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What is it like to watch someone die?

What is it like to watch someone die?

I spoke to a woman last week whose husband died earlier this month.  She said that no-one had told her what it might be like to watch him die – I mean actually be present at the moment of death – and that it would have been really great if someone had. She hadn’t known what to expect and found the event a little more confusing and scary because of this.

So here I go.

I’ve seen plenty of dead bodies, but actually seeing death occur is a very different thing.  I have been present at one death of a family member and heard plenty of stories from clients and others who also have.  And there is one thing to know:  most of us have seen too much TV and watched too many movies….and expect our loved one to smile one last time at us, sigh gently, then close their eyes and let their head fall slightly to one side.  This is how we know they are gone.

Now it might happen like this sometimes….but it definitely isn’t always how it goes.

Coming into this world isn’t that easy.  Why would going out necessarily be?  To be born is physically and emotional a bit stressful.  And generally going out can be too.  The body can react to death in all sorts of odd ways.  So does the mind.  Right before death people can become confused, delirious, they might hallucinate or become aggressive. They may also be very placid and peaceful.  Anything is an option here.  Likewise with the body – it could be very quiet and calm…or it could do some odd or worrying or even frightening things.  This doesn’t mean the person you are with is in serious pain or fighting too hard and wanting to stay. It is just part of the process, like birth, of a huge transition.  It can be a bit scary or unsettling to see…or maybe not.  The death I witnessed was not pretty – my grandad’s body did some strange things – but I’m glad I was there for it and I feel it was a great honour to have been present and been able to witness the closing of his life.  I don’t feel like he was suffering or that it was necessarily traumatic for him.  But it takes effort and a bit of struggle sometimes for the butterfly to get out of it’s cocoon, even though this is the most natural thing in the world for it to do.  Likewise the spirit releasing from the body is going to take a bit of effort….and that effort might show up physically.  It certainly did with Grandad.

Not to say the experience is for everyone though.  Again, straight out of the movies is the idea that they die with us around them holding their hands…and that this is the way it should be.  If you have guilt about not being present at a death in the past…or fear of being at a future one…here is a blog I wrote a while ago about why it isn’t the right thing for everybody.

So if you know you are going to be present as someone dies (and most of us will at least once in our lives) then just be prepared for whatever might happen.  It might be a quiet eventless passing…or the opposite.  Know you are present at a massive event in someone’s life and that, like all great transitions, it might not look easy.  That doesn’t mean it is awful or wrong or even as traumatic for them as you might imagine.

I would love to hear about your thoughts or comments, especially if you have experienced being present at a death. Feel free to share below!

Kristie

xx

P.S.   If you are struggling and need a little bit of help and support right now…then I have designed this gentle little course  just for you.

{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate November 4, 2011 at 1:54 am

I was with my mom when she died 2 weeks ago. As a nurse, I have experienced the death of patients numerous times but of course this experience was much different. Mom was only 71 years old but had been declining both in her physicial health as well as her mental health. I cared for her at home for over a year but a few months ago, after yet another emergency room visit, it was apparent that I could no longer provide her with safe care. It broke my heart to place her in a nursing facility. I went there everyday after work and often over my lunch time. Two weeks ago I received a call from the home. Mom’s breathing was ‘different’. I immediately went to the nursing home and when I walked into her room and looked at her there was no question that her time with us was coming to an end. She appeared to struggle to get air into her lungs. Dad, my sister and I sat with her until the end. Neither my dad or my sister had ever witnessed death firsthand. After about 1 hour, as we sat there, dad said “I don’t think she’s breathing anymore”. As I watched her chest, I tried to will her back to breathing but it was over. We sat with her for almost 2 hours after she died. The hospice nurses came in and cleaned her up, combed her hair and closed her mouth. My sister looked at her and remarked that mom looked 15 years younger. She was right. Once the struggle ended, she looked so peaceful and actually did look younger than she had in years.
Being there when she died was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. No matter how sad , I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be with this wonderful woman and loving mom as she left this world. I miss her so much.

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Kristie West November 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

Hi Kate, thanks so much for sharing. The more people have an understanding of what it can be like – the beautiful and the ugly – the more prepared they can be, if being there at the death is something they will do or choose to do….so thank you so much for sharing your story here for others to read.
Often the most difficult things turn out to also be the most beautiful and profound, don’t they?

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Amanda Allen February 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Hi I’m 12 a girl 7 just died I’m nothing to her but I feel bad for her because my great grandmother died with a illness the same way the girl did !!!

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Amanda Allen February 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Thank you:-)

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sandra November 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I was there for my husband at the time of his passing and it was very peaceful, Im proud that I was able to hold him it was the last thing I could do for him. My husband lived for just 6 months after his diagnosis, he didnt want to die he was 58. We meant so much to each other. He knew he was dying and tried to prepare me for it, he sorted out his finances and made this side easier for me. During the last month he didnt come down stairs, he was more weak, he slept more, he had stopped eating solids. During the last week he started whispering to consume energy, he was only eating a biscuit or something to please me, he started whispering rubbish one night, he was asking me to dictate a letter, then he would talk as if he was in the war, it didnt make sense to me. I would say the next day you kept me awake talking rubbish we would laugh about it, then he started to hallucinate seeing spiders, but he knew he was hallucinating, we again would laugh over it, then he started to pick at the sheets or his tshirt in bed, Id say what are you doing and hold his hands to stop him, he would reach out as if catching or throwing things, so I would just sit and talk, take his mind off it. Afew days before he died he asked me for a sip of water and coughed it up I noticed it was black and said sorry I gave you coke, so as not to worry him, He then couldnt swollow his tablets 3 nights before he died, so the Nurses gave him the syringe driver, I noticed the day before he died he asked for the bottle to wee, when he wiped himself there was definite blood. I quickly took it away and said nothing. The morning of his death he was awake and telling me he loved me and vise versa, he said to me Im dying, I said I know, God and I had a difference of opinion on his life span and God was winning. he was in more pain so the Mcmillan nurses gave him an injection and he slept more, I was fighting a loosing battle, it hurt so much, I held him in my arms all day and night telling him I loved him,talking to him, kissing, holding him safe, I could see he was slipping away, I had called his family and they too sat around the bedroom with their dad, I promised I wouldnt leave him, he knew I was with him, up to about 3 hours before he died I kept saying pucker your lips give us a kiss, It was breaking my heart, he was getting weaker, his feet and hands started to go cold, yet his head was sweating, his breathing was quick for a while and then slowed down, he had tears at the side of his face, his eyes glazed over, his mouth was constantly open and I kept telling him I loved him, it was ok to let go, Id be ok not to worry, all the time I was thinking please dont go, (I knew it would be my time after he had gone to cry openly)
they say the hearing is the last to go and I know he was listening, his colour changed on his top lip it went bluish his breathing got slower, he looked at me around the room and went, his eyes stayed open. I didnt want him to die, but I felt helpless unable to stop it. I am glad I was with him. Its not for some people but it was right for us. I didnt know what to expect, if I had known that the last week was probably a sign, stages of death, ie hallucinations, picking at sheets etc, I think I would have understood better, I know every death is different but to have that little insight? I dont know. I kept a kind of diary not every day, and only now on reading it, have realised the changes month to month, how ill he became, when your living it 24/7 you dont really realise whats happening. It helps to write it down and reflect later. Well It helped me.

