Everyone knows that life is hard, but as these stories show, sometimes the darkness is almost unbearable. Over on Reddit, these heart-broken people shared their tales of loss, heartbreak, tragedy, trauma, and pain. Grab some tissues and get ready to shed a tear. These are the most heartbreaking things that unfortunate people have ever witnessed.
1. Kids Know Even if You Try to Hide it
I was on a Skype call with my best friend at the time. Her brother, around four years old, came up to her and said: “Look, I drew a picture of our family!” She replied, “That’s nice, but why is daddy all the way over there?” She said, “I drew him far away because mummy and daddy fight a lot.”…My friend and I just went silent. It felt like a punch to the gut for me, I can only imagine how she felt.
I’m not sure if it’s the most heartbreaking story here, or if I’m telling it right, but I feel like crying every time I remember it…
2. Final Moments
Back in 1992, I was walking to a friend’s place, when I heard a horrific car crash. I ran over to see a car had T-boned another at a roundabout. Seeing as it was about 1 am, and at the time this being nothing more than a sleepy hollow, a few people came out to investigate. At this point, my St. John’s training kicked in and I told someone to go call an ambulance.
The situation is this: the driver who rammed the other car smells like a brewery, and is dead. He’s also the driver who caused the accident by pushing through the roundabout. I get to the other car, and there’s a girl who looks pretty messed up. The steering column punched her in the chest, there’s blood everywhere, there are no crumple zones so her own car is smushed against her.
I tell her that I know first aid, and that I’m not trying to grope her as a joke—trying to figure out the extent of her injuries. But I can feel all her ribs on her left side messed up, and even at the lightest tough, she’s hurting. So I start talking to her, saying everything’s all right, even though it’s not, but the ambulance is coming, and start making stupid jokes at her to keep her awake.
Then I hear the ambulance in the distance, and tell her she’s gonna be all right. She looks me in the eye, and says, “Why didn’t I meet you earlier?” and dies. Turns out, thirty seconds can be an eternity.
3. Walks Without Man’s Best Friend
I walk the same 40-minute route to work for about five years now. Every day I pass the same old guy and his German Shepherd walking beside him with no lead, carrying an old battered tennis ball. I figured he went to the corner shop for the morning paper or whatever. A few months ago, I witnessed a truly heartbreaking sight.
There was no dog, but the guy was carrying the tennis ball. He continues to carry the tennis ball ever since.
4. Heartbroken Scream
My mother died in July 2009 from a massive heart attack. She was in the hospital for a few months because of many health issues and her cancer had come back. I remember laying on the couch the morning she passed—because I had fallen asleep the night before—and kept hearing the phone ring. I remember thinking as I got into bed, “Wouldn’t it be weird if it were the hospital calling?”
My dad picked up the phone, then got us and gathered us in the living room. He just said that my mother was gone, and we had to go to the hospital. My brother and I got dressed, and we all left to go pick up my older brother at his apartment. We just drove there in silence. We arrived, met a nurse, and they took us to her room.
The next sound I heard was the most heart-wrenching. My father let out a soul-numbing scream and started crying. I could hear his heart break. To this day, it is the worst sound I have ever heard in my entire life.
5. There Are No Words
A few years back, a guy sat by me on the bus home. He must have been in his late 70s/early 80s. He starts chatting to me for no reason which I don’t mind because I like chatting with the elderly, they’ve got wicked stories. Anyway, I notice he is wearing a butterfly broach on his cardigan so I commented it that it was nice and unusual (clearly because it was a woman’s but I thought he was giving zero dangs and wearing what he wanted).
He responded that he’d bought it for his wife that morning in the town but then remembered that she was dead but he wanted to keep it because he knew she’d have liked it. I wanted to take him home after that.
6. The Wedding That Could Never Be
Two of my friends in college were high school sweethearts. Due to a freak heart malfunction, the guy suddenly died while we were sledding my sophomore year. The girl remained close with his family, still calling his parents mom and dad. Ten years later, she was finally getting married to a new guy, but invited her high school sweetheart’s parents as they are still close.
The parents sat in the back row, and the father shook with sobs as he watched the wedding that should have been his son’s.
