The things we are faced with at the end of life are unimaginable.
The mind is ready to unload it all in those last moments.
I suppose it's because when we know the end is coming, it's our last chance to try and make it right or unburden ourselves.
Just in case there is a hereafter.
And the people who always catch these last-minute monologues besides our loved ones?
Nurses and healthcare workers.
Redditor maaraa_h wanted to hear from healthcare workers who have been there in the end. They asked:
"Nurses of reddit, what where the most haunting things someone said on their deathbed?"
I have many a bean to spill. But I'd have to be on morphine to confess half of them.
"So this happened a couple of years ago. We had an ex-gang guy who was dying of cancer and he confessed that he was the gang hit-man for many years. He wanted to confess to all the killings and show the police where the bodies are buried."
"He would get closure knowing that the surviving families of his victims find out where they are buried. We had to get the hospital legal team involved cause we had no policies to deal with that. Cops got involved and the dude confessed to gang murders from decades ago."
"Was an EMT-B on the 911 unit that got a call about a hit and run. Cops were on the scene first. The area of the city I worked in was rough. Some guy and his GF had got into a fight in the parking lot. It ended with the guy running over his GF, then backing up over her. Needless to say, she wasn’t doing well, and her vitals were tanking."
"We loaded her up, with a fireman and police officer joined with us in the back of the rig. She kept mumbling 'Tell my mom. Please tell my mom.' And naturally I figured it was her asking us to let her mom know she was hurt. The hospital takes care of that and I put it out of my mind rather quick as we were working over her."
"She flatlined before we arrived. They did not get her back. My partner was finishing up her paperwork and we turned to give her wallet back to the staff. The nurse on duty, who I knew pretty well, was reading a dirty piece of paper. She looked disgusted. When I asked what was up she simply put the piece of paperwork down."
"It was a letter that was picked up near her purse on scene. She had gotten accepted into a college. I realized then that in the ambulance, she was asking us to tell her mom she got into college. That is a deep sadness I have never forgotten."
Cats know things...
"I provided hospice care for a loved one so she could die in her own home rather than a hospital. At the end, she became convinced that taking morphine for the pain was killing her. She would lay in agony asking me for help but refused the pain meds. I resorted to just raising and lowering her bed to help her get comfortable. The day she died her cat went from being aloof to sleeping on the bed with her. Cats know things."
"I had a patient whose memory had been fading for years. It’s weird, right before a patient dies, sometimes they’ll sudden be doing a lot better. Anyway, he thought I was his late wife. I played along and just listened to him while he recalled his engagement, his wedding, his first childbirth, and a few other memories for me."
"At one point, he says 'Oh! Irene, there you are! Sorry, you know my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. Well, thank you for listening to an old man tell his stories. I hope you have great stories to tell one day too. I’m coming, Irene.' And then he passed. He was my first long-time patient."
Wow. People really hold in a lot. Sad.
“Will I die?”
"I had to tell my grandmother that dialysis would only give her another week or so to live and it was her choice to try or not. She was in and out of consciousness at that point and was in a clear state for the moment. She asked, 'Will I die?' I said, 'yes.'"
"She looked me in the eye and smiled just a little and said, 'sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to do.' She closed her eyes, squeezed my hand and slept until she passed a day later. When things get hard, I always hear her say, 'sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to do.'"
“don’t let it bother you”
"Not a nurse, but my grandfather was put into a 24/7 care home with severe Parkinson’s. My mom and grandma had spent 4 years basically taking care of him constantly and needed a break for a couple weeks (although visiting him every other day in shifts)."
"I went one day alone and he looked me straight in the eye and said 'I need you to get me home so I can die, I can’t do it here.”' I tried saying everything I could to the nurses and my family to get him home without saying what he told me. 24 hours later he got rushed to emergency, as he was dying he looked at me and said 'don’t let it bother you' and died. Still bothers me."
Things in the world...