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Kristie West November 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

Hi Sandra, being the inspiration for this post than you so very much for sharing your story. Hopefully now when someone like searches for a bit of information around this they can find this post and read your ad Graham’s story and feel a little more prepared and aware.
Hope you’re well. As I said when we spoke, get in touch whenever you like. xx

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Anonymous June 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Thank You for your post! I have been searching exactly for this solice. I needed to understand the hallucinations and picking at the sheets. Grabbing things out of the air. I just couldn’t understand this. Then the blood in the urine, the unable to swallow his pills. You described it all. I needed this peace to know, that it can happen this way.

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Kristie West June 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm

You are welcome. I am so glad that this post and everyone’s comments have helped you out.
Kristie
xx

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Laurie August 15, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I am having a very blue day so to speak. My husband and best friend of eight years had a massive heart attack, but God gave him an additional six weeks and trying everything under the sun to save him. We had that additional time to have so lighthearted talks. We never gave up home for a miracle. When the doctors came in and said “Two days to two weeks” it was so hard to wrap our brains around that. My husband told me that I needed to “Be Strong” . At the time, I thought I was being strong and looking back I was. In the hospital he started grabbing at the sheets. Hallucinating. Talking crazy stuff out of his head. At first it scared me. I ask the nurse “Is this part of it?” She replied “Yes”. I cried all the way to work where I had to pretend that everything was okay. We they released us for hospice I became the primary care giver. It was only three days, but it was the hardest three days of my life. Watching him slip further and further away. No eating. No drinking. Eyes rolled in the back of his head. Mouth wide open. He had congestive heart failure. So as it minute ticked on he struggled for air. It was horrible. We did the best we could to make him comfortable. I too wish I would have had some insight as to what to expect. I thought hospice would be there making him comfortable and me less stressed but it was the complete opposite. In many ways I have gone through a lot of dark times and then I will level out and just kinda go through the motions. Today I cried for 1 1/2 hours straight and I’m just blue. It’s been a little over two months. I just want to fast forward time and this be over but I know it’s a process. I don’t wish them on anyway. Grief is not a sign of weakness but a sign of the unconditional love you had for that person. I see him in nature and silly little things, but his is there to remind me that part of him lives in my heart forever. Thank you for sharing.

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Hope November 6, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I have seen death both ways. I was with my husbands grandmother holding her hand when she left this world so peacefully. It seemed like a beautiful thing. There was no more pain or suffering just peace. I felt honored to be at her side. Watching as she drew her last breath.
I was with my mother on May 12,2011 when she passed. It was awful. I believe that in the end she did suffer. It is something I struggle with everyday. Death can be an amazing, peaceful experience, but that is not always the case. I wish I didn’t know that first hand. That being said I would do it again. I would sit at her side and hold her hand despite the ugliness that occured. She was there when I came into the world and I got to be there when she went out. I am glad I was there, but I wish it could have been peaceful.

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Kristie West November 7, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hiya Hope, thanks so much for sharing your story too.
We often want for them to have a ‘peaceful’ death but, as you know, this is not always (I would actually say not usually) the case. My grandad’s death was certain an ‘uglier’ moment to watch.
I think sometimes we put so much weight on what those last few moments look like…but these physical struggles in the last moments or days are usually nothing compared to some of the challenges that they have been through in life…and survived and grown from. And sometimes it is the fact that they struggle and are in pain that brings us closer to them or gets them a bit more medical attention they might need. Sometimes it is also what draws the family together, as with my grandad’s death, as everyone there was also supporting each other through such a difficult moment – which brought us all that little bit closer and more open to each other in our pain and confusion.
xx

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Anonymous September 18, 2014 at 2:46 am

My mom died same month..day and year

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Laura smith November 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm

For me being with my dad when he died was relief after a long time worrying I would not be there but there was a lot I was not prepared for and I think I would have understood better if this was a topic that people were a bit more prepared to talk about.

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Kristie West November 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Hi Laura,
There are so many aspects of death…or even death itself…that people aren’t willing to talk about, which can have such a detrimental effect for so many reasons.
Working on it! :)

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Kimberly January 9, 2012 at 9:41 am

I will not be able to put into words how much reading your blog helped me. I am right now sitting by my great aunt’s hospital bed as she takes the final steps out of this world. She is calm and not in pain but until I read your thoughts comparing this process to a birth I couldn’t understand why this was so difficult for her. She has been non-responsive for over twelve hours and while I still pray this will end soon for her, I am much more at peace with her transition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding me that like childbirth, this process can be difficult but she will be blessed when the end is here.

