly man, bloodied and pinned by the warped metal. With his heart pounding, he dialed 9-1-1 and remained beside the dying man.
The older man's last utterance before coughing up blood was a simple yet impactful command—"live". The orchestrator of the accident found himself in this mental health facility, but was never legally implicated for anything related to the tragic incident. This experience also led him to renounce any intention of harming himself further.
Haunted by the responsibility of the older man’s sacrifice, he felt indebted to live and make the most out of his life in honor of the life given up that day. Even though I only heard about it secondhand, the story and that profound last word left a deep impression on me, making me rethink self-harm and the unintentional harm it could bring to others.
18. Real Talk
Here's the story I've never shared with anyone before. In May, my mom lost her battle to cancer. I was studying in a different state and was unable to be with her in her final hours. Thankfully, I got to see her the weekend prior. My dad had been calling me with urgent messages like, "You need to come home soon. Mom doesn't have much time".
Every visit before, mom seemed a little better, and I would fly back to college the next day. On this visit, though, I went home during the afternoon, visited my mom, stayed overnight, and was planning to return to school the following morning. Naturally, my plan was to visit the hospital one last time before returning my rental car at the airport.
Regrettably, my mom's condition got worse during the night. She was struggling to breathe and couldn't even look at me. She was just a shadow of her former self. I sat with her and we exchanged words as much as we could, ultimately saying our goodbyes, and then I left. I was already late, but turned back for a final goodbye.
My mom was looking intently at me, directly into my eyes. She said, "Bye". I responded hastily with, "Bye, bye" and hurriedly left. While driving to the airport, it dawned on me—that wasn't just any goodbye, that was our last goodbye. And goodness gracious, I had dismissed my mom's last farewell because I was rushing to catch a flight.
It's hard to comprehend my self-centeredness. As expected, I got the call a week after—my mom was gone. Now, I'll never have another chance to say goodbye again. I have to live with the regret that I chose a flight over a proper farewell to my mom. It hurts, I won't lie.
19. Hope They’re Bitin’
The amazing grandmother of my buddy from South Dakota, a woman who had been a widow for many years, was married to a man named Rudy. In the twilight of her life, she became seriously ill and fell into a coma upon being admitted to the hospital.
It looked like she was nearing her end, yet unexpectedly, she woke up from her coma after a few days. Incredibly, she was fully alert when she spoke her final words. She conveyed a message to her daughter saying, "Inform everyone in the family that I love them dearly. I'm off to join Rudy for a fishing trip in heaven".
Following these words, she closed her eyes, returned to her coma and exhaled for the last time.
20. Out Of The Mouths of Babes
When I was studying medicine, I encountered a 16-year-old boy suffering from terminal brain cancer. The tumor had grown so big that it was reshaping the back of his skull. His life was nearing its end. As his pediatric cancer specialist and parents, along with myself, tried to find soothing words for him, he was the one who seemed the most at peace with his situation.
His voice held the tone of a teenager, but the words he spoke reflected wisdom beyond his years and a tranquillity like none other in the room. As we all battled to suppress our tears, he was more worried about his parents not being upset, the wellbeing of his younger brother, and also about everyone showing some affection to his dog through a simple kiss.
It was a moment of deep sadness and yet there were still stirrings of hope.
21. Wise Beyond Her Years
My mom, who works as a doctor, once shared with me the story of a remarkable young girl, just 15, who was diagnosed with cancer. While she was still a medical resident, my mom came across this teenager who had pleaded with her parents not to go through with the cancer treatments.
Rather, she desired to invest that money for traveling and experiencing adventures across the globe, something she'd always envisioned. It wasn't her dream to merely survive and endure life in misery. Rather, she wished to maximize the short time that fate had given her.
Her maturity shocked me, considering even most seasoned adults might not have this perspective. Before her passing, she shared two profound thoughts that have resonated with my mom ever since.
