"My dad was dying at home and had been pretty out of it for a few days. The few times he was conscious, he would talk about all the people in his room and that they were climbing the walls, staring at him from under the bed, generally crazy talk.
The last thing he said before the end was to my sister: 'Are you going to bury me today?' Totally messed all of us up. He died the next day."
"I was in the room when my friend died of cancer. He'd been slipping in and out of consciousness and talking gibberish for hours, then all of a sudden, he sort of whimpered my name and said, 'Don't let fear control your life, ok buddy?'
He died a couple of hours later. I actually carry that quote with me, I wrote it down the day he died and put it in my wallet so I look at it every day. His biggest fear was that he would be forgotten so I make it a point to remember him and his words every day. He was a good soul. I miss him.
He fostered senior dogs so they would have 'a happy death.' I hope they were all waiting for him on the other side."
"'He doesn't know me anymore, does he?'
Those were the last words my grandmother spoke to me when I took my Alzheimer stricken grandfather to visit her in the hospital the evening before she died. They were married for almost 70 years. She was fully cognizant and she was right, he didn't.
My grandfather did come to the funeral, but all guests were explicitly requested not to offer him condolences, in the hopes he would not catch on. My own mother had to make that awful decision.
In the end, it was for the best, because he had a pleasant day and telling him she was dead would have been pointless anyway. All in all, her absence must have weighed on him either way, because he deteriorated extremely fast afterwards, and died about three months later. To make matters worse for my mother and her sisters, he died on New Year's Eve, a day usually spent with the grandparents.
The suffering my grandparents went through has had deep and long-term effects on our extended family. We've gone from a group of people who spent every weekend together to people who are constantly reminded of them when we see each other. Several grandchildren have dropped into depressions since and we've had a suicide attempt. It is very difficult to tell a young person life can be beautiful with a straight face when they've spent their adolescence watching their very beloved grandmother suffer eight years of cancer treatments, multiple extreme bowel operations and strokes, slowly losing her abilities to hear, speak and see, and then to die unknown by her husband of 70 years."
"My fiancé died in my arms right before the wedding.
I was with my fiancé for 10 years and he died 11 days before our wedding. He had heart problems and one morning he ran into the bedroom saying that I needed to call 911 and then looked into my eyes and said, 'Oh my god, I'm going to die.' Then he fell on the ground. I jumped over, performed CPR, and screamed 'I love you' over and over and over again until the ambulance arrived five minutes later. I wanted him to know that he wasn't alone, that he was loved. I have nightmares about that moment, half of me wishing that I hadn't been there.
But my dad said, 'What better way to die than in the arms of the person you love, with them saying how much they love you --- not many people get that.' And because of those words, I hope that when the time comes, I die in the arms of someone I love and the last thing I hear is 'I love you.'"
"My family and I never got along and it got to the point back in high school that I wasn't welcome at either my mother's or father's homes. I hadn't done much wrong outside of coming home from school a little late or not making my bed.
So along came my friend and he said that I was welcome to stay with his family for a while until I could save up enough to move out. His mother took me in before I had even met her and she provided for me and showed me with kindness and love.
Fast forward a year later. I had moved out, got into college, and was supporting myself. I was still incredibly close to my 'adopted mom' when we found out that she had terminal cancer and wasn't expected to last a month. Of course, I visited all the time but she seemed surprisingly chipper and alive the entire time.
On the night she died, I received a call from my friend saying that his mom had rapidly declined, had liver and kidney failure, and basically, her entire body was shutting down. I got there and her family was visiting and I wasn't allowed in (was never actually adopted).
Four hours of waiting and finally a nurse came to get me. Apparently, she had been asking for me and I was overwhelmed. I walked in and she was hooked to a million wires and she looked like she had lost 20 pounds in the three days it'd been since I was there last. She looked at me and started crying. I was crying so hard that I could barely see her but as I hugged her, she said her final words to me: 'I love you, son.'"
"My younger cousin, Jake, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (cancer in his eye) at 6 weeks old, beat it, then at 6 years old was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) which eventually led to metastatic cancer in his lungs.
He fought for two years until the night he died. I wasn't there for it, but his mom and dad were both sleeping in the bed with him. He woke up in the middle of the night and woke up his dad. He told him to go get Josie, his twin sister. My uncle of course went and woke her up and they came back in the room and all got in bed with him. My aunt had woken up by now.
My cousin told them all to lean in close to him and he said, 'I think Jesus wants me to come live with him.' Josie immediately started crying and told him to tell Jesus no, and Jake said, 'Jesus wants me to come to heaven.'
Then his twin said, 'Ask him if you can stay here.'
He told his dad, 'Dad, you can ask him, but he really wants me to come live with him.' They then all prayed, and he died the next day, not waking up from the time he fell asleep during the prayer.
I still miss him with my entire heart."
"'Save my baby.'"
I was doing an impromptu c-spine (a technique used to help people who may have suffered neck/spine trauma keep from further injuring themselves) on a woman in a car crash. She said it right before she passed out. She was five months pregnant.