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Kristie West January 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

You are so welcome Kimberley. And thank you for your comment – I know others will find it helpful, just as you have found some of the comments before you helpful I’m sure. It’s lovely that you are able to share this time with your great aunt and feel at peace with where she is at. We know it’s an honour to be at someone’s birth, but rarely do we consider that it’s also an honour (though it still isn’t right for absolutely everyone) to be present at their death which, like their birth, is a very important milestone in their existence.
Feel free to stay in touch and let me know how you’re going and what happens. I have other blogs around this topic you might find useful – just let me know where you are at.
Thinking of you and sending love,
Kristie
xx

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Marissa February 24, 2012 at 12:36 am

I just watched my father pass away about 3 weeks ago at this point. By all means it appeared to me it was peaceful for him and harder on the family while he lingered for 5 days in limbo, but when it came time for him to actually pass I remember with grave detail the death rattle the morning of, the last breaths that lasted 5-10 minutes althout they only came 1-2 minutes apart, the tear rolling down his face, and his mouth hanging open like it was an exit for the soul to exit his body. I also stayed in the room for 3-4 hours after his actual transition was over. Although I may never forget the things I’d never want to see again, I was so greatful to share that time with my father.

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Kristie West February 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Hi Marissa,
thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.
Sending much love to you and your family right now.
Kristie
xx

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Katie Absher April 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I just went through the experience with my Grandmother. She was very much suffering and every breath was toil for her in the end. She had a massive stroke and was not able to speak or communicate in the last few days of her life. What amazed me about the experience was how I instinctively knew when she was going to pass. I literally had groceries in my car and was on my way home when something told me I needed to go see her first before I went home. Earlier that day I read a lot of scripture to her, sang to her and told her I would come back later in the evening to be with her if she was ready to let go then. I told her I would be there so momma wouldn’t have to be and so she wouldn’t be alone. That was at 2 p.m. So I went and did more work that day for my job and then when work was over that day, I stopped by the grocery store about 7:20 p.m. and then instead of going home, went back to her. About 10 minutes after I arrived, and telling her it was ok to let go, my cousin showed up. About 10 minutes into his visit, she passed. She woke up for a moment, squeezed his hand and then like a feather, just floated away. I watched her chest shallow and my cousin and I looked at each other intensely like “is this it?” and then I knew she was gone. It was the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing I have ever witnessed.
I was in a sort of shock, very calm for a day afterwards. Then I got a sad and sullen depression that kicked in. I kind of walked around in a daze for a few days. It was very bizarre.
Nothing can prepare you for a moment like that whether it is peaceful or not, it is so surreal. I will never forget it.

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Katie Absher April 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I felt the need to say, she was on Hospice and we were told a few weeks tops for her survival due to the stroke. People were coming in and out a lot during the last week, so it wasn’t a sudden issue of if she was going to pass, but a matter of when.

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Kristie West April 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Hi Katie, thank you for sharing your experience with us here. I love the line “It was the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing I have ever witnessed.” – being witness to a death very much has the potential to be both.
I was with a friend who was lying early last year and wrote a blog about it which you might find interesting for a slightly different perspective on the experience…..

Kristie
xx

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Dianna May 3, 2012 at 2:00 am

I am reading this information trying to help and prepare myself for what is to come tomorrow. My grandmother is 85 and had gotten significant pneumonia. We are trying to respect her wishes before traching her they are going to try and ween her off life support (oxygen) and if she makes it she makes it and if not its a DNR. My mother and family are torn as am I, I need to be there for my grandmother and family tomorrow, I dont know what to expect, at this point im freaking out.

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Kristie West May 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Hi Dianna,

sorry for the delay – I only just spotted your comment! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help the day you needed it. How did everything go? How are you now?
Much love,

K
xx

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Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 7:14 am

Im writing a book for teenagers and in it a character dies I want it to seem real but I don’t want my readers to be too disturbed any suggestions

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Kristie West May 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Hi there,

this isn’t an easy question to answer. In terms of realistic there isn’t a single death scenario you could pick that wouldn’t match at least a few people’s experience. Death can be anything from someone going in their sleep, or just drifting away, to quite a physical, almost aggressive or even violent, struggle. It can be quick or very very slow.
My concern is when we see and read too many fairytale death-scenes where someone closes their eyes and ‘gently slips away’ because this sets people up to be very traumatised when they are around someone who is dying and the experience isn’t like this…..which it often isn’t. BUT that’s my concern…not necessarily yours. :)
My recommendation would be to write it and have some teenagers read it and gauge their reaction as to whether it is too disturbing or not. That would be what I would do to be sure.
Hope that helps,

Kristie

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Beth June 4, 2012 at 6:02 pm

My Granny passed away this morning with my sisters and my aunt by her side. We spent 12 hours in ICU, all night, waiting for the inevitable. I have always been terrified for dead bodies and wasn’t sure what to expect when the moment came. I had been watching her vitals like a hawk all night and noticed her heart rate slowly, yet steadily dropping and my sister noticed she wasn’t breathing. Within a matter of seconds, she was gone. Her heart rate dropped below 40 and then dissipated. It was the most scary and relieving moment and I was completely at ease with the fact that she laid there dead. She is now with my Grandad and he came to pick her up. She had no pain, no gasp for air, or even heart rate increase. She simply slipped away peacefully; the best way to go in my opinion. I miss her so deeply right now. I want her back, but I know this is what she wanted and was for the best. It only took six months for her to be reunited with her husband, and she no longer feels the pain. I love you Granny with all of my heart and I know the day that I see you again will be glorious! Enjoy your eternal cruising with Grandad and bon voyage!

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Hi Beth,
thanks for sharing your story with us all.
I love that you can admit your fear…and your relief. It is so key to be able to feel and admit ALL of our emotions, not just the obvious painful ones.
Lots of love
Kristie
xx

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Anonymous January 25, 2014 at 5:33 pm

my dad had suffered several major operations in his bid to walk again after a stroke unfortunately he had to endure 3 visits to intensive care unit, and 17month stay in hospital after things went wrong .on 22nd February he was admitted again to hospital with breathing problems as my daughter and brother were present my dad took the oxygen mask off and said ;they have sent me back;?when told to put the mask back on his face he again stated the exact same words, as me and my sister arrived we said hello dad he opened his eyes looked at the 4 of us that were around his bed and smiled and closed his eyes , he died a few hours later im comforted to think somebody had come to take dad, and after all his suffering he was now at peace

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Zoey June 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm

My grandfather past away earlier this year. I’m thirteen years old and it was the first death I had experienced. And I’m so grateful I was there, it’s the circle of life my parents told me. It’s nature and as normal as anything. He had been diagnosed only two months earlier, and we visited him in the hospital. The very last days of his life he wanted to be home, so we all sat around his bed in the living room. I’ll never forget the last day. He was already semi-concious and his eyes were closed. I sat next to him, at one moment my parents were in the kitchen and I was alone with him so I talked to him. I told him about my school and my grades, and that I’m going to play tennis in a big tournament. As long as he knew he wasn’t alone, and somebody was next to him. The nurses told me I was very brave. We all gathered in the lving room, and we were all present at his death that evening. It was quiet and peaceful, yet the most overwhelming thing I have experienced. I kissed him on his cheeck and said rest in peace grandad. I could only cry an hour later when it hit me. I wouldn’t of have wanted to miss it, ever.