Her beloved friends and relatives surrounded her, weeping. Through their tears, she offered them a smile, saying, "Don't cry for me. I've lived as much as I would have in a longer life and managed to skip all the dull aspects of being an adult. And I'm soon to uncover the greatest mystery there is. How thrilling!"
She expressed these words just an hour before she lost her battle with cancer. Close to her last breath, she recited her favorite tale, Robin Hood. She concluded her narration saying, "And he died happily…" These were her last words in this world. In my opinion, no one can match the courage, joy, and spirit of this young girl.
22. He Did It All For Love
I'm employed at an ICU and once we had a 60-year-old gentleman brought in due to a severe flare-up of his COPD. We had no choice but to put him on a ventilator. After one week, it became apparent that he'd need to spend his remaining days on life support.
We had to ask him if he wanted to stop treatment since being on a ventilator can be not just brutal, but also incredibly agonizing. So, we asked him, "Would you like us to continue with the ventilator treatment? Your lungs are in such bad shape that you wouldn't survive without it".
Unable to speak, he asked what the date was by writing on a paper. We told him and he wrote back another date, about half a year from then. We were puzzled. He then explained with written words that he'd wed six months prior. His new spouse would be ineligible for his benefits unless they had been married for a full year.
His final note to us before he passed was a simple, "I love E". His wife's name began with an E.
23. All I Want For Christmas…
In my previous job, I was involved in the food and nutrition department at a big hospital. Every holiday season, I would dress up as Santa Claus and make visits to all the children's wards. One such visit left a lasting impression on me.
I remember this 11-year-old girl, who was no longer a believer in Santa, but her eyes sparkled with joy when I entered the room. Her parents left the room briefly, and she confided in me that she was aware her time was short and she probably wouldn't live much longer after the holidays.
Her only wish was to stay alive for her parents and her little brother, at least until Christmas. She didn't want her final days to taint future Christmas festivities, so she pleaded with "Santa" to do anything to ensure that didn't happen. I was overcome with emotion and barely held it together in that moment.
Unfortunately, a week into the New Year, I learnt she had passed. I was truly heartbroken by the news.
24. One Tough Realization
I took part in a high school program known as "health occupations". This course was essentially for training nurse assistants. For some portion of it, I was required to volunteer for 35 hours in a senior citizens' residence. During my time there, I saw a group of nurses huddled in a particular room.
I approached and found a man, probably in his late 50s, on the bed. He was terribly thin and crumpled, and his body was trembling non-stop. His eyes darted back and forth as his consciousness faltered. His forehead was covered with a damp cloth, and he was connected to some sort of medical equipment.
Tears flowed down my cheeks, even though I was expected to keep my emotions in check, while everyone else seemed unperturbed. I left the room and sought out one of the nurses. She explained that his trembling had persisted for days, a testament of his struggle.
To my surprise, he didn't have any family—there were no records indicating any relatives at all. He was utterly alone. Because I was there for particular tasks, I wasn't allowed to remain in the room. But all I wanted to do was comfort him by holding his hand. By the day's end, he had succumbed to his fight, a solitary battle, and I felt helpless.
No one came to bid him farewell or to take possession of his remains. That experience led to a heartbreaking revelation: my empathy levels were too high for a career in healthcare. I realized that it would tear me apart.
25. Magic Moment
My granddad often spoke about his deep affection for his grandkids and great-grandkids. But, it wasn't until his final days that I truly understood what he meant. As I live away from my ancestral home, I knew from a distance that Grandpa's health was deteriorating.
My father gave me a call one night, gently hinting that if I wanted one last meeting with Grandpa, now would be the time. So, the subsequent morning, my wife, child and I took a drive to see him. His room was buzzing with nearly 20 family members, while Grandpa lay quietly on his bed.
As we entered, my aunt mentioned that he had remained silent and immobile, not responding to anyone for a considerable period. She informed me not to feel bad if he didn't interact with me. Approaching his bedside with my woman and one-year-old son, I took in the serene scene.
