Working in health care will teach you that death is inevitable. You’ll be one of those few people to know how life starts and how it will end. Here’s a compilation of the responses from the /r/askreddit thread:
1. “But I don’t know how to get there…” Grandpa in hospice. Hadn’t spoken in days. Died about two hours later.
“You are going to beat this, you got away with murder, this is nothing.”
3. I work in a cardiac ICU. We had a patient who had a pulmonary artery rupture (a rare, but known complication of a Swan-Ganz catheter).
It still haunts me years later.
4. Nurse here – had a patient come into the ER with shortness of breath. He started deteriorating in the ER, and then quite rapidly on the transport up the ICU.
We got him wheeled into his room, replaced the ER lines and tubes with our own, and transferred him from the transport stretcher to his ICU bed.
He actually did most of the transfer himself. He didn’t say anything, but just before he died he pleasantly adjusted his own pillow, laid his head down, and then his eyes went blank. This man just made himself comfortable before laying down to die.
5. I’m a nurse and was previously working at an assisted living community on the dementia/Alzheimer’s unit.
My very favorite patient had been declining pretty steadily so I was checking on him very frequently. We would have long chats and joke around with each other, but in the last two weeks of his life, he stopped talking completely and didn’t really acknowledge conversation directed at him at all.
I finished my medication rounds for the evening and went to see him before I left. I told him I was leaving for the night and that I’d see him the following day, and he looked me in the eyes and smiled SO genuinely and said, “You look like an angel.” I thought it was so sweet because he had not seemed lucid in weeks.
He died the next morning. It really messed with me.
6. I don’t care that I’m not a nurse, but this was said by my dad to the nurse, so close enough.
Backstory: Dad had MS. He’d had it since he was 18. Diagnosed at 20, married my mom at 24, had me at 29, died 15 days short of 45. Six months before that, he was put on hospice.
He and Mom were discussing funeral arrangements, and my mom jokingly said, “You know Tim, the best thing you could do would be to die on a Wednesday. That way we can have the body prepared on Thursday, the viewing on Friday, and the memorial on Saturday, so more people could come.
The morning we got the call that it was time, my mom, two sisters, and I were about five minutes too late. After we said our goodbyes, the nurse pulled my mom aside and asked if that day had any significance. It’s not even 6 am yet, so Mom doesn’t even know what day it IS much less if it’s important. The nurse tells her it’s May 21st. No… nothing is coming to mind.
The nurse told her that the previous day dad kept asking what day it was and they’d tell him it was the 20th. He’d look irritated but accept it. That morning, he asked what day it was, and they said, “It’s Wednesday, May 21st.” He smiled, squeezed his favorite nurse’s hand, and was gone almost immediately.
It was Memorial Day weekend, and we did just as he and Mom had planned. And despite many friends being out of town for the holiday, we had over 250 people show up at the memorial service, overflowing the tiny church more than it had ever been filled.
To his dying day, he was trying to make things easier for our family. I miss him.
7. My dad fell into unconsciousness around noon. We managed to get him into bed and he responded with a hand squeeze when I said “I love you.”
We watched and waited the rest of the day. Around 3:00 am his breathing changed and as his breathing become more and more labored he bolted upright, eyes wide open, looked at his wife, my sister, then me. Smiled, exhaled, and died.
8. “Get home safe, little one.” It wasn’t what he said – he said the same thing to me any time I had him as a patient for the evening. It was how he said it. He gave me this look and pause like he knew. The DNR’s in my experience, always know when it’s time. It’s creepy.
9. My first hospice case. She was on morphine and started mock smoking. She looked at me, took my hand and said “Please.” in the most pleading voice I’ve ever heard. I sat with her body until the [coroner] arrived. She has no friends or family. Only her lawyer showed up. I’ve only done one hospice case since.
10. Cardiac ICU: Had a gentleman who was DNR on comfort care. He was demented and was cursing like a sailor. He seemed to have moments of clarity and would ask to see his brothers (who were both passed).
After a particularly worrisome heart rhythm, he went back into a Sinus tachycardia and look me in my eyes and said
“Hey, what’s your name?”
“What do you do here?”
“I’m a nurse.” After this, he was quiet for some time… then he said…
And then he died about 20 minutes later.
11. I found one of my “comfort measures only” patients standing at the side of his bed. It surprised me because he had been mostly unresponsive during my shift. I helped him back into bed and he asked me why all these people were in his room. He suddenly became quiet again and I noticed he wasn’t breathing.
He was a DNR so there wasn’t anything to do to try to bring him back. Looking back he may have been talking about me and the CNA that was helping me get him back into bed, but who knows what or who he was seeing the last minutes of his life. Still creeps me out a little when I think about it.
12. My mom was watching over my great-grandfather in the hospital. He’d been unresponsive for a day or so, when suddenly he said: “It’s about damn time you got here! I’ve been waiting!” And then he died.