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Kristie West November 21, 2012 at 12:01 am

Hi Zoey,
this is my favourite line – “It’s nature and as normal as anything.” very very true.
Much love
Kristie
xx

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Kaicee October 28, 2013 at 12:59 am

hi Kristie! i’m writing an essay on a book where one of the characters gets dragged to death. i’m writing my essay about how the main character grows and matures and feels after watching this. can you help me? the character that dies was very close to the main character in the book

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Kristie West October 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Hi Kaicee, write to me directly if you like. I’ll help if I can! kristie@kristiewest.com

Kristie
xx

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jimmy July 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I am doing this now,for my mom.

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Kristie West August 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Sending you and your mum (mom) lots and lots of love Jimmy.
K
xxx

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amanda walters August 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm

My mother passed away just over 2 weeks ago. We found out 21 days prior that she had breast cancer and 7 days before her death that it was grade 4 and terminal as it had spread to her bones and lungs. just after the terminal diagnosis mum went very quickly downhill. She didn’t want to go into hospital nor into a hospice and i discussed this with her cancer nurse. I said this was VERY IMPORTANT to mum and therefore to us that her wishes were respected. I was with her 24 hours a day in the 7 days that lead to her passing. She slept most of this time and took great peace in knowing that i was there. even though she could not speak much due to her terrible lung cancer cough I knew she loved me just being there. By this time she was too poorly to climb the stairs. So i took 1 sofa and she took the other. I sat with her…we chatted when she could….I watched her sleep…I told her I loved her and that she had given me the best life EVER and I couldn’t thank her enough for being an amazing inspiring woman and mum to me and my sister….I cared for her….I would NOT change this time for anything it was very special. 7 days and 7 nights I was there…at night i listened to her breath at peace sometimes other nights restless but i was there watching her caring for her. She died 7 days after finding out her illness was grade 4. She was at home with me and my sister. She had gone for a shower she wanted to be ‘clean’ its was her first day of chemotherapy. She didn’t make it. She died in the bathroom. My sister after washing her – mum for the first time asked for my sisters help and thanked her for cleaning her. She asked for some clothes my sister had left the room and come down to ask me to help her with the clothes. In that time mum started to go. We went to the bathroom – mum was going. She was there naked, sitting on the closed toilet…her eyes were rolling, she was making strange noises. We didn’t know what to do. We called 999. They talked us through CPR. But all that time all we felt was peace. We helped mum but she had gone…we watched as she went ‘grey’ her breathing slowed. We knew we had lost her. But all that time she was peaceful. She took her last breath as we heard the ambulance siren…..we believe she didnt want anyone else there – just me and natalie. We feel so so so blessed that we were there together as a family just the 3 of us….great love shared from the moment of our birth to the moment of her death. I cannot say how amazingingly blessed we are for this moment. It was not a peaceful passing – the visions of her physically passing and her spirit departing were actually distressing. But all we felt was peace and thanks what an amazing experience for us. The ambulance men continued CPR for 30 mins at home and all the way to hospital but we knew she had gone…we didnt want her to be revived that moment was too special we knew that the time was right and how she wanted. may our mum RIP we love her and we loved being there with her to the end xxx

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Hi Amanda,
what a beautiful experience you girls had with your mum. Thank you for sharing.
Kristie
xx

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Keri August 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for all the posts here. I’m about to start my nursing degree, and the thing I’m scared of the most is seeing someone die. I’m a very emotional person, and I have never seen anything like that. I dont want to freak out, and I’m someone who cries when someone else cries, even if I have no real connection to the situation. As a nurse, I’m also going to have to be supportive of the families that are present while making my patient comfortable, and I’m really nervous about it. I do feel a little better reading these posts though, I do feel as though I’ll be ok :) I do hope all the people here who have lost loved ones, are doing better :)

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

Hi Keri,

I’m so glad everyone on here has been able to help you out! I know that means a lot to people who post too. To many being present at a death can seem scary…because we are scared of death itself. But I see being present at a death as a great honour…just like being present at a birth. You will be in the best possible place to face death and start to see the beauty that is always around it. :)
Kristie
xx

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Angie March 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I used to be so afraid of death before.. Then in Nov. 12, 2011 my boyfriend suddenly passed away in our apt. He had fallen asleep the nite before on the couch & had just said he was very tired. I went to sleep in our bedroom. Early the next morning I was awaken by a loud “snoring” sound, so I rushed to check on my bf.
I tried waking him & called out his name, but he was unresponsive. I then called 911 & the paramedics where there within minutes. They tried CPR for 30 min. straight to get a pulse, but sadly it was too late.. After this sad & traumatic event that happened in my Life, I know look at Life & Death in a different way. I am no longer afraid of death & find it to be a very peaceful state. I now take each day of my Life as a “Gift” and will not be afraid when it’s my time to go.

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Kristie West April 2, 2013 at 7:18 am

Thanks for sharing this Angie. That you now don’t have the same fear of death and that you see each day as a gift…these are things you can thank your boyfriend for. So often someone’s legacy is the people around them destroyed – and unfortunately this is not just acceptedbut expected in our society. The way you see life and death and each day now are part of your boyfriend’s legacy. Each day you get a little more out of, every little thing you feel appreciative for that you may not have before – these are all part of his legacy too.
K
xxx

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Bree October 10, 2012 at 7:46 am

Haunted

On July 19, 2012 just a few months ago, it finally happened. The cancer was finishing her off; shutting down her organs. Ultimately, her lungs stopped functioning, the body and the brain could not receive anymore oxygen. The doctors had her doped up on morphine; yet, you could see the pain–it showed on her sunken face. The lack of oxygen flow to her brain caused her to go into stroke. A few hours before, I realized this would probably occur. Blood leaked from her mouth. It was as if her phantom soul was escaping her body.