My son extended his tiny hand and clutched onto Grandpa's finger. Feeling the gentle grip, Grandpa responded with a broad smile and lovingly glanced at my baby. The room was filled with tears. Regrettably, Grandpa peacefully passed that same night.
26. Amazing Grace
Throughout my nursing career, I've seen a lot of difficult endings, but there's one beautiful one that remains vivid in my memory. While it wasn't so much about the patient's words, it was more about the decisions he made and how his family reacted.
It was an early morning in the intensive care unit when I observed an elderly man who had been put on palliative care just the night before. This same man had successfully conquered cancer about two decades ago, but this time, both he and his family realized that his days were numbered.
He chose to accept his disease and wanted to spend his last moments in relative ease rather than prolong his life with a painful surgery that would likely not improve his condition. As he slowly slipped into unconsciousness and his health indicators began to deteriorate, his large family made a tight circle around his bed.
As dawn broke and the radiance of Mount Rainier started illuminating his room, his family clasped hands and began to sing his beloved hymns during the final hour of his life. Let me tell you, there was scarcely a dry eye at the nurse's station that morning.
27. There’s Always Room For Jello
I work as a lifeguard, and during one of our trainings about handling fatalities, my instructor shared an experience from his early nursing days. For some reasons, he was assigned to a ward for patients with terminal illnesses and was new to the role. One of the patients he was looking after was sadly nearing his life's end.
This was a case where the man's body was generally failing, with all systems gradually shutting down. He realized it himself and seemed to have accepted his fate. When my instructor interacted with him, asking the usual questions about needing to get in touch with any family or friends, the man's response was hearbreaking.
He shared that he had no one. Upon being asked if anything could be done for him, the old man hesitated for a moment, then confessed to my instructor, "You know, I’ve kind of been wanting some jello all day". The nurse enthusiastically responded, "Consider it done!" and hurried off towards the hospital's cafeteria.
Once there, he announced to kitchen staff about this special man's final wish for some jello. In response, they put together an impressive array of jello—all kinds of flavors imaginable. They delivered this bountiful assortment to the man who was elated with joy. As he began eating, he thanked the nurse, saying, "I’m sure you have other patients to care for. I’ll buzz if I need anything else".
Afterward, the nurse set about his regular tasks, making the rounds. At one point, he passed the old man’s room, peeked inside, and saw the man—spoon, jello in hand, and a big smile on his face, gave him a thumbs-up. The nurse reciprocated and continued on his way.
Not much later, he heard the ominous beep of the man's monitors. The gentleman had passed, peacefully amidst colored gelatin desserts.
28. Small Gestures, Huge Impact
I had a deeply close bond with my grandparents, especially during my high school years and through college, until I moved in with my girlfriend. Two distinct memories with them stand out profoundly. As my granddad neared his 98th birthday, his health began to worsen. Roughly a month before he left us, he was frail and could barely lift his head.
I remember visiting him in his room. He was slouched in his recliner, and I had to kneel to meet his gaze. He simply wanted to grip my hand. So, that's what we did, holding hands. I told him I loved him. His nod, we mutually understood, signaled that his days were numbered. The moment he put his hand on my head, I fell apart emotionally.
One month after, he was back home from his hospital stay. Though he was somewhat confused, he bounced back, sat upright in bed, and expressed disappointment over not having my photo. In response, my dear grandmother promptly disappeared from the room only to reappear with my kindergarten portrait—I was 24.
This made him really joyful, and immediately after, he laughed heartily. Next, he pointed between my portrait and myself, remarking, "I see an apparition". He was seeing a man's floating head next to me. It sent a ripple of unease through everyone else, but we found it hysterically funny.
Later the same day, granddad drifted off to sleep and didn't wake the next morning. The silence in his room acted as my rude awakening. When my grandmother's time eventually arrived, a severe stroke made her poor health evident. Despite being alert post-stroke, she could neither talk nor move much.