13. DNR patient was on comfort cares. Was on a high dose of morphine and hallucinating. She would alternate between grasping for things not there and trying to climb out of bed. She was too unsteady to walk so my job was to sit in the room and make sure she was safe. She tried to get up and I went to ask her what she needed. She grabbed my arm and pulled me down towards her face and said, very angrily, “kill me”. That one fucked with me for awhile.
14. Not a nurse, not a doctor, but I’m an apprentice funeral director. We went to a nursing home on a removal and as we were walking down the hall one of the patients got antsy and opened the door to his room and saw us walking with the stretcher.
“I’ll see you next week boys.”
And guess who we had to pick up the next week.
15. My grandma died in 1989 my grandfather (Bob) died around 1965. She never remarried, never dated, but she did have a great life.
When she was dying she yelled “Bob. Bob, here I come… Oh honey I’ve missed you so much!”
We always joked that we were glad she didn’t yelled “Bob who the hell is that”?
16. Ugh. I was a hospice nurse for many years. Super gratifying job for a nurse, surprisingly. As a “regular” nurse, you are rarely offered thanks. Hospice nursing is an island unto itself. Mostly peaceful, lots of times sad, often a blessing.
This is sad, but also creepy, and I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. Had a 20 year old kid, gang member, who was dying of primary liver cancer. Super unusual, aggressive, and terminal. He was angry at the universe. His family was there to comfort him, but he literally spit in their faces. Every ounce of energy he had left was angry and mean and ugly. His mom would beg him to lighten up and accept Jesus into his heart. He would swing at her and tell her to eff herself. The family remained beside, in hopes he would chillout at the end.
His last day, hours, moments, he was angry. The family called me into the room, and told me they thought he was going (he wasn’t responding, Cheyne-Stokes breaths, eyes glossy and skin cold–the end was imminent.) His lovely mother, in her dearest attempt, whispered to him to go towards the light, to her Jesus. With his dying breath he opened his eyes, looked at her and said “Eff your Jesus!!!”.
A second or two later, he slowly turned his head to the to the left, and got the most horrific look on his face as if he was looking at something we couldn’t see, and horrified, like in a bad movie, his face contorted, and he screamed with his last breath, eyes wide, “Oh shit, oh shit, OH NOOOOOOO!!!!”, then made a guttural noise and promptly fell back into the bed and died. Every family member was shaking and too frightened to speak, and I left the room and took two days off. I don’t care if I never find out what he saw.
17. “See you there.”
18. A 17 y/o female during a car crash: “Please, please, please…don’t tell my parents I was drinking.”
19. I live in the Pacific NW and there was a rupture of the Olympic Pipeline in Bellingham in 1999. The petroleum flowed into Whatcom Creek. There were two little boys playing in the creek behind one of their houses with a barbecue lighter. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the petroleum flowing into the creek was set on fire by the lighter they were playing with. It became a conflagration. We could see the thick black smoke pouring into the air from 25 miles away.
From what I remember, one of the older brothers and a couple of his friends ran out to the creek behind their house and brought the boys out of the water.
The little guys were severely burnt but in shock and with adrenaline running didn’t realize how hurt they were. I still cry when I think about it to this day when I read that the little guys thought that they had caused the explosion from playing in the creek with a lighter.
Worse, and this actually haunts me, is one of the boys telling the rescuers that “Oh, my mom is going to be so mad that I ruined my new clothes.”
These little guys died the next day of their burns. It was an unbearable account.
20. Last year: my grandfather started desperately pleading for his life with his German captors from WWII.
The doctor present was smart and said in German: “You are free, Herr Caticature. You are free.” And then he died.
21. “You’re not gonna believe this…”
Talk about a cliffhanger. Can’t wait for season 2 of Old Man With Heart Failure.
22. I worked a bank shift in A&E a few months ago. A young man was in a horrible car crash, his face was covered in blood and had a compound fracture of his clavicle but conscious, he was screaming “don’t tell me she’s dead, where is she???” before succumbing to his injuries an hour later. His girlfriend had died instantly in the crash.
23. Can’t believe this question has popped up in my Reddit feed on today, of all days. 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 (seriously, fuck cancer) had also taken his father also at the age of 34 when Kev was just about the same age as his kid.
He was a warm, funny, kind, no-bullshit guy who had zero capacity for flowery-talk or mysticism, you know? He was a real cash-and-carry kind of dude. So, you’ll understand why his last conversation with me has comforted me for nearly two decades, now.
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 ask him if he thought it was the morphine (which, normally, he would have been the first to suggest/lol), and he said “No, I’m not fucking 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 the fuck down a little bit.” 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.
You know what? Fuck it, I’m going to share one more story about him… A few weeks before the time I just shared, 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 the fucker answered “You.” Then, after we had laughed ourselves fucking hoarse, he added “No… I want to see my dogs from childhood.”
I’m going to go hug my wife now. Much love, strangers. Much, much love.
24. A nice old lady who told my CNA she wanted to wear all white. When asked why, she said “the man in black is here.” She looked in the corner of the room. The CNA looked, but there was no one there.