7. An Unfair Life
My mom is a speech-language pathologist in the schools. She has this one client, about 14 years old, who was non-verbal and non-ambulatory due to a trauma at birth. Her parents won a huge settlement from the doctor and then dumped her in a nursing home. We went to visit this little girl one Christmas and she just had the biggest smile on her face when she saw my mom.
It was so heartbreaking knowing her parents didn’t give a hoot and wouldn’t be visiting her and this young girl is surrounded by old dying people for the rest of her life. I cried right there in her room.
8. A Mother’s Worst Nightmare
About 10 or so years ago, I was sitting in the computer room doing stuff on the internet when I heard the doorbell ring. My neighbor from across the street was at the door, looking for his four-year-old brother. As soon as I said that I had not seen him, a blood-curdling scream filled the air followed by “Call 911! Call 911!”
Their neighbor had forgotten to lock their front door that day. It was awful: the mother found the boy drowned in the neighbor’s pool. That day followed by the funeral was the most heartbreaking.
9. Loss on a Huge Level
I had been friends with a girl named Alice as long as I remember. Our parents were neighbors and also really close. We both had big families with lots of siblings and we were the oldest kids, so we kind of clicked in every way. She was my first best friend. So it was Christmas time in 2004, I was visiting her, we were talking about how she had a crush on my brother and other usual things that 13-year-old girls would talk about.
I was drawing a horse for her, she loved horses and I loved drawing, it was a nice evening. Then we started about talking about what we got for Christmas. I don’t remember that I got anything special, but she got a vacation to Thailand. I was so envious that she got to go to Khao Lak with her family! But I was happy for her and wished her a wonderful trip.
After a few days, there was a tsunami. Both parents died, two of her siblings were never found, she and her small sister barely survived. The double funeral for her parents was heartbreaking. I remember the moment when two daughters walked behind the coffins to the altar, and the look on Alice’s face. I lost my breath.
She wasn’t the same anymore. She had lost everything, and there she was saying goodbye to her parents while comforting her little sister who didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye to her baby brother or to her other sister. She didn’t even cry. That was the last that I saw of her.
She moved to another country to live with her grandparents. I did send her a few letters, with drawings of horses, and saying how my brother is also missing her…She never answered. I think of her every time I visit my parents and see their house, we have a lot of good memories of us there. But I don’t know where she is now, I can only hope that she and her sister are doing all right.
10. Saying Goodbye to Your Only Child
My grandad crying as he kissed my mum’s cheek and stroked her hair about 15 minutes after she had passed away. My mum was my grandparents’ only child. To this day I have no idea how they have managed to carry on.
11. A Loss of the Mind
I had this favorite regular customer at a store where I worked. He was this old war veteran that came into the store humming/singing and always in a cheery mood. I helped him with the groceries because he couldn’t read his wife’s scribbles. I hadn’t seen him in a long time. I thought maybe he had moved to a retirement home or something.
One day, he suddenly comes through the door and I am so happy. But then everything changes. He walks up and asks for a job. I ask why he would need a job and then he explains he just came home from the war and needed money, I ask how his wife is doing, he said she has moved to Sweden for safety, it quickly dawns upon me that he has dementia, he thinks he’s 19, and before I have time to do anything he’s out the door.
I had to go to the backroom to cry because I couldn’t help him and even though I only knew him a little, that person was totally gone.
12. Drenched and Disappointed
I was eight or nine, riding in the back seat of my dad’s car on a really rainy day when I see a father and son trying to cross the street to get to the bus stop with their bag of McDonald’s. They’re in the heavy rain with no umbrella. The dad let the kid run ahead so he could get under the little shelter thingy before our light turned and they wouldn’t be able to cross safely.
So the dad is stuck on the other side of the road as the cars start to move, and the poor guy gets hit with a tidal wave from a car passing him. Completely soaks his food to the point where the bottom of the bag fell out. I will never forget the look of defeat he had on his face, standing there soaking wet, having just lost his and his son’s dinner.
And then they still had to wait for the bus. I think that was the first time I ever empathized with someone I didn’t know. I felt so terrible for him.