She managed a grasp with one hand and her eyes were exceptionally alert. As I entered the ER, she set her gaze on me and reached out, she didn't do this with anyone else in our family. Earlier, I had a nagging fear that having a child out of wedlock might have cost me my grandmother's respect.
She passed about a week later, but I'll always remember her reassuring reach. It was the gesture that said the most.
29. Expect The Unexpected
We had all thought my grandpa would pass away before my grandma, so it was a huge shock when she left us first. Grandpa was most surprised, having never planned for a life where she wasn't by his side. Even though dementia was slowly clouding his mind, he continued to spin us tales about how he could still see my grandma.
His health, however, took a sharp downturn after her departure. Roughly a year and a half later, he experienced chest pain and was rushed to the hospital by his caregiver. At the time, my mom was halfway to Europe, trying to relax on her first vacation in a long time, while I was engrossed in my mid-term exams.
The ER doctor called me, assuring me grandpa was okay, and suggested that there was no need for my immediate visit or to disturb my mom’s holiday because he expected grandpa to be discharged by the next day. Although worried, I decided to stay put.
I remained in touch with his caregiver who, along with some family friends, took turns staying with him at the hospital. That night, I fell asleep around 2 am, but suddenly woke up at 5:20 am, struck by the unusual wakeup call after just a few hours of sleep. I pushed the eerie feeling aside and went back to sleep.
Barely forty minutes later, my phone rang. A hospital nurse informed me that at 5:15 am my granddad had said, “I have to go find the room where my wife is," and then peacefully passed. The guilt of not being there for him overwhelmed me, and the thought of breaking the news to mom was even more agonizing.
I had to make the difficult call via satellite to tell her that her dad was no longer with us. I could only imagine how hard it was for her to be stuck on a ship in the middle of nowhere, feeling absolutely helpless. Yet, if we look at the big picture, my grandpa was 97 years old and slipped away peacefully in his sleep, dreaming of his wife.
In the grand scheme of things, I think that's a pretty peaceful way to go.
30. I Once Was Lost…
When I worked as a hospice nurse, one of my patients was nearing the end of his life journey. I got a call to look after him. His wife, who had been married to him for over four decades, was in the room with us. Sadly, she was frequently rushing between their family business and his room, since she was managing the business in his stead.
Every time she left, she was away for about 45 minutes before coming back to his side hurriedly. The last time she had to step away, the patient started to manifest his last signs of life—agonal breathing, indicating he was very close. Trying to reach her was futile, I couldn't get through.
I hoped against hope that she'd make it back before his time came. When it became clear that wouldn't happen, I found myself sitting next to his bed, holding his hand, and spontaneously, I began to sing "Amazing Grace". Even though I'm not a religious person, I felt a strong pull to do this.
He made his peaceful transition as the words of that hymn filled the room. When his wife returned, I met her at the door to break the news. I let her know that I had sung "Amazing Grace" as he passed. She silently shed tears—and then revealed something that made my jaw DROP.
She said that the song held dear meaning for him. It was the melody that played at their wedding, their anniversaries, and at the births of all their children. To this day, I can't shake off the feeling that there was a divine influence at work that day.
31. Considerate To The End
Over the course of several years, my dad battled with bladder cancer that had unfortunately spread. During one of our final conversations, he told me, "I'm sorry I won't be there for your 16th birthday". Given my birthday was just six days away, I didn't fully grasp what he was hinting at.
Sadly, only five hours later, my dad passed. We ended up having his wake on my birthday. So in an unexpected way, he was indeed there after all. That day was chilling and deeply emotional, leaving me without the ability to speak on his behalf. To this day, it astonishes me that even in his final moments, I was his priority.
Here's to you, dad.
32. The Long And “Shorts” Of It
My buddy once spent time at the hospital during his granddad's final moments, and at some point, he was on his own in the room with the old man. His grandfather, who was barely able to talk, signaled to his grandson to come closer. The grandson did as asked and said, "What's up, Grandpa? I'm here for you".