Aunt Charlene was fighting cancer as long as I can remember. She was my mom’s brother’s wife who was like a sister to her – she came into my mother’s life when my mom was a teenager, just fourteen years old. Charlene was one of my mom’s best friends. She was one of the best people you could ever meet: a wife, a mom, a teacher, and everyone’s best friend. Everyone loved Charlene. More than ten years ago she was diagnosed with a rare cancer. The doctors tried for a decade to cure it. She was a fighter. Somehow, she pulled through to see both of her daughters – Heather and Melissa – married off to wonderful men. The doctors kept performing surgeries, removing the cancer from her abdominal; they tried chemotherapy; they tried anything to keep her alive. In more recent years they were trying new techniques like the ways they use to cure breast cancer. It worked a little bit, but it didn’t last.
Melissa got married on New Year’s Day of 2012. The wedding, of course, took a lot of planning. Although her sickness was worsening, she did an incredible job planning the beautiful wedding. The doctors were encouraging. They said she could get better. That was the main mistake. It was urgent, but the hospital didn’t perform. Charlene was looking online for cures around the world. No one had a way to cure this cancer.
Along with everyone else, I had the misconception that she was going to be okay.
Besides the constantly growing lumps in her stomach, she put on a happy face though all events.
But then everything changed. On May 18, 2012, my brother, Adam, graduated from Kinkaid. Charlene seemed fine, but something was off. She never complained, but this night, sitting on the bleachers at school watching the graduation, she was in pain. It was all over her face. She was saying the seat was uncomfortable. My grandma and I, sitting on either side of her, did everything we could to comfort her. Looking back, my mom and I had wanted to get cushions for her and my grandma from the school store; they were fifty-five dollars each; we didn’t think it was worth it at the time. My mom felt so guilty after that. Charlene had been very sick. We didn’t know. This was the last major event Charlene attended with my family.
She started staying in bed more often. Hardly leaving the house. My mom went to doctor’s appointments with her all the time.
Before I went out of town, we went to visit her. I would be gone for two weeks and we didn’t want to take any chances for me not to get to say goodbye. She was laughing and talking. Except, she had huge lumps in her stomach bigger than they ever were before. But talking to her, I was deceived. I thought she was going to be fine.
I went to a photography program in New York. On the last Wednesday of camp, my cousin and Charlene’s only other niece, Megan, was in New York City as well. We decided to meet up and go to dinner at a cool raw foods restaurant. I wasn’t really keeping in touch with home. I was in my own little world where there were no troubles, certainly no death.
Megan informed me that it was getting much worse and that she was going to go home on this Friday in July instead of in late August. Our mothers would not be joining us that weekend either. They had news from the doctors that the cancer had gotten much worse incredibly fast. I was sort of in shock.. I just sat there, frozen in my seat.
The whole family was headed back to Houston to be with Charlene.
Back in the dorm, I saw on Facebook the group I was recently added to – “We love you, Mrs. Joachim” – students, friends, and family posted notes and stories about Charlene saying how much they love her, what an amazing teacher she was, what she meant to them, and on and on. There were tons of people who knew now. It was a lot to take in. I realized that she was dying. It was three in the morning when I went to take a shower. Everyone else in my dorm room was asleep. I stood in the bathroom, sobbing. I couldn’t stop thinking about my cousins, Charlene’s daughters. Heather was pregnant – baby’s due in September. Before, they thought Charlene would go to Baton Rouge to be with her daughter before she had the baby and to help take care of it when it was born. Charlene wouldn’t make it to see her first biological grandchild. I thought of my own mom, what if she were the one dying? How were Heather and Melissa now? How was Charlene? I tried to think of other things so I would stop crying and get to bed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Friday was the last night of camp; Saturday morning I flew home by myself.
My dad and my brother came to pick me up from the airport in Houston. My dad tried to explain what was happening. The doctors thought she had about a week left. I didn’t cry in the car. We went straight to my aunt and uncle’s house, where I finally saw all my family and Charlene. She looked so sick. How could it have gotten so bad in so little time? There were so many strangers in the house, all to see Charlene.
Hugs. Handshakes. Understanding nods.
This went on for at least a week. We’d go over there at around five o’clock every evening, when the herds of people had died down. We’d end up staying there until very late every night – eleven pm, twelve am, one am. I didn’t bother to tell my friends I had come back to Houston. I didn’t want to see anyone.
Over the two weeks that I was home, the cancer got worse and worse. The tumors doubling in size every day. The tumours looked like bulging lumps, coming out of her bruised, blue and purple, swollen stomach. The liveliness in her was fading fast. Her skin had become a frail, translucent white tone. You could see all the bones of her face; you could see her eyes were sunken in and she was barely holding on.
It was just another day of the same thing when my mom decided to take me to Nordstrom’s to look for a black dress that was appropriate for a funeral. We were going to the store before their house that day. It didn’t seem right to me, to shop for a funeral, especially for someone who was not yet dead. I found a dress and we bought it. We were in route to Charlene and David’s house when we started receiving the panicked phone calls. No one really said what was going on, just to come quickly. We got there sometime around three thirty or four in the afternoon. All of the family who could be was there or on their way. We sat in Charlene’s bedroom. Sometimes going on the bed next to her, sometimes in another chair, we all sat or stood there and struggled to watch. Six forty-five that evening, it was the end. My brother and some other people left the room. Charlene’s husband, David sat in a chair right next to her, holding her hand. My grandmother next to him. My dad wasn’t there, neither was Heather’s husband Bradley-he went to Baton Rouge that morning for a meeting and was in the car on the way back to Houston. Someone probably told me to leave the room, but I couldn’t. At seven o’clock, blood was escaping Charlene’s mouth. Somebody ran to get towels. She was dead. Uncle David was on the phone with Hospice, who was supposed to be there hours ago. He was crying and couldn’t talk; someone took the phone and talk to them for him. Melissa went into the living room and was bawling in her husbands arms. You could hear throughout the house. Not much later, Heather’s husband, Bradley, got there, then Heather sobbed as well. I cannot remember what I was doing. Tears were falling everywhere, splashing to the floor. Yet, it’s like I wasn’t there. I was in the room, but I was watching from afar, from a movie screen. I didn’t pay attention to myself or what I was doing, but instead to everyone else’s states. I didn’t allow myself to live in the moment. Maybe if I had I would have seen it once and it would have been over, but watching a real death wasn’t like watching someone die in a movie. You expect your loved one to smile one last time at you, sigh gently, then close their eyes and let their head fall slightly to one side. This is how you know they are gone. It’s much more vivid: the part they cut out or decide not to include. It’s stressful and frightening to see the body do such strange things – a dramatic transition out of life. It terrified me.
The horrifying presence of death had a lasting effect on me. The home smelled was like a hospital – where people are born and where people are sick and where people die – a familiar aroma of cleanliness. Or is that death I was smelling? The images replay themselves in my mind like on a broken record except in video clips. Watching her die. Hospice carrying out her body, under that cold black sheet. The funeral with the cold handshakes, the crying eyes, and no more Aunt Charlene. That endless cycle of haunting memories I block from my thoughts. I am constantly battling myself. I have to stay occupied. I have to block out the haunting memories, so that they do not consume my own existence.