"While in hospice my grandma said to me... 'A, there are a great many things in this world worse than dying.' Then talked about how lucky she was to have lived the life she did. I had never looked at death like that before and that conversation truly changed me and my outlook. She was the most wonderful person."
“I found Jack”
"About 2 minutes before my grandma passed she had clarity (she’d suffered from severe dementia for years). She opened her eyes and said, 'I found Jack.' (My grandpa who’d died eight years prior). She said they were at a ball with their friends. Then she said, 'I’ve gotta go, he asked me to dance.' Then she was gone."
It's just death...
"Many moons ago when I was a nursing student, a man in his 40s was lying on his deathbed from terminal cancer, his sobbing wife lying in bed next to him. He looked at his wife, using the last bit of energy he had to gently wipe away her tears and stroke her cheek. He took off his oxygen mask and said 'don't worry love, don't be afraid. It's just death' and passed shortly after."
"Former CNA in the dementia unit of an assisted living facility. 'My dad is on his way to pick me up now.' She said that every time I checked on her until she died about a week after it started. While she was still mobile she would tidy her room and sit on the edge of her bed and just wait most of the day."
"Not a nurse, but my mom, uncle, and aunt all said that when their grandfather died, he kept telling people to kick out, 'that bald headed *itch' out of the room. When they'd ask who, he'd say, 'the one wearing the black shawl, she keeps knocking on the window.' There was no one there obviously, they think he saw the reaper or something like that.
"My patient grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and said 'please don’t let me die, I have a daughter.'”
"This is the one that gets me. I’ve made peace with the idea that I’m going to die someday not of my choosing but the idea of leaving my young children alone in this world terrifies me and fuels my desire to be a better parent."
Late in Life
"I’ve had multiple people begging for their mothers. It made me even more sad because it was people well into their 80s/90s, who’s mothers were obviously no longer around."
"My 85 y/o grandmother passed away on Monday. The day before she passed, when she was still able to speak, she thought I was her mother. She looked in my eyes and said 'It’s my mama.' That’ll stick with me for the rest of my life. That, and the single tear that fell from her eye the moment she passed."
“it is what it is”
"My great uncle’s last words before he passed were 'it is what it is.' I know it’s really common but I find myself saying it quite a lot nowadays. It is what it is My great aunt who lived to be 101 was straight vegetative for like a month or so before passing, the day after her 101st birthday."
"On the day OF her birthday, she suddenly was conscious and awake as everybody had come to leave a birthday cake. She told stories and laughed. Then she went back to being comatose and died the next day. Woman loved her birthday lol."
Forget you Family
"Not a nurse but was a cop and I was with a 20 year old who took his own life. He checked into a nice hotel and his parents reported him missing. Anyways they found out he was in a hotel by a credit card charge. I was the responding officer and when I arrived, I knocked on the door he answered and was really cool. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him if he was willing to come down stairs to meet with his parents."
"He went back into his room and I held the door open. It appeared he was putting on a jacket but he pulled out a gun, placed it on his temple and said, 'f**k my family, this is on them' and pulled the trigger. First time someone mulled themselves in front of me and wasn’t the last. That s**t haunts you years later."
"How long was I out for that time?"
"Looked after a guy with end stage heart failure. He kept having episodes where if he coughed or leaned forward - anything to increase his intra thoracic pressure, he would pass out. He would come back after a few minutes and gradually go from purple back to pink. 'How long was I out for that time?' He was fully mentally fine - sharp, witty and at peace with what was going to eventually happen to him."
"Him and me were joking that one of these episodes were going to kill him, as he sipped his tea and we talked rubbish. 5 minutes later it happened again and he didn't come back. He had a DNR order which was sensible. Very eerie to talk to somebody so vibrant and alert minutes before he died. Such a nice dude, I want to be in that mindset when I go too."
“I didn’t want to kill the kids”
"Physical Therapist here. I treated a man in his nineties who was a DNR/DNI. At least once a week when I would go to his room to start our sessions he would cry and say 'I didn’t want to kill the kids.' After speaking to his nurse, it was revealed that he had killed children in WW2. He collapsed during a session and said 'the kids are here to get me.' He died a few minutes later."