13. Slowly Recovering From Tragedy
When I was a patient at a Research Psychiatric Center, there was a woman who had been there for a few days before I was taken in, and who remained there for a week after I was out. She would rarely talk, was completely unfocused, and they were switching so many medications around on her that she spent most of the day sleeping in her room.
Eventually, in one of our group sessions, she began to open up about what exactly it was that had brought her to the hospital. This woman was in her early 40s and had two daughters. The first one died six months prior to her entering the hospital. Then, a week before she came in, her second daughter was killed in a car wreck.
And two days before she was taken to the hospital, her house caught fire due to faulty wiring and everything that she owned was lost. We all tried to console her as best as we could, and by the time I left two weeks later, she was actively engaging in conversation and even smiling a bit. She even spoke of how she was working with a friend to try and open a small business.
The amount of tragedy this woman had gone through, and her ability to survive it all, put things in perspective for a lot of us.
14. A Solemn and Guilty Heart
A few months ago my stepdad, the only father I’ve ever known, told me he had to go into hospital for a few tests, nothing major. Within a few days, the doctors informed me and my mum that my dad had to have a small low-risk operation. No one was too worried but for some reason, I just couldn’t stop crying, which is completely out of character for me.
I remember seeing him off before he went into surgery where he looked into my eyes and told me he loved me and to look after my mum. I was being terrible and harassed my mum to take us home to get some rest before my dad came out again only to get a call from the doctors to say the operation had been delayed and my daddy wanted to see us.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the hospital, he was already taken in. Eventually, he was moved to intensive care due to some unforeseen circumstances. We waited by his side for days until eventually, very early in the morning I watched his heart monitor flatline and his lips turn blue. The worst part about it was that I denied him the chance to see us one more time because I was tired.
He was scared and we weren’t there for him. The most heartbreaking moment was walking out with a bag full of clothes when only days before, I walked in with the most amazing dad.
15. Alone in the End
When I was a correctional officer, I would often escort inmates to and from the hospital for medical treatment. There was one inmate, Fredricks was his name I believe, who had a heart condition. He was about 50 years old and a born-again Christian, as many inmates are. He was always quoting scripture and seemed so sure about his place in heaven.
Over a period of about six months he shed about 150-200 pounds. He went from being a relatively heavy set guy to skin and bones. I would usually be the one to escort him to and from the hospital. Another officer and I would sit with him for 8 or 12 hours a day. At one point, he had to be transferred to another larger hospital, so I rode in the back of the ambulance with him while the other officer followed us in the prison van.
I still remember the conversation we had to this day. I was known for always carrying Jolly Ranchers in my pocket. He asked me if I had any that I could share with him. I told him I didn’t, but if I did I would certainly share them with him. That was against the rules, but I don’t think anyone would have said anything about me sharing a piece of candy with a dying man.
I could see his hands were shaking, and I could hear the handcuffs and chains clinking. We had to wrap the belly chain around him twice because he had become so thin. He looked at me and said, “I’m scared.” I could tell he was holding back tears. I didn’t know what to say so I just told him that he was gonna be okay. After I got relieved from my post, I told him I would see him next week, as my days off were coming up.
I never saw him again. He died a few days later. I heard the state buried him because no family ever showed up to claim the body.
16. Loss Upon Loss
I was a soldier in Iraq. I saw a father bring his ill son to a base for medical attention. It turned out that the son had been bitten by a rabid dog. If you know anything about rabies, you know that once symptoms show…it’s 100% fatal. Watching the medical officer explain to the translator, who relayed to the father, that his son could not be saved…that was rough.
17. The Cruelty of Suicide
My friend at school died by suicide. At the funeral his mom was so friendly, walking around hugging people but you could see the pain in her eyes. I’ve never felt a hug like it. It’s impossible to explain. Like something was missing from her. I still think about it all the time. And I hope I never have to see someone so heartbroken again.
18. A Mother’s Nightmare
Sitting in the waiting room at my gyno’s office for my yearly lady checkup. A visibly pregnant woman comes out of the offices, back into the waiting room. She’s crying and on her phone, leaving someone a voicemail, saying “Please call me back as soon as you get this, they can’t find a heartbeat, they’re sending me to go get another ultrasound. Please call me back, I need you right now, I’m so scared.”