That’s when I came into the room. We asked her to describe what she was seeing and she said “he’s in all black, and he’s got a top hat on.”
Then she whispered “and his eyes are red” while her eyes moved across the room to directly behind the CNA, like she was watching him move closer to us. She died later that night. But it was unexpected. That room creeped me out for a long time after that.
25. I work in long term care, and one of my residents was dying from lung cancer, we knew it was going to happen any day and she did too, she repeatedly stated she didn’t want to be alone so all Friday night nurses took turns sitting with her, when I came in Saturday morning they asked if I would sit with ( I worked in recreation).
She was such a sweetheart and had no children but had a niece who hardly visited and when we called Friday basically said call me when she is dead.
Anyway this lady was labouring to breathe, in and out of conscious but would always squeeze my hand if I squeezed hers. Finally I whispered in her ear, ” the nurse just told me your niece is on the way” she died less than five minutes later, she just wanted to know someone was coming. Her niece never came :(
26. “I need to tell someone where to dig to find her.”
27. It was years ago, I was a junior resident. I didn’t know the patient all that well, but got called up to get her paperwork ready for discharge. (She was an otherwise healthy 96 or so, had a palliative colon resection for cancer, something, something).
I went to her room to do a last wound check and DC a JP drain and she kept talking about how she was “going home to Bill*”
Her son pointed out that she’s usually mentally very sharp, but Bill was her husband who had died years ago. He reassured her, “No, mom, dad is gone. We’re just going back to the house.”
She insisted. “No, I’m going to him. He came to see me this morning and said he’s taking me home.”
Whatever, I guess? Son said she was otherwise at baseline – it was the first and only weird thing she said – vitals and labs looked good, so we progressed along the DC pathway.
Not even a few minutes later the Code Blue got called to her room. She was Don’t Code, so we didn’t do anything, but it was like, “WTAF, I guess Bill really was coming for her.” Her son was surprisingly OK with how this played out.
This one chilled me for awhile.
29. Surgeon here. Not sure if this is “creepy” but a man on his deathbed kept repeating “the body is in the woods next to the oak tree” over and over until he passed.
The police were notified and they did search some woods behind the man’s house but never found anything.
30. I was a home health aide for awhile and I took care of a woman in her late 80s-90s. While she didn’t die and as far as I know is still alive she was “dying.”
She would be lying in bed and just start yelling shit like “Take me now, Jesus. I am ready!” “I see him, Jesus is coming for me!” I would always rush in there and when she would see me, would tell me she was ready to die but knew our deal and she’d wait. Our deal was that if she wanted to die, could she please waiting until my shift was over?
She would also hallucinate constantly and was always confused. She would tell me her husband (dead for years) was coming over with some Navy buddies and she’d set me up “because a girl my age really ought to be married by now.”
She also had breast implants and liked to show them off and force you to touch them.
31. Can’t write this without sobbing…but three years ago my grandma passed. She was stubborn as she could be and the hospice nurse kept telling us “It won’t be long now…anytime, anytime.”
So there were about twenty of us, her kids and grandkids, her 80 year old sister, standing around the bed. It became quite uncomfortable all of us just standing there holding hands waiting.
So finally I went over to her and whispered in her ear that I loved her and it was okay for her to go. She and I were very very close. After I did that my mom did the same thing, then my grandma’s sister. After another while my mom said “I remember a long time ago, she told me she figured she would hear I’ll Fly Away ( her favorite hymn) as she entered heaven’s gates. Everyone kinda chuckled and my 80 year old great aunt a few minutes later softly started singing: One glad morning when this life is oe’r I’ll fly away… To a home on God’s celestial shore I’ll fly away… And without missing a beat all of us joined in as best we could…we were all crying: I’ll fly away oh glory! I’ll fly away! When I die hallelujah by and by! I’ll fly away…
At the end of the verse of course we were all just sobbing. Not ten seconds later did her heart stop forever. She just needed some help to fly away.
32. “The devil has been in my room all night, but don’t worry, God is with you.” This man had like the worst death ever too. He had a horrendous seizure and died with his eyes wide open and had a horrible grimace on his face. He had also been yelling all night about the “devil” and saying over and over, “Get out of here! This building’s gonna blow!”
33. My Grandpa died from diabetes complications at home after having a leg taken. However my uncle, his youngest, was working in another country. We told him “ok papa you have to wait for Bruce to get here.” He asked how long? We said about 17 hours. The last words I heard him say were:
“17 hours huh? That’s a long time…but ok.”
He went unresponsive after that and He died literally 20 minutes after my uncle got there and got to have some time to say goodbye. He waited, and he’s a badass for that.
35. “Get off me you bastard, you’re trying to kill me.”
A 60-odd year old woman in a lot of pain from a rupturing abdominal aortic aneurysm. She was too sick to survive major surgery, I was trying to ease the pain of her passing with morphine.
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