Gathering all his remaining strength, grandpa started to speak...With a strained voice, Grandpa said, "Shorts...are the key". After uttering these words, he passed. This strange experience has since hung over not only my friend but also all of us who heard this story.
This might be because a) my friend misunderstood his grandpa's final words, b) Grandpa wasn't thinking clearly, or the most unnerving possibility, c) Maybe shorts really ARE the key.
It's been over ten years since this happened, but whenever the word "shorts" pops up in a chat, I'll say "Shorts are the key!" hoping for some enlightenment. So far, it hasn't come. If something is bothering me, I'll wonder, "Could shorts fix this problem? Are shorts the answer?" Sadly, most of the time, they aren't.
33. Deep Wisdom
I work as a critical care nurse. Often, if my patients can talk, they express the significance of leaving this world with no regrets. There's one instance I can't forget about a woman who had been on a respirator for a week, while her family was figuring out their next move.
Eventually, her brother arrived, approved the decision to halt life-sustaining treatments, and initiate palliative care. Sadly, her brother didn't stick around to say his goodbyes—he made that tough choice and then left. At around 2:30 am, her heartbeat lowered to 20 beats per minute.
I went into her room and accompanied her by holding her hand as she drew her last breaths. Since that moment, I've made a commitment to be there for those who are nearing the end. No one should depart alone. That encounter has stuck with me.
I remember entering her room, seeing her there under the soft illumination coming from the medical equipment, completely alone with no family members beside her. Even though my workdays can be draining, coming home to my loved ones makes me feel incredibly grateful.
So, just a friendly reminder: always let the people you love know how you feel. You never know when the opportunity will no longer be there.
34. A Class Act
For one of my early jobs as an emergency medical technician, I was dispatched to aid a 101-year-old woman. Her pacemaker was malfunctioning, but surgery wasn't an option for her. She'd completed a do-not-resuscitate form, so my main responsibility was to accompany her as we moved her to the hospital.
She had clarified beforehand that she didn't wish to receive any medical intervention. She was comprehensively aware that her time was running short, but surprisingly, she didn't seem upset about it. Sharing her philosophy with me, she said, "I'm old, yet I’ve lived an amazing life. I don't have any regrets".
Curious, I asked her about her secret to retaining such positivity. Her reply left a profound impact on me: "The essence is, if laughter eludes you, then simply smile".
35. One Amazing Woman
My great-grandma was one wickedly cool lady, though she'd have my hide for calling her that. These days, I find myself telling hilarious tales about her at any social gathering. Even at 102, her mind was sharp and she was as mobile as ever. A hardy Eastern European Baptist, she lived an incredibly vibrant life.
She wasn't one to shy away from any work. She spent some time as a missionary in Brazil, ran a lumber mill, single-handedly raised four children amid the Depression and worked as a farmer in northern Ontario. She didn’t balk at confronting anyone, language barrier or not.
Whenever we asked about her wellbeing, she'd quip, "Each night I ask God to take me away in my sleep and leave this worn-out body behind. But alas, each morning greets me with disappointment”. Eventually, she chose to stop eating, reasoning, "Since God has forgotten me, I think I'll take the initiative and find him".
Two weeks later, my mother was at her side. Great-granny always referred to my mum simply as "meita" or "girl," since she was technically my mother’s grandma-in-law. However, just before she left us, she astonishingly addressed my mother by her first name, for the one and only time.
She repeatedly assured my mother that she was going to "be with God," gesturing towards the heavens. She drew her last breath with a content smile, parting the world on her own terms. At her funeral, she had left strict instructions against any crying.
As for me, I aspire to live even half as daringly as she did and hope that when my time comes, I would make her proud.
36. Insider Knowledge
I've served as an ER paramedic for two years and spent slightly more than a year in an ambulance. Here's some real talk: people's final moments aren't like they portray in films. Most individuals conclude their journey in one of the following ways.
There are the trauma patients who, when they're critically unwell, are prone to curse a lot and utter statements like, "Oh no, I think this is it". Let's not forget those battling terminal illnesses. They know their time is nearing. They are given sedatives, and they've braced themselves for what's to come.