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hi Bree,
thank you for sharing your experience with us. Death does not have to be…..and should not be… a horrifying presence. And these memories don’t need to be haunting. If you are ready at some point and want to find the beauty and meaning in these events so that you are not haunted and that you don’t have to block out memories of people you love then get in touch…because your experience can positively change and be totally different. This story can be important, meaningful and beautiful…instead of painful, horrifying and haunting. You deserve much more than this…and so do those you have lost.
Kristie
xx

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Tubby October 17, 2012 at 1:33 am

Thank you for your blog.
Just watched my mom die, almost exactly 2 hours ago. She was 56 years old. It is really strange writing about her in past tense….
When it came to her last few minutes, yes her breathing changed – it was slower and shallower. Her eyes were unfocused and glazed over, and she didn’t appear to struggle at all. She just slowed down her breathing (she had a faint “death rattle” at this point), jutted her jaw out a little, took one last breath then I saw her crucifix stop moving as it was lying over the pulse points of her neck.

I stared at her for a few seconds, wondering if she’d breathe again, as she had been doing after long pauses. But her lips were very pale and the stillness of the crucifix just confirmed it for me. I stood, shocked for a while. I am still in shock, I haven’t actually cried. I kissed her a lot, and within an hour she had began to get cold. When I left her on the hospital bed, she looked so absolutely tiny.

I can’t believe she is not with us. The most wonderful, amazing woman I have ever encountered… She fought the cancer that didn’t give her a chance. She lived longer than anyone thought she would. She’s a legend.

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Kristie West October 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Hi Tubby,
thanks for sharing with us. Just be really gentle with yourself right now. I have a free booklet with tips for people who have just lost someone – do let me know if you’d like it.
I love your last comment – beautiful.
Kristie
xx

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Jake October 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

I watched someone die well quite a few at once……. but it was in war… and it is impossible to explain… but I guess… I will give it a shot… I have never talked about this before… I was overseas in Iraq… 4 of my comrades… brothers… I should say… and 1 sister… We were on duty and going through some of the mine fields… and our commanding officer had ordered are first truck to vent, are first truck being us….. meaning well to open the side armored doors and what not…. we argued this order…. but he is are commanding officer so we must follow… or else well… bad things happen to us.. in war time situations… needless to say he doomed us…

When we vented… they ambushed us… they shot a IED through the vehicle… killing a 18 year old lady I was friends with her… yes we got involved at a time but in war you get it just to have fun…. she was killed instantly… though I witnessed the last moments of her life… she was looking to the right. smiling at one of my friends in the front seat.. Talking about the heat and how we where all having a pool party and stuff.. we were all listening.. then in mid sentence boom… I was in the back.. her body disintegrated in the flames i watched just things go in one direction other parts another direction… guy next to her too…. later i found her head… and her helmet (mainly because I sought her body out to get some kind of closing…)… I picked it up after the whole affair… her tongue was out of her mouth.. her eyes.. open. .. i can’t explain the rest… but plain to say slaughtered… murdered…..

The smell… is ….. putrid of death… some shit themselves piss themselves my friends did these things… one of my friends in the back with me further to the front.. The explosion blew off half of his face…. he screamed… cried choked and then eventually he just got really quiet shook violently and died within 30 sec he shit and pissed himself……

I watched the IED take off my 50 cal gunners leg… it blew it into my lap he was my best friend…… along with part of his intestine and probably other things that he needed.(probably wondering how I saw so much… well because I was in the very back looking at all of them yes it knocked me out for a moment when I came too I saw other things such as the leg… and my other buddy shaking…)… me i was hit by some of the shrapnel that’s it… just some shrapnel… from the vehicle idk from something it was metal… it went into my arm and clean out my shoulder….