I was off-duty at the time and was on my way to buy paint when I came across the accident and was trying to help until paramedics arrived with proper equipment.
The baby didn't survive. I'll never forget her voice."
"My grandpa had Alzheimer's. I don't think he could speak for the last month of his life. I don't believe he said anything close to his death.
Before he entirely lost his speech though, I was visiting him in the nursing home. He looked up at me with the most love and happiness I had ever seen on his face and said, 'Irma?'
Irma was his first wife who committed suicide before he ever met my grandmother. My grandmother was horribly abusive to him and never allowed anyone to talk about Irma, including my aunt who was Irma's only daughter.
It broke my heart that he didn't know me, but I was thankful he had forgotten what happened to her. It's fitting that was the last thing I ever heard him say."
"'Please just let me die.'
She was in the ER at that point and we eventually got her back. I felt conflicted as a caregiver since I was an 18-year-old EMT at the time and had no idea what her life was like or why she'd want to end it. But I knew what my legal responsibility was and just went with that. But as someone who had been in dark spots in my life, I felt bad about reviving her because she had finally gotten what she wanted - the only time I didn't see her face haunted with agony was when she was dead - and I started the process that took that away from her. It's been six years now and I still think of her sometimes.
Every other suicide call I've had had someone who was not speaking, for whatever reason, but she was very much conscious and lucid on the ambulance and therefore left no ambiguity - even while bleeding to death and in pain, this is still what she wanted.
I hope she found peace."
"My grandmother was dying of pancreatic cancer. She was at home in hospice and we were waiting for her passing.
She had become unresponsive for a few days and we suspected it would be any day.
I visited her during this time and I sat down next to her bed. I thanked her for being an amazing grandma who taught me to love everyone no matter what; to have fun often and to laugh a lot. I told her I love her very much.
As I was saying these things, her eyes popped open and she stared at me with her loving eyes like I'd seen for so many years. She said words I will never forget.
'I want you to know that when I get up there to heaven, there will be a little girl, and she will be the first one I run to.'
And just like that, she closed her eyes. She passed the next day.
That little girl she would run to? That would be my daughter. My wife and I lost her just six months prior."
"My father committed suicide back in 2010. The day before it happened, he called me and we talked for a bit, and before I hung up, he said to me, 'Son, I love you so much and I'm so very proud of you.'
The way he sounded it was like he was never going to see me again. I sort of laughed about it. The very next day, he was gone. I only wish I took what he said a little more seriously."
"I had an old lady flag me down in the hallway at the nursing home where I work a few days before she died. With her emaciated face and bulging eyes, she said, 'You know where I'm going.' I asked her what she meant and she repeated herself. 'You know where I'm going when I die. And it ain't up.'
I was taken aback and asked her if she wanted to talk with the priest we have on staff. She shook her head and said, 'It's too late for that.'
A few days later, she was eating her supper and started screaming. She yelled, 'Fire! Fire! There's fire everywhere!' She died a few hours later, quite suddenly.
I didn't sleep that night and I really hope her soul found some rest."
"This afternoon, my wife and I were just remembering an amazing friend of mine, Kevin, who died a little more than 18 years ago. We did the math and realized that the son he left behind is now the same age that Kevin was when he passed, which gave me pause, to say the least. Kevin died from a recurrence of the same type of cancer that had first shown up in him while he was still in his teens. The same cancer had also taken his father also at the age of 34 when Kevin was just about the same age as his kid. He was a warm, funny, kind, no-nonsense guy who had zero capacity for flowery-talk or mysticism, you know? He was a real cash-and-carry kind of dude.
I went in to visit him at the hospital on what ended up being the final day of his life and, when he and I were finally alone, he leaned over to me and said, 'Stan, there have been angels in my room, on and off, since just before sunrise.' I asked him if he thought it was the morphine, and he said, 'No, I'm not messing with you, buddy... I'm not talking about 'feeling' angels or anything... There are actual angels who keep coming into my room.' I asked him if they were frightening and he replied, 'No, they're actually making me calm.' He passed later that evening.
You know, I have always had (and still have) doubts about there being anything after this life. And, of course, the pragmatic part of my brain recognizes that it certainly could have been the medications he was taking, or some further metastasis to his brain, right? But, if I'm being honest about what my gut tells me, or, my heart? There were angels in my friend's room.
A few weeks before he died, the two of us were talking about the possibility of an afterlife. He had just gotten word that things had taken a grim turn and that he probably had only weeks left to live, so, it was a pretty earnest conversation. We discussed the idea of there being a Heaven, with a gate, and I asked him who he would like to be the first person he got to see after being let inside and he answered, 'You.' Then, after we had laughed ourselves hoarse, he added 'No... I want to see my dogs from childhood.'"
"My mom was diagnosed with terminal lung and pancreatic cancer, and the mass had developed around her vocal cords and made it hard for her to speak. She smoked all of her life, and it finally caught up with her. It attacked her quick, from the time she was diagnosed to the time she passed away, it was less than two weeks.