Another typical scenario is just pure silence. It’s a mixed bag with this one—some are aware it’s coming while for others, it's sudden. Also, on a slightly distasteful note: Yes, bodily functions don’t cease when you die. Moreover, transcendental experiences are uncommon.
When inquired about the rather gloomy aspects of this occupation, I reveal that over time, it doesn't impact you as much as you would think. I perceive people more or less like machines, and eventually, they stop functioning. But for me, there is one notable exception: children.
I would add that the look in a person's eyes is something that stays with me. The transformation from "presence" to "absence" is somehow bitter-sweet.
37. Every Picture Tells A Story
My grandma was in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. Over the last year, she had been living in a care facility as her health worsened. My dad, a licensed nurse, managed to arrange for her to spend her final few weeks in my granddad's house.
By this time, she hadn't been able to recognize me or anyone else in almost a year and had lost most of her speech capacity. Dad placed a picture of my brother and me by her bed and gently pronounced, "Mom, these are your grandchildren and they love you dearly". She clasped the photo tenderly against her heart.
Mere minutes after that, she peacefully left us.
38. The Spice Of Life
When I was a little kid, around five or six years old, my grandpa was in his final moments at the hospital. We all stood by his side. His last action was to place his hand on my shoulder, saying, "It makes sense that you didn't enjoy my spicy meals". He passed shortly after—about 10 seconds later. Understandably, this left us all quite puzzled.
Fast forward about three months, a truly bizarre event occurred: I almost choked to death after consuming salsa. In the hospital, doctors discovered that I had an allergy to a compound called capsaicin, which is present in spicy foods. None of us knew about my allergy before grandpa's cryptic comment, as I had never exhibited any symptoms.
Even now, the whole situation gives me the chills.
39. Do As I Say, Not As I’ve Done
When I was studying pre-nursing, there was a patient who left a lasting impression on me. We got along pretty well, and he knew about my studies. At our final meeting, he shared his lifelong regret of failing to follow his passion—interior design.
He explained how his upbringing played a role in this. His father frequently reinforced the idea that no honorable man would choose to be an interior designer. Looking squarely into my eyes, he advised me to chase my dreams and not to allow parental pressures to dictate my choices.
His words struck a chord with me, transforming my thinking. I then reassessed my choice to study pre-nursing and made a switch to pre-med, a field I'd always been interested in but hadn't pursued because my folks kept suggesting that I wasn't capable enough for it.
I wish I had the chance to express my gratitude to that patient for helping me see things clearly.
40. The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer…
While studying at a music school, I had a part-time job as a custodian at an elderly care home. Since I was the youngest among the staff and the only one without a family of my own, I volunteered to cover the Christmas morning shift. Unlike others, I didn't have any little kids who'd feel let down, so it seemed a fair choice.
As I wandered the corridors, cleaning and humming Christmas tunes previously sung by our college choir, I didn't really pay mind to the happenings around me. Unexpectedly, an elderly woman in a wheelchair tried to hit me as I passed by her room. She struggled with advanced Alzheimer’s and seldom had visitors.
Just then, a woman in her fifties popped her head out of the room, eyeing me strangely. Feeling embarrassed, I quickly apologized and offered to stop singing. Much to my surprise, she retorted, "Don’t you dare! It's the only thing soothing her". Then she hurried back into the room.
I later discovered that the Alzheimer’s patient had been acting aggressively towards her family members in her remaining days, and my singing was the only thing that pacified her. So now, whenever I'm cleaning, I always make a point of singing because you just never know.
41. Keep Smiling
One unforgettable night, I was on duty doing the graveyard shift at the hospital where I was working as a security guard. It was roughly 3 in the morning, and as usual, I found myself in the ER, the only place bustling with some activity at that late hour. Sitting comfortably on my stool, I was engrossed in my book, that's when I got this eerie feeling—like someone was watching me.