I looked around the waiting room after she walked out and realized that every woman in there (myself included) had started tearing up. Absolutely heartbreaking.
19. Slow Down
When I was about 14, my mom was bringing me and my friends back home from school. We all lived about four blocks from each other. We noticed there was an accident on the street before mine. After we got home we all (excluding my mom) walked to the accident to be idiot spectators. We approached a group of people that had already gathered and asked what happened.
It turns out that a guy was riding his motorcycle back home because his wife’s baby shower was winding down. Well, as he was turning on to his street a driver plowed right into him and he was killed instantly. He was about five houses away from his home. His wife was just sitting on the side of the road in shock. We left after that, I’ve never felt so bad in my life for being curious about a traffic accident in my life.
20. A Lifetime Partnership Ends Too Fast
My grandmother had a stroke about 15 years ago. She wasn’t the same since. We would visit her at the hospice and she was like a zombie. Sure, sometimes she would be somewhat lucid—she would recognize family members (she often doted on my father, which is weird since he was only her son-in-law)—but she couldn’t walk, and talking was more or less grunts.
Anyway, flash forward four years and my grandfather gets a quick diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a death sentence and a quick one at that. By the time he was in the hospital he was given less than three weeks to live. We did what we could to get him into the same hospice as my grandmother, but they couldn’t work fast enough and he passed away within 10 days.
Per my grandfather’s wishes, she was never brought to see him in the hospital. My mother, aunts, and uncles held a private viewing just for my grandmother. She kind of knew what happened. She had acknowledged to my mother that she knew that he was dead, but she remained stoic on the ride to the funeral home. She was wheeled in and up to his casket and it seemed to hit her. He was gone.
We couldn’t believe our eyes: she, for the first time in four years, actually stood up and reached into his casket to kiss him. It was like the physical horrors that she suffered didn’t happen. She held his hand for 10 minutes, crying, saying “love you,” “I miss you,” and “see you soon.” When she said it, it wasn’t perfect, but you understood what she said and that was incredible to us.
After that, she calmly got back into her chair and she asked to go home. She meant her real home and we knew it. So we did it. My uncle carried her up the stairs and put her to sleep in the bed that she shared with my grandfather for 46 years. My mother, my aunts and my uncles stayed with her while the grandchildren and the in-laws went to the internment. The whole experience brings me to tears just thinking about it. I don’t think my words did it justice.
21. A Father’s Grief
A few years ago a 13-year-old kid was hit by a car right by my house. I saw a couple of firefighters tell his suit-wearing dad, rushing over from work I would guess, that his son was dead. The poor guy just collapsed and the firemen were holding him up by his arms like you would a wounded military person…
22. A Family’s Heartbreak
My family’s best friends had twin sons, and one was born without a brain. He died after several hours of being held and loved. My mom is a nurse at the hospital where the babies were born, and our friends asked if she could be the one to escort the baby down to the morgue. I held him after he died, and then my mother carried him away.
The last thing I remember after walking out of our friend’s room is the mother in the hospital bed, her husband with his arms around her, both quietly sobbing as they held their remaining son. I went with my own mom to her office, where she laid the baby on a piece of ugly blue material that was all the hospital provided, and gently wrapped him up.
She had to put barcode stickers on him as if he were a piece of faulty merchandise. I just remember sitting quietly with tears streaming down my face as she gently placed our friends’ beautiful baby in a metal cart and wheeled him away.
23. A Child’s Innocence
When I was a teacher, one of my first-graders asked: “Do you have any kids?” After I said that I didn’t and I didn’t even have a wife or a girlfriend, he said something that shook me to my core. He replied, just in a regular tone of voice, “That’s too bad. Do you know how I know you would be a good dad? You never hit me.”
God, I spent so many lunch hours crying in the staff bathroom at that job.
24. A Bunny’s Life Changed Forever
I was driving down my street one day, and there was a dead bunny on the road. Right next to it, there was another bunny, just looking at the dead one. I had somewhere to be, so I couldn’t stop. About three hours later, I’m coming home, and still, the bunny’s looking at the dead one, in the exact same spot. I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling he never moved.