"My stepfather passed away last year. Towards the end he was very cranky and hadn’t treated my mother very kindly. Before he lost consciousness he was stroking her face saying ‘beautiful, beautiful’… that made me happy."
"My grandmother grasped the nurses hand and said 'I think I’m going to die now.' The nurse was telling her no she was doing much better and would likely leave soon but my grandmother was gone before she could finish her sentence. She knew."
"I’ve literally written 'impending sense of doom' on a patients chart. If they die I want it known I took them seriously! Doc laughed at me, I don’t care, I stand by upgrading that chart to a more serious code."
"My dad was in the hospital and found out he had lung cancer. It was him, my step mom, and a nurse in the room. He told my step mom to get him something just to get her to leave the room. The nurse said that before she could stop him he took off his oxygen mask, said 'I'm done' and he lost consciousness immediately. He was on life support for a day or so but he was already gone. When we pulled the plug his body died in less than 5 minutes. I guess he really was done."
Let it go. Let it go. It's all you can do.
And thank you, healthcare workers.
Want to "know" more?
Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.
Never miss another big, odd, funny or heartbreaking moment again.
Not all secrets are taken to the grave. In fact most secrets always find a way to be heard. Usually guilt is the key to unearthing confessions, it's often too much to bare.
I think it's because nobody wants to die guilty, just in case there is whole afterlife situation. It's best to start the next journey with a clean slate. That's why we hear so many tales about sudden deathbed confessions. Nurses, doctors, cops, witnesses have a plethora of memories and secrets they've been told. And I am here for all the tea.
People are scandalous! Shall we listen?
Redditor u/alyssaoftheeast wanted to hear all the dish health care workers have to serve, by asking:
Nurses of Reddit, what are some of the most memorable death bed confessions you've had a patient give?
I have no guilt. So I'll be taking it all to the grave. Unless of course my mind is rattled and I have no control over my senses. But if stay in control, my lips are sealed. Let's hear about the souls who felt the need to purge.
Be SureAnimated GIFGiphy
"I had a client (90 year old male) confess to his wife and children that while he was away on business, he obtained another family."
"He lived another two years. Wife and children kinda cast him off. He thought he was dying immediately of cancer, they were multimillionaires, he tried to spend as much as he could out of spite so his children wouldn't inherit any of it."
"Took care of a WW2 veteran with dementia. He would say the number "22" over and over and the family never knew the significance of it. The number didn't line up with any significant events or dates that they were aware of. The day before he died his mental state became incredibly clear and he started telling the staff "22 men. I killed 22 men over there." Poor guy. He lived with that anguish for 50+ years."
He knew this...
"Kind of similar I suppose. I'm a scrub nurse. My job is to assist the surgeon during surgeries. I was preparing an elderly patient for a pretty high risk surgery. There was a good chance he was going to be fine but there was also a decent chance things were going to go south. He knew this."
"While the CRNA is doing her thing getting the anesthesia ready I'm standing next to him going over his chart and signed releases and he says to me, "I need you to tell my wife I'm sorry for all the times I raised my voice at her. There weren't many times. But right now I wish there weren't any." That was the first time I ever got choked up at the bed side. Thank goodness for masks because it helped hide my expression."
"I so badly wanted to tell him everything was going to be okay but no one knew if it was going to be. I said back to him, "I'll do anything you need me to, but right now let's think about some happy memories before you go under." I asked him to tell me about he and his wife's first date. Once he was under I excused myself before scrubbing in to stop myself from crying. He made it through surgery and his wife was waiting for him after being transferred from the PACU."
"Kind of a confession. My grandmother was from Spain. At some point in my life I was like "Why don't I know how to speak Spanish?" So I asked my mom, as I've never heard her speak Spanish either. She said, "My mom came to America and was one of the 'we are in America now, so we speak English now' people."