A quick look up from my book, and I noticed an extremely old lady from one of the beds, looking right at me with a tender, grandmotherly smile. One of those smiles so kindhearted it could cut through the sternest of hearts. Sending back an equally comforting smile, I acknowledged her gaze with a friendly wave.
She waved back right before closing her eyes. Just then, all her medical equipment started to beep loudly. The attentive nurses quickly rushed to her side, glanced at her medical chart, and started to disconnect her. It dawned on me then and there, in her long, lived life, I was the last face she saw amongst the probable thousands she'd met.
This realization brings a smile to my face even today. I'm glad I reciprocated her warm gaze and returned her wave. She had a peaceful departure.
42. His Heart Was In The Right Place
I've had my fair share of experiences from many years spent working in the emergency room. But there's one patient who really left a lasting impression on me. This gentleman was escorted from the initial assessment area into my ER room after he complained about experiencing chest pain.
Looking at his chart handed to me by the triage nurse, it was clear he was in the midst of a heart attack. Quickly, I called an ER doctor and we both rushed into the patient's room. While the doctor asked about his wellbeing, I was preparing the IV.
In that moment, the man's eyes rolled back in his head, indicating he was going into Ventricular Fibrillation—a life-threatening cardiac rhythm. I instantly commenced CPR and called for emergency medical equipment.
After the initial round of CPR, he woke up again, wondering why we were performing chest compressions. But before we could bring his condition under control, he faltered once more. We kept working on him until he regained stability, afterwards, moving him to the heart catheterization lab.
To the surprise of the ER doctor and myself, the same man walked into the ER almost two weeks later, accompanied by his wife, bearing a bag of Life Savers candies. He gave me a warm hug and expressed his deep gratitude for giving him an extended time to spend with his wife and children.
43. An Emotional Roller Coaster
A few years ago, as an emergency medical technician, I was doing hospital shifts when an elderly woman hurriedly drove up to the doors generally meant only for ambulances. One of the doctors spotted her and asked me to investigate. I was already heading her way as something just didn't feel right.
I opened the door using the code, and the old woman pointed to her car, saying, "My husband is having a heart attack!" I immediately alerted the nurse next to me, instructing her to call a code blue. I then turned to the sturdy doctor nearby saying, "I need your help". Together, we lifted her enormous husband from the car's passenger seat.
As the doctor evaluated him, the man briefly woke up, looked at him and murmured, "You're not the man I married". He then fell unconscious and we initiated chest compressions before navigating him indoors for further assistance. The man was pulseless and non-responsive for three minutes, an interval that I consider long enough to be legally deemed gone.
Just as I was preparing myself to take over the chest compressions, his earlier remark crossed my mind which made me giggle a bit. I turned away to regain my composure and professional demeanor. When I was about to start compressions, to my utter disbelief, I heard the doctor yell from behind me, "We've got a pulse!"
It was unbelievable. The man had actually survived.
44. So Many Feels
Both my paternal grandparents unfortunately suffered from advanced Alzheimer's and passed within a few weeks of each other. Dealing with my grandfather's passing was particularly hard because we had to repeatedly remind my grandmother of his departure.
When we visited, she would express her confusion by saying things like, "Where is Robert?" or she would express her frustration, exclaiming something like, "How could he have left me after all these years?" When it was her time, a hospice nurse reached out to my dad to allow him a chance to bid farewell.
Abandoning his work duties, he rushed to her, comforted her, and grabbed her hand. He expressed his love for her, reassured her that everyone would be okay, and comforted her with the idea of reuniting with her husband once again. Her final breath was a long sigh, and just like that, she was gone.
Looking back at that moment, I've never felt prouder of my dad. Despite the heartbreaking circumstances, he remained a devoted son until the very end, even when it meant letting her go.
45. A Fleeting Glance
Working as a first responder, I don't encounter as much trauma as you'd anticipate. Most often, it's car accidents that lead to dire situations. On one occasion, my partner and I, who are basic EMTs, arrived at a solo car crash scene eight minutes before the paramedics. For context, in our state, we aren't authorized to declare someone's passing. The scene was chaotic.