First, she lost her voice, then she had difficulty breathing, became weak, she couldn't walk too far, then she could only walk a little, then nothing at all, she had trouble eating. The night she died, I let her have her last smoke, and my sister and I took mom into her bed and I knew as did my sister, it was the last time. We spent a few hours with her, holding her and I got up, lost it a bit, and my mom said, 'Don't be sad' loudly with all her might.
I was fortunate to be with my mother at that time, she was due to have hospice that Monday but she did not make it, lung cancer kills quickly.
"When my grandmother was dying, someone had to be with her all day. One night, my cousin volunteered to sit with her and was just talking with the half-lucid woman. The house she lived in was creepy; the lights from the family room didn't reach the stairs or the hallway so the light you had was it. Around 1 am, my grandmother started making faces at the stairs and when my cousin asked what was wrong, my grandma responded, 'I just wish that man on the stairs would quit staring at us.'
Later on into the night, my cousin mentioned how more family was arriving the next day and grandma said: 'Wel,l it doesn't matter; tomorrow I'll be dead and so will you.'
My cousin didn't volunteer to sit with Grandma after that night."
"I watched my maternal grandmother die in the hospital. She was 95 years old, went into the hospital because she fell, got pneumonia, and then she died. This was relatively common for people of that age, we were told.
In her last hours, she was in and out of consciousness. My parents, myself, and my father's mother were scattered around the spacious hospital room listening to the deafening heart rate machine and thinking of a funny story about her to tell. She woke up, her eyes did not open, but her hands started waving. She muttered out my father's name in a voice that was drier than a mummy's. She managed to wave her hand, beckoning him to come to her. He leaned in.
She thought she was whispering. 'I want to die,' she said. 'I want to go see Leonard,' referring to her husband, who died 20 years ago. 'I am ready.'
My mother heard her mother's wishes and began to cry quietly. She did not want her mother to hear her pain--just as my grandmother did not want my mother to be the one to hear her request. My father held my grandmother's hand, said, 'We love you,' then looked at me. I left to get the doctor to fulfill her request.
'I want to die. I want to see Leonard. I am ready.' Those words motivate me, in a sense. I want to have the kind of love that endures 20 years of mortal separation. It haunts me because I will always remember my grandmother as the kind of woman who wanted to spare her daughter pain with her last breath. And it terrifies me because I wonder how much she prepared those words. Those on death row can write soliloquies; the elderly only get to mutter a few sentences before the darkness takes them.
And yet with her few words, she was clear with her wishes and comforted us with her confidence. She was lucky. And so were we."
"'You'll probably have to make dinner for the kids tomorrow.'
She was 42. She was tired and he replied, 'Of course' and then she closed her eyes. They never saw it coming. She came in complaining of abdominal pain and vomiting blood. The entire time they waited, she and her husband talked about their plans for the week. 'Don't forget Jenny has soccer on Thursday.' Things like that. Meanwhile, she had a massive GI bleed.
I was just a tech at the time, and I'd just started, so the details are fuzzy. I wish the details weren't so fuzzy, I know so much more now. I know how precarious the situation was, the high mortality rate GI bleeds carry. I know that the nasogastric tube that snaked from the wall suction into her nose, down her throat ended in a pool of blood in her stomach. And I know now that when her suction canister was full of bright red blood, something was terribly wrong. I can't even remember if we sourced the bleed. I know we hadn't scoped her. But I never learned her history. Did she have a problem with the bottle? Hepatitis? Was there a recent surgery? Peptic Ulcer history? Cancer? What was the cause of her bleed?
I've played it back so many times in my head. Did I ask the doc or the nurse if I should change the canister, or did I just do it? That's what I mostly did as a tech then, clean things up, clean clean clean. It seemed so innocuous. Dirty, full canister, put in a new one. So did I ask? Did someone tell me to? Did I turn the suction back on? I can't remember. And how much time passed between when I changed it and she crashed? I wouldn't have turned it back on, right? What was her blood pressure? WHAT was her BLOOD PRESSURE? WHAT WAS HER BLOOD PRESSURE?
I remember her, and what she said last. I remember she seemed so young. Maybe if she'd been older it would've been better. Lived her life. Was ready. But it wasn't until weeks later, when someone said, regarding a different patient, 'We need to watch the blood pressure after this NG Tube,' and suddenly her ghost came back. Oh God, I changed the canister. I can't remember if I asked. I can't remember. But I changed it.
And I do remember the look on his face. The husband. His disbelief. 'What do you mean?' he said. I was too far away, across the ER, to hear it. I just saw his face and his lips move. Still, I knew what he said. I watched his world end. His and hers. Their world fell apart so early right in front of my eyes.
It's been years now. Six years. I don't know her name. I don't know if I ever knew. I don't remember her underlying diagnosis. And I can't remember if it was my fault that she died.
I don't think I've told anyone this before. I might have. I can almost picture myself asking a nurse, explaining, inquiring, and that nurse kindly saying, no, she was going to die regardless. But I might be imagining it. To make me feel better. And even when I imagine it, there's a look of shock on that nurses' face that betrays the fleeting thought that yes, maybe, it was my fault. I don't remember. I can't remember. I don't.
But I do remember that her husband had to make dinner for the kids the next day."