"When we started pestering her to teach us Spanish, she claimed that she forgot how to speak it. We all kind of thought she was full of crap, but she was adamant about it. She was sharp as a tack until her mid 90s and lived alone. Finally, it was too much and we moved her to our house, and then to assisted living because she wanted to be closer to her friends."
"When she ended up in a nursing home because she was on her last legs, and her mind started to go, we caught her speaking Spanish to the mostly Hispanic staff. Basically, she had to go senile to forget that she told us that she couldn't speak Spanish. It was an unintentional confession that she always knew how to speak Spanish, but she just didn't want to because it wasn't the American thing to do."
Bye Now...sad miss you GIF by PBS KIDSGiphy
"Just the people who die alone. The next of kin is usually a distant niece or nephew. I hated those calls because I would inform them of the passing and they would just say, "Ok, thank you." And hang up."
Oof. See there? Now is why I say "lips are sealed." What if there is an eleventh hour miracle after I've confessed to some ludicrous sin? How embarrassing. No thank you. Who else spilled some tea?
I hear Toni...excited toni braxton GIF by Soul TrainGiphy
"My Grandfather lived into his 90s. According to my Grandma, his last lucid words the day before he passed was when he called out, "Unpoop my pants!" Not very profound, but very memorable, because that song was popular at the time, so now I always imagine that line sung in Toni Braxton's voice."
People Share The Most Selfless Thing They've Ever Secretly Done | George Takei’s Oh Myyy
"Nurse here. An old lady gave me some questionable advice. She was this 90-something Italian Nonna, all dressed in black skirts and dripping with rosary beads and crucifixes, very Catholic. She told me "to be happy in life, you need 3 men. 1 for the money, 1 for the love, 1 for the boom-boom-boom" (sex). Can't say I agree with her, but it's certainly memorable."
"I recently cared for a woman who had multiple acute strokes in a short amount of time. A week before she had been independent, riding her horse every day, still teaching part time at the local school, despite being in her 80s. By the time she got to me she was completely nonverbal, incontinent, and unable to feed herself."
"I had a feeling that she was neurologically intact enough to understand what was going on, so I talked to her as much as I could when I was in the room. Talked to her about her daughters who had called every day, her husband (who hadn't called, but I left that part out), the weather, her horses, her students who had sent a card. On the last day of my workweek, her daughter from out of state had finally found a flight up. They sat in silence and held hands for hours."
"Visiting hours ended right at shift change, so I walked in to give report as the daughter was saying goodbye. The patient then spoke what I knew were going to be her last words- 'I'll always be looking after you." And pointed to her daughter, and then at me, and then she fell asleep. Two days later when I came back to work, I was informed she had passed away in the night."
"One of the most challenging moments I had with a patient that was passing was a woman in her 80's with advanced dementia and trying to recover from a severe bed sore that had gone septic (from a nursing home with a bad reputation). She often confused me with her second husband, her daughter told me I looked a lot like him. The patient would often talk about "our" sexual exploits including swinging and partner swapping as well as very wild "adventures."
"I had given up on trying to tell her I was not her husband because I just confused her and upset her so I learned to just play along. She talked to me often about "our" children and other family and many non-sexual adventures they had. It made her happy to talk about it and often left me with a smile."
"quite a few"alfred hitchcock noir GIF by Warner ArchiveGiphy
"My husband isn't a nurse, but he is a police officer. He has heard "quite a few" dying declarations at crime scenes. People confessing to crimes, witnesses to crimes or telling cops all the info about something. It is admissible and he had to write everything down. Crazy stuff."
"I was speaking with a nurse and she said that a lot of patients pass away alone because they don't feel right passing over with other people present. That is why you have a lot of people waiting bedside, then go home and 10 minutes later... the person passes away. Apparently happens all the time."
A Sliver Lining
"My dad loves small town auctions and over the years he collected all those boxes of stuff that would go for the lowest bid. He amassed quite a collection, filling the garage and a workshop out back. He always promised Mom he'd sell it all some day in some big garage sale or auction of his own."