I tried to save my friend on the 50 cal… he was in so much shock he had his hands pried down on the butterfly trigger on the 50 cal gun… just spraying bullets anywhere and into the ambush… he killed some of the enemy (yes i want to say something else but i will censor myself)… we had to pry his hands off the butterfly trigger he had no idea he was hit. he was in shock… I stuffed him up with stuffing… to try to protect what organs he had left and stop the bleeding I got him to last for 4 hours… but are base couldn’t get a Blackhawk to us in time for it to even matter…. we nailed him with adrenaline… he was scared of dying… telling me am i going to die? am I going to die? in fear and I’m like no man I got you don’t worry I’m here.. (a grown man 26 years old)… where here I’m here bro I got your back… when we got word that we would not get are rescue here in time… I Morphine’d him up… so he go out on a nice OD’ed high… he was one of my best friends. he had a wife and a baby… he said all sorts of things… from wanting to have sex with his wife… to holding his baby… to playing some call of duty… he stopped in mid sentences talking about how he was doing…. in mid subjects… i just repeat your doing good man… when he died… he was hallucinating at least this is what i hoped for… talking about sparklers and fruit and something about eating a cloud and from that it went to single phrases like and, and the… then nothing… it was… very difficult…. I literally watched the life leave this mans eyes… and for what……

Needless to say I got many article 15′s… I also threatened to kill my commanding officer… why because he killed my friends due to his poor decisions… he… was not even present when one of his own men under his command died due to his actions. I was and 2 others kinda watched on later walked away… but hey better a best friend then no one… I wrote his wife the letter… I have not been able to face her since… yep… if you want to know death ask about someone who has been in touch of it 24/7… you know and get use to fear and what death is…. and yes… i tried to save his life… yes i failed… and yes my arm still feels not the same after the shrapnel hit me… and yes i wish the shrapnel was bigger… and no i don’t have a explanation of why….. I rather watch someone die in a hospital or from cancer even…. under absolute care… then out in the fucking dirt…. I bet if my buddy was in the hospital they probably could of saved him not some guy… that’s no doctor… a hospital probably would of gave him at least time to say bye to his family or even would of saved his life… my family was happy to see me… alive… but even at that… I have never felt whole… and never will ever again… in all honesty the next closest thing to a type of death any of us have experienced would be someone dying.. of cancer of course that depends on what it is… I guess that’s all I have to say…

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

Hi Jake,
thank you so much for sharing with us and I am so glad that you have had the opportunity to write this when you say you never have before.
If you ever want to change what all this means to you and the place it has in your life feel absolutely free to get in touch with me directly.
Kristie
xx

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Cyndi April 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I don’t know if you’ll read this, Jake, but I’m crying and I wish I could just hold you and pray with you and thank you. War is horrible and it does horrible things to people. Your friends didn’t die alone because you were with them and you made their lives matter. God bless you, Jake.

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Lorna November 17, 2012 at 2:44 am

I’ve read through these comments with interest. It really is true that each death is individual. My Dad just passed away last night in hospital from pneumonia. Our family had been keeping vigil at his bedside for nearly 3 days. Doctors told us his death could be hours or days away. They said every death was different and that he could get apnea or just take one last breath, etc. I was alone with my Dad as my brother and his partner had gone home for dinner. I decided to read the booklet they’d left in the room – The Dying Experience. Thank goodness I did as I was prepared for what came next. The nurse had just moved him and given him another dose of sedative. I asked her if she she saw signs that death was imminent – we knew his organs were slowly shutting down — she mentioned some skin mottling but that it got better when she moved him so she didn’t think it would be that soon. I left the light on after she left – normally I would turn it down low – and moved my chair right beside him to take his hand as he was twitchy, still not calm after the drug. Had I not left the light on, I wouldn’t have seen everything so clearly. I swear the energy in the room shifted. My Dad’s breathing changed very suddenly. He started breathing very deeply and puffing out his cheeks like he was catching his breath underwater. And his eyes were wide open, clear and focussed on me, when they hadn’t been open for the past 3 days. His face turned mottled and shades of purple and then returned to normal. I saw the exact moment when he took his final breath and the light left his eyes. It was startling and a bit scary but I’m so happy that I stayed with him and just kept telling him it was okay and that I loved him and he’d been a great father. Had I not read the booklet and understood what was happening, I probably would have run for the nurse and missed that final moment of his life. It was a gift and something that I will never forget.

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

Lorna, what a beautiful experience and I’m so glad you can see it as the gift it is. Thank you for sharing. Just as the words of others have helped you…so will your words help others who read this after you. :)
Kristie
xx

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Casey November 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I have seen people die many times. I am a Nurses Aid, and it is death is part of my job. I have seen it happen all different ways, from the fighting body during natural death, to the peaceful soul, and the traumatic injury death. You never know how it is going to be and what you will feel when it happens. I spent months morning the loss of an unknown person and fighting post traumatic stress when I watched a semi-truck blow through a red light and kill the driver of the van in its path. I questioned if I did CPR right, why didn’t I do this, and that, and what could I have done better. I have seen the residents I care for at my nursing home pass peacefully with all their family at their side. Why am I writing this? And why now? I am once again feeling dealing with the death of one of the people I cared for. It happened this afternoon in the dining room. I was on my way out for lunch, and heard my nursing yelling for someone to call 911. I didn’t comprehend at first, until she said call 911, he’s choking. I immediately ran to the man as the nurse called for an ambulance. It all happened so fast. The other nurse try to dislodge the object, to not being able to get the object free and the resident going unresponsive, to lowering him to the ground. I remember someone asking what do we do next, and I called out to start chest compressions. We did that I started breathing for him with the BVM. I realized we weren’t getting air in, and that he was filled with fluid. I knew he wasn’t going to make it. It seemed like forever until the paramedics got there. We did CPR for like twenty minutes, and twenty minutes later he was pronounced dead. I feel weird. Its not as traumatic as the semi accident, but more traumatic than a peaceful death. I feel very suprised, scared, sad, and confused all in one little weird feeling. It’s like I’m not sure what to make of everything. I don’t know exactly how to deal with it right now, but I do know that as long as I talk about it and allow myself to feel those feelings, I will be okay. I am thankful that God put all those people there to respond in such a quick manner. Even though his family witnessed a very traumatic event, they were able to see how many people try everything they could do. Hopefully that will help in their acceptance of the fact that it was God’s will for this man to join him in his kingdom. Thanks for having this sight available, it has helped me and obviously others deal with a troubling yet beautiful part of life.

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Kristie West November 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Hi Casey,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have a suggestion that might seem strange and totally different to the norm – but if you want a different result and to find meaning in the death then you have to ask and be open to different questions. Talking about it and expressing emotion is useful in not storing emotion in the body….but it doesn’t tend to change anything or help you find the meaning and beauty in a death. Everything has a bad side and a good side. In death we tend to only recognise the bad side and think the important thing is to avoid death at all cost. I believe every single death, no matter how it happens, to be meaningful, beautiful and important. And I believe every person deserves to have their death seen this way.
So my question for you to take away is this: what good came out of this man’s death at this time for him and his family? What was good about it happening this way? Any guilt you feel is because of an idea that this ‘should’ have been different in some way. Finding beauty and meaning in this for him and his family will take that guilt away.
Kristie
xx

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Shannon November 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I was present at my Father’s death Sunday November 25th, 2012 at the age of 65. He fought a short but courageous battle with Colon Cancer.