I went home and got some lettuce, then walked back to the bunny. I was sure he was going to bolt, but he stayed still. I sat down, gave him some lettuce, and talked to him. He ate the lettuce almost absentmindedly, just staring at the dead bunny. You could almost see the sadness in this little guy’s eyes. After about 10 minutes, I decided to give him some privacy.
As I got up to go, I notice, in the mess that was the dead bunny, were what looked like little baby bunnies. The poor thing had been pregnant. I cried as I walked home. The next day, the road people had gotten the dead bunny, and the guy I gave lettuce to had gone. Broke my heart.
25. Nature is So Cruel
Watching my father descend into the grip of Alzheimer’s. He’s been battling it for the past six years. They don’t tell you the terrible truth about Alzheimer’s in the books or in the movies. They don’t tell you that the person who has it has a complete personality change. My father was the greatest dad any child could have, loving, caring, wonderful.
He now is mean and physically abusive. He and my mother were passionately in love throughout the 40 years of their marriage. He recently ran her out of the house threatening her life. They don’t tell you that they go crazy at the end of the disease. I’m only 27 years old. My father is 72, and he’s completely gone. We’ve had to put him in a psych ward for dementia patients.
They call it “Senior Care.” He hasn’t said my name in over two years. He has no idea who I am, and it breaks my heart, every single. Day.
26. You Never Know
This happened to my sister, who described it when she was still very upset. She was 22 at the time. Studying to be a teacher, and putting herself through college, because her parents are manipulative people. She was at a busy intersection at a red light. An elderly gentleman was driving and suddenly he was knocked from behind by another bigger car because he slowed down a bit.
The car proceeded to somehow flip over. And the elderly man was ejected from the car. He wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. My sister, knowing CPR, got out and ran over to check on him. She performed CPR on him for a long 15 minutes trying to help this guy. Eventually, an ambulance came and took him away. She learned later that night he was pronounced dead. I listened to her tell me all this and I could tell how sad she felt.
She was sobbing on the phone and talking to me all night about this guy. She wishes he would’ve lived. How if things would’ve been different maybe he would’ve lived. And maybe she didn’t do a good enough job to save him. I just comforted her as best I could. She never talks about it now. It affected her for a long time.
27. Denial in the Face of Tragedy and Pain
When I was 19, my father passed away after a very short battle with cancer. At the church funeral, my sister and I walked my mom to our church pew and all she kept saying was “I’m too young for this. This is not happening. This can not happen. Wake me up. I’m too young. Girls this can’t be happening right now. Take me out of the church. This isn’t happening.” She wasn’t crying or yelling, just speaking very calmly.
28. A Terrible Secret
My mom texted me, saying I shouldn’t come home and that she and my dad (who absolutely never fight) were getting a divorce. I’m panicking as I rush home. Once I’m there, I try and figure out what’s going on. My mom says she doesn’t love dad anymore. but nothing she says makes sense. Any time I try to defend dad, she turns on me. Almost completely out of the blue she begins wailing and sobbing.
It was the most torturous sound I’ve ever heard. She nearly collapses to the floor and she’s pushing me away, crying about how she is dirty and doesn’t want to contaminate me. Eventually, she says enough that I put all the pieces together. My mother was assaulted as a child by her stepfather. It’s impossible to describe how much that one moment destroyed me. To see my mom so broken and hopeless.
Thankfully my dad was only about five minutes down the road and came home soon. My mom is in therapy and doing much better. So basically the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen was watching my mother relieve her childhood abuse.
29. If I Lost My Son I’d Need Sedation Too
When we were told my brother died, my dad drove me, my mum and my sister to the crash site, and my mum let out this horrifying, heartbreaking scream and started screaming and sobbing. We went home straight away and paramedics had to be called so she could be sedated.
30. A Home Loses Its Warmth When You Lose Your Dog
Coming home while knowing my dog was put down the previous morning…knowing for the first time I’d come home and not be greeted by him. Looking at the empty space where he used to sleep, now that was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever witnessed. Knowing what he meant and all those nearly 16 years I’ve been with him, and now the house was empty.