"Then one day my mom's cancer returned and the doctors told us this time it wasn't a fair fight. Two weeks before she passed I was sitting with her in the hospital. We'd run out of things to say. She looked up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the pain, and said, "Thank God at least I won't have to deal with your dad's stuff." Me and mom burst out laughing. Don't tell my Dad."
See ya soon...
"The last conversation my grandma and i had before she died was when she was dozing off and i was watching Ghost Adventures. She asked if i really believed in that kind of stuff. I told her yes and when she died she can come back and haunt me to prove me right. She just said, "oh ok" and went back to napping. She died the next week."
"speeding up her pass"Love You Goodbye GIF by truTV’s At Home with Amy SedarisGiphy
"My aunt was a nurse and had some pretty strange stories about it. I think the worst of all was about another nurse that was brought after a car crash. She was terrified about someone "speeding up her pass" because of her injuries. She told my aunt that was a common practice and admitting doing it herself several times."'
"There was a gentleman on his deathbed at 56 years old. He was pissed off yelling that he started at an early age going to preschool-- to get into the right grade school --to get into the right high school-- to get in to the right Ivy league University and high paying job. That was the year he was to set up his family for life being able to fund their college and pay off the mortgage. This went on for about 4 hours before he passed. Truly tragic."
"My mom and I look very similar, the only difference is our hair color (she's got black hair and I'm blond). But when she was my age, she bleached her hair, so functionally I just look like my mother in her 20s. My grandfather went downhill in his last year and his Alzheimer's got worse, to the point where he didn't know a lot of people. But he could recognize me, not as his grandchild, but as his 20-something year old daughter. I played along, and got a lot of stories out of him. They're fun memories, but they hurt all the same."
"I'm an intern and I work with the elderly at a day centre. A 90something year old man (who was very loved by everyone) was committing euthanasia (which is legal in the Netherlands) that afternoon. He still wanted to come to us. All the nurses and social workers were pretty emotional for his last day. It can be weird to talk to someone in the morning, knowing they will end their lives that afternoon."
"I got to go on a walk with him. I was pushing his wheel chair and we just talked about life. That one hour he taught me so so so much about life. He told all about his trauma from WW2, about how it affected him and about how he overcame it. He never told anyone, not even his wife, about everything that happened. He gave me so many life lessons that day, and I will be always be thankful for that."
"Zoot Suit Riots"
"Worked in a nursing home for about a decade doing hospice, rehab, and all kinds of long-term care stuff. Anyway, I had a fellow who had worked at the Army Film Unit in LA during the war. As he was dying, when it looked like he wasn't going to make it through the night- I sat with him and just talked. He was remarkably lucid the entire time. He told me that he'd been present at the "Zoot Suit Riots" and had stabbed a man to death and was never prosecuted."
"I never could find any evidence of anyone having been killed during those 5 days in LA when the riots took place. Maybe he killed someone not related to the fray at all. Anyway... he also told me about getting a BJ from Rosemary Clooney in a bar on Sunset so, who knows."
Accept PeopleEpisode 9 Hug GIF by The SimpsonsGiphy
"Doctor here - working in the deep south I've heard a lot of patients regret disowning their gay/lesbian children and the relationship they could've had."
"Unfortunately rigid religious/political dogma tears apart more families than most people realize. Life is short. Accept people, especially the ones you love, for who they are and not who you would like them to be. That's always been the takeaway lesson I got from hearing these stories."
"My first year as a nurse I worked in palliative care. Had a 28yo dying of cancer. She moved here from Canada to be with her boyfriend who left her a year after moving. We weren't expecting her to deteriorate so fast. I held her hand as she died alone without her family or friends."
"But right before she died, she told me she wished she never left Canada and cried. Her family were overseas and couldn't make it in time. It's memorable to me because it reminds me to tell my family I love them regularly and to spend time with friends and to stop making excuses."
I hope the nurses and death crews out there are keeping journals. Some of this is tragic, but most of it is comedy gold. Oh my.
Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.