A 90s T-top car, with its roof seemingly open before the crash, held a middle-aged man still in the driver's seat. He was badly injured, semi-conscious with blood everywhere. He was desperately crying out for his wife, who was conspicuously absent.
While my partner applied pressure to the man's wounds, he directed me to look for his wife. In a patch of tall, colorfully autumnal grass, I found her, her life clearly extinguished. About then, the authorities arrived and I left them with her to find someone I might be able to aid.
When I returned to my partner, he read the news in my silent, shaking head. The realization of his wife’s fate hit the man we were trying to save like a wave, and his will to live simply faded. I'll forever remember that moment, witnessing a man, battered but likely survivable, surrender to grief.
Not long after, his vital signs plummeted. Despite our best efforts to revive him, he passed. To this day, I believe his passing wasn't just due to his physical injuries, but largely to a heart broken by grief.
46. The Big Question
As a nurse specializing in cancer care, one unforgettable experience I had was with a 42-year-old mother of four who had pancreatic cancer. For several months, she kept visiting our ward due to infections and various complications. A strong faith kept her and her family together; they often prayed and read the Bible for strength.
During my nightshifts at that time, she got admitted due to an undiagnosed anemia which was making her extremely weak and required frequent blood transfusions. One night I went in her room to check on her, only to find her silently gazing into the darkness.
At first, I couldn't distinguish if she was momentarily away or just in deep thought. After I checked her fluids, she softly posed an existential question to me, "What if there's nothing?" Her question caught me off guard and left me speechless for few moments. After gathering my thoughts, I finally responded, "Either way, it seems peaceful".
She agreed with a nod and finally, she closed her eyes to rest. Sadly, she passed the following day due to severe bleeding.
47. A Love So Pure…
Over the years, I've spent a lot of time working in an Alzheimer's ward and have seen a fair number of people draw their last breath. But there's a story that's lodged deep in my heart. I remember an endearing octogenarian lady who was under palliative care.
Her husband was ten years her junior, and he was committed to his job primarily for health insurance. He would arrive every afternoon, slip off his shoes, climb into her bed, and fill her ears with enchanting stories and sweet songs. They had brought a puppy home just before she had fallen ill, and he wished she could meet him.
One standard day, at the start of my shift, he came in and asked for a glass of water. As I left to fetch him the water, he stayed behind with his wife, who breathed her last during that short interval. When I returned to the room, he looked at me before requesting me to take care of their puppy for a bit.
Imagining that he'd be occupied with the funeral preparations, I said yes. I stepped out to inform hospice of her demise. When I got back to the silence of the room, the sight that greeted me blew me away. He lay there, resting his head on her lifeless chest, his hand interlaced with hers, a serene smile adorning his face.
Despite no physical ailment of his own, he had slipped away, right there, beside his beloved. I remember crying my heart out until the hospice team arrived. I took on the responsibility of the dog, and we spent a joyful 15 years together. Three days ago, I had to make the tough decision to put her to sleep.
I am still struggling to come to terms with it, and tears are a regular feature these days. At 60, I'm still serving people as a nurse and am blessed to have found a love so profound, so deep, a dozen years ago, just like the love he had for her.
48. Ignorance Really Is Bliss
I work as a deputy sheriff in Texas, and I remember a time when we had to respond to an incident where a doctor had flipped his truck over, tossing him and his pet dog out of the vehicle. The dog was roughed up a bit but would survive. Meanwhile, the emergency medical services were there, attending to the surgeon, who identified himself to them. They reassured him that a helicopter was en route to transport him.
The doctor began to check his own injuries. He soon said, "Cancel the helicopter, I only have two or three minutes left". He informed us that his wife had already passed and requested that his dog be given to his grandson. He admitted with some regret that he disliked his awareness of the little time he had left, wishing he didn't know.
Then, simply uttering, "Ohhh well…" he passed.