31. Ungrateful Grandkids
I took my girlfriend to Cracker Barrel one morning, and we witnessed an elderly grandmother with her grandson eating. The little jerk had his iPod earbuds in THE ENTIRE TIME. The grandmother tried once or twice to talk to him, but he kept ignoring her. She kept insisting, and with a huge sigh he pulled out one earbud and said, “You’re boring, I don’t want to talk to you.”
To which the grandmother dejectedly ate the rest of her food in silence. I’ve never hit a kid before, but I would not have regretted popping him square in the nose one single bit.
32. Sometimes We Just Need That Hope
I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter. There was one guy who stood out. He was always a little cleaner than the other guys who were there, didn’t smell as bad, and was one of the nicer ones. He was a very sweet and warm guy, and the homeless shelter would seem a little less bleak whenever he showed up. His most prized possession was a photograph he had in his jacket pocket and he would show it to us every week.
The photo was of him, a few years younger and much more well-groomed, with another man in front of a nice suburban home. He claimed that it was his younger brother and that pretty soon he would come and pick him up. This story was such a nice change of pace from the daily drudgery and hopelessness that most of the customers we got, and I was so happy for him.
However, one of the older workers told me the awful truth: he had been here even before she started working, and that he had had the same photograph and story back then too. I volunteered there for four more years, and every week he didn’t show up it would be a mixed feeling of hope that his brother had finally kept his word and dread that some unforeseen accident had occurred, but he would always be back, with the same jovial attitude and story.
I don’t even remember his name, but that tragic sincere smile and photograph of hollow promises will always make me sad. Perhaps one day his brother (if he even is his brother) will show up.
I’ve been in AA for fourteen years. A few years ago, there was a meeting where the side topic was something like “stuff we lost during a blackout.” As you can imagine there were some pretty amusing stories; one of ‘em ended with “and I never did find that car” and everybody had a good laugh.
But then…they called on this little mousey guy—a guy I’d never seen before. He said that one morning he woke up late for work and couldn’t find his pick-up for a while, but he finally found it in his backyard. Hungover and late for work, he hopped in and sped to work in an effort to make it on time (I think he worked at a lumber mill). He arrived, punched in and started his shift.
At lunchtime, he punched out and went to go eat lunch on his tailgate. As he walked to his truck, he noticed a dent in the grill. He went around to open the tailgate and noticed a dead nine-year-old girl in the truck bed. He was sobbing as he explained that he only did eight years in prison and ended by asking, “how does a guy make amends for something like that?”
The room was completely silent.
34. People Are Trash
Old guy at restaurant on Father’s Day, waiting for his grown kids. They never show.
35. Kitten Savior
My significant other and I went to a garage sale. It was a pretty meager selection with kids running everywhere, stuff that belongs in a tip for sale, and a single box of kittens. These kittens were so obviously too young to be weaned. Tiny mewling things, eyes either barely open or still sealed shut. I inquired about the kitten’s mother. Apparently run over accidentally.
It was heavily implied that kittens not sold today would be “gotten rid of.” But it got so much worse. Kids are running around with tiny kittens and throwing them around. One kid comes up to me and happily exclaimed “This one’s name is Burny because he got burned on his face!” and shoves the poor little burnt kitten in my face. I bought every single freaking kitten, fed them with bottles until old enough, wormed and flea treated them then found homes for them.
It cost us a heap but jeez, who can do that to animals? I’m almost crying just typing this.
Spending a day in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I was there when I was 17 (2000) and again when I was 25 (2008) so both were pre-earthquake. Both times I left in tears. At 17, I was trying to be a ”tough guy” and not let it get to me, but walking into a room filled with kids who only want attention breaks you a little. Rows and rows of cribs with small children reaching out of them begging to be acknowledged.
When you do spend time with them their eyes light up, but when you have to leave, you feel like you are the most horrible person in the world. I sat in the hall and cried, completely unashamed. When I was 25, I took a group of kids aged 14-17, so I was trying to be tough for them. I handled it differently this time, as I was more coordinating what the kids were doing than anything.
