The topic of death is often difficult to deal with for many. It’s understandable. Not many wish to die, but its inevitability is something that terrifies even the bravest. Nevertheless, we have a fascination towards it. So much so, that people’s last dying words mean something incredible. Even if they aren’t very profound, by virtue of being their last, they’re important.
“Cardiac ICU: Had a gentleman who was DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) 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 looked me in my eyes and said ‘Hey, whats 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.”
“‘But I don’t know how to get there’…Grandpa in hospice. Hadn’t spoken in days. Died about 2 hours later.”
“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). One minute he was joking around with us and the next bright red blood was spewing out of his mouth. His last words before he died were ‘why is this happening to me?’ It still haunts me years later.”
“‘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.”
“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.”
“My grandfather on his deathbed said ‘they have no eyes,’ still give me chills.”
“‘You’re not gonna believe this…’
Talk about a cliffhanger. Can’t wait for season 2 of Old Man With Heart Failure.”
“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.”
“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 quite 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.”
“Back when I was a CNA this one resident fell off a bike for exercise in PT and seized, then came to and became lucid and said ‘I think I’m dying,’ but everyone in the room assured her that wasn’t going to happen, she seized up and was dead within minutes.”
“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 he 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.”
“DNR patient was on comfort care. 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.”
“Checked in on a patient before the end of my shift and she was in good spirits, had been joking with me the whole time. Her condition was tenuous (new trach) but she had been positive throughout. I asked how she was doing and she replied by singing ‘The old gray mare ain’t what she used to be’ and wished me a good night.
I came in the next morning and she had coded and died overnight.”
“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.”
“Came into an early shift and was handed over a patient who’d been very anxious and had a panic attack overnight. He was anxious all morning but OBS all fine, ECG fine and so I just asked someone to sit with him to keep an eye on him/reassure him for me. He gets worse, really panicky, heavy breathing, he’s on his side in the fetal position. Doctors will be in in 10 minutes so I tell him I’ll get them to him as soon as they come in, but I ask if he’ll lie on his back for me to help his breathing.
He tells me he won’t make it until they get here and that he won’t face the other way. OBS still all fine at this point but he’s more agitated so again I suggest he move position for comfort and that’s when he says ‘I won’t make it until the Doctors get here. If I turn to face the other way I’ll die.’ He repeated this a few times to me.
He arrested literally as the Doctors walked in and he died on the side he’d been refusing to turn to. I’m convinced he knew.”
“I had this patient who had a stroke. After that he recovered fine but did get pneumonia like 4 weeks into his recovery. The last words he said to me was at like 4 in the morning.
‘You took his girl and you will burn in hell for it.’
I actually took a girlfriend from a friend of mine. Somehow he knew.”
“I actually have 3 that stick out in my mind. An 83 year old woman that said ‘my mom’s here. Are we going?’ She died a few minutes later.
Another older lady said ‘I think I’m going to die today…’ We took vitals, everything seemed fine. She was stable. She had a heart attack a couple hours later. Not her last words, but the last she ever said to me.
The last one is definitely the creepiest. 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.”
“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.”
“My first code as a nurse was of a middle aged mother who we think ended up having a brain bleed. I was trying to check her vitals and she was super agitated (and had been all day- she managed to bend her IV pole somehow). She was ripping her gown off, and the sheets off the bed, and she’d yanked her heart monitor off. I was trying to start a blood transfusion, but needed to get her vitals beforehand, which was impossible because she wouldn’t stay still long enough for any of it to read. I’d given her a sedative (for what we thought was anxiety), and I was praying it would kick in soon.
She kept grabbing my arm saying ‘Come here. Look at me! Help me!’ with fear in her eyes that I will never forget. I’m pretty sure I snapped back, ‘I’m trying!’ which I of course wish was something comforting instead. Then she leaned back, her eyes got droopy, she shut her mouth, then snapped her eyes wide open but totally glossed over. She took one last breath as a coworker was helping me while I called the code.”
“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.”
17 y/o female, car crash: ‘Please, please, please…don’t tell my parents I was drinking.’”
“I’m an RN and while I was a student I was caring for a lady who had end stage renal failure, had a DNR and was shutting down. We were having a little chat, well I was chatting away while helping her put on some lotion, when she stopped, looked over my shoulder and said ‘Bill’s here love, I’ve got to go’ and swiftly stopped breathing. Read her old notes and Bill was her deceased husband.”
“I’m a hospital chaplain: When I was a CPE intern (a greenhorn) I went to see a patient in the ICU who had 10 to 12 oranges on her table. We talked about oranges for about 20 minutes and then she said, ‘Somethings going to happen.’
I went to check on her the next day and the nurse mentioned that she passed the previous night. I asked if anyone else talked with her and she said no. So, the last conversation she had was about oranges with me. I kind of wish we talked about something else; however, the nurse said that was a worthy conversation that the patient wanted to talk about. It made me feel better.”
“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 her (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 laboring to breathe, in and out of consciousness 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 :(“
“I had an old lady flag me down in the hallway a few days before she died and 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.”