I still ended up in the hallway, absolutely crying my eyes out, hoping the kids wouldn’t see and follow suit. But I will never forget being in those hot, stifling rooms. The looks on all those kids’ faces. And you are just helpless, there are hundreds of kids and only one of you. Imagine when you are at a pet store as a kid, and your parents make you put back that kitten, and you think “I’m making this kitten sad.”
Now imagine doing it with a child, over and over again, for an entire day.
37. Be Gentle
I was in Germany for a summer internship. In our orientation, they told us that Germans don’t do small talk like Americans. No “How’s it going?” “Nice weather today,” nothing. So I was surprised when I was walking to work on a forest trail my third day and a friendly old man sitting on a bench strikes up a conversation with me. He was smiling and patting me on the shoulder and looked like he was having the time of his life, just talking with me.
In my broken German, I talked a little, smiled politely, and then told him I had to go. He was in the middle of starting a new convo when I was said goodbye, and then he stopped. All the smiling and excitement in his face drained. He put his head down and he said quietly “Bitte bleib mit mir.” (Please stay with me.) I almost teared up on the spot.
I put my bags down, sat on the bench by him, and we talked for two hours, then went and had lunch together. I went in to work late that day. But every day for that summer, after work, we would hang out and he would tell me stories. I learned he had no one in his life. In fact, he’d been alone since the Second World War.
38. Saying Goodbye
It was about 2 AM on a rainy Monday night and I was driving home through empty suburbs in Sydney. Suddenly I turned into a smallish road and was blocked off by an ambulance. I was about to reverse and find another way when I see two paramedics bring out an old lady on the trolley who was very much dead. These three were followed by a very old man, probably 80+ who followed behind trying to hold the woman’s hand.
He was bawling, falling over himself, getting soaked by the rain and shouting. He was shouting “She’s my soulmate! What do I do now? What am I supposed to do?” Something about an older proud man brought to their knees kills me.
39. Appreciate Every Moment
I finished my PhD last year and just had my graduation ceremony last week. For ages before it, my parents had been fussing over me, but I didn’t mind, they were just so proud and excited, and to be honest I was feeling pretty good about myself too. So anyway, the ceremony rolls around, and the university registrar is reading out all the names, one at a time, when I notice a strange detail in the programme.
There is one name on its own. “Receiving the posthumous award of PhD, Mr [ABC] on behalf of his daughter Dr [ABC].” As they read out the names, all of the university higher-ups gave this chap the biggest standing ovation. You could tell he was so deeply proud of his daughter, thankful for the reception of the whole graduation team, and absolutely heartbroken and tearing up at the same time.
There were so many people visibly crying in the audience, and it seemed to resonate really strongly with me. It was such a big day for me and my family, and seeing the pride and sadness on this man’s face really made me realize how important it is to appreciate family while they are still around.
40. Home Run Hitter
I do some volunteer work with a special-needs school where they host a big Special Olympics-style field day event. After helping for a few years, I got to know some of the kids, like Andy, who has severe autism. He rarely speaks to anyone, but this kid is freaking bananas about baseball. He memorizes stats and players and team rosters and can rattle off the most obscure baseball stats ever, and they are all accurate. It’s incredible.
Anyway, Andy is raised by his mom and grandmother, as his dad bailed out when he was very young. One of the events we did at the field day was a kind of modified baseball game. Andy had tried to participate for years but could just never do it. He would get too overwhelmed and wind up watching from his chair. You could see that he wanted to be part of it so bad.
Last fall I spent a couple of hours before the baseball game trying to get him mentally prepared for the game so that maybe he would be able to play. I walked him through what it would be like and I gave him my hat to wear. To my surprise and delight, the parent lobbed the ball up to him and Andy threw all his weight behind the bongo bat and freaking crushed that ball.
I was so happy I was about to bust, and after he was helped around the bases and stomped on the plate, he came back over to me and I high-fived him over and over. Then he stopped and I could tell he was trying really hard to compose himself to say something. I’ll never forget his words. He asked, “Can I come back later and do that again so next time my dad can see?”
I kept a smile on my face but couldn’t stop myself from bawling like a dang baby when I heard that.