After being diagnosed in September, he underwent surgery October 12th, which enabled him to eat solid foods for the first time in months. Unfortunately for him, things didn’t go well and it was one hick-up after another. I live out of town so every weekend I was down helping my Mother care of him. His wish was to die at home. The Doctor’s told us he didn’t have much time but we didn’t know it would be less than 3 months. We kept saying ‘as soon as he get’s the surgery, he’ll be able to eat, get this strength back and start fighting’. Sadly that never happened. He was bleeding internally quite badly after the surgery and when they finally got that under control the cancer had spread to his spine (we think). He was in excruciating pain and lost his hearing one ear at a time due to painful neck spasms.

Last week he seemed in good spirits, but was very weak. He was on a LOT of heavy drugs but the pain was never under control. Finally last week the hospice Doctor came to our home and provided him with a pain pump. Once he got that, he was finally pain free but his body was shutting down. He stopped eating and drinking and was sleeping almost all the time. His breathing became very shallow the last few days and his color had changed dramatically. No one ever told us what to expect, the cold clammy-ness of his body, the gurgling noise from his throat (which I later found out is referred to as the ‘death rattle’).

I wanted to be present during his death but have never witnessed anyone dying before, so I had no idea what it would be like. Saturday morning he was like his old self. Cheery and kept telling everyone he loved us, and looking into my eyes, saying how beautiful I was. His voice was very quiet and at times he thought he was talking to us but no sound was coming out. We know now it was him saying goodbye. My Mother had an odd feeling that night and asked me to sleep in her bed with her as she didn’t think he’d make it through the night.

I woke at about 1:10 am on Sunday morning, as his breathing sounded different. I also saw him reach for his nose, he was so weak his arm just dropped to the side of the bed. I woke my Mother and she said he pulled his oxygen out. I guess he knew it was close to the end and didn’t want to prolong anything. It took about 4-5 minutes for him to stop breathing complete. It was very difficult to watch him gasp for breaths. His eyes and mouth were wide open and the sound of his last few breaths were agonizing to me.

What I think was most difficult for me, was the time in between each breath. It got longer and longer and then just stopped. I kept looking at this chest to see if it was moving but it was not. Thankfully my Mother and both his sisters were in the room during those final moments, which I know is what he wanted. We all stood around the bed with our hands on his body when his soul left this world.

I really want to think he went peacefully but I’m having a very hard time with getting the image of his last few moments out of my head. His eyes and mouth stayed open, no matter how many times we tried to close them. I know what he looked like the last few months wasn’t him, especially that night, but I cant get it out of my mind.

Does anyone have any words to help ease my mind? Will that image go away? Soon?

Thanks,
Shannon

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Kristie West November 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

Hi Shannon,
thank you for sharing about your dad’s death.
My suggestion is probably pretty different to what you’re normally hearing. Instead of trying to get rid of that image, find a different way to look at it. The probably with wanting these memories to go away too is that this was part of your dad too. That was him, as were the last few months. A different him – yes, but still him and all part of the story that made up who he was. To have those memories go away is to have some of your memories of (and access to) your dad go away.
It’s about understanding what was happening differently…and asking some good questions,
Sp the first thing is to understand that, as you know, your dad seemed ready to go. That doesn’t mean the body won’t react and that the lungs won’t still try to do what they are designed to do – draw breath. Now your dad’s body may have physically been in some pain or distress but remember that this is a natural part of the process…just like birth. Babies don’t usually slip out quietly cooing. Coming into or out of this life can take a bit of work. But it really sounds like your dad knew what was happening and was ok in himself….but the body will do some interesting things as it shuts down.
Most people don’t realise – as there are too many idealistic TV shows and movies showing otherwise – that in death the eyes and mouth naturally open. If you’ve seen a dead body before like at a funeral know that the undertakers have used special techniques to close the eyes (and not have them seem sunken) and to keep the mouth closed. In death the body gives in completely to gravity and the muscles relax totally – it makes sense with the jaw totally relaxed that the mouth would be open.

My question for you to think about Shannon is this – how did it help you all to go through that? Why was it important for you to see that? How did it help your dad and you to go through that together exactly the way it happened? The reason for this is for you to start to see some meaning in how your father’s death happened. The more meaning you can see…the less and less this will be an image that you need to go away.

Kristie
xx

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Anonymous February 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I know this is a pretty late reply on this post, but I would like to thank the both of you. One for the story (I’d been reading through the comments to find someone who had a similar experience) and two, for the advice. My grandfather passed away last summer and I have never seen someone die. I’d only seen a few people at funerals, which I wasn’t fond of anyway after my grandma took my hand as a twelve-year old and made me touch my great-grandma’s hand in the casket. You would think as a twenty something year old I’d still be able to handle it. Anyway though, my grandpa went downhill with his dementia pretty quick and my mom had called and said they didn’t know how much longer he would last. I drove down and the only warning that she gave me was that what I would see is probably not what I am expecting. Now, if that wasn’t the biggest understatement. I’m still in shock from the images described from the comment above. Death for him was not easy and it not pretty. It took several hours from after I left . . . 10pm to 4am for him to finally pass. I feel at peace with his passing, but like the author above I still struggle with the horrifying images from that night. Thanks again.

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Norm November 30, 2012 at 3:08 am

My Mom died a month ago….and death isn’t like it is on TV. My Mom was 77 and had cancer Melanoma which had spread thru her body. The Monday before she was talking and arguing with me about the election (while in the hospital) and thought she would have a year left to live. On Wednesday i went to see her in the hospital in the morning and she gave me a hug and smiled and happy to see me. Then she slept (Asked the doctors if she was on drugs, and they said no). That day the doctor told us the next 24-48 hours would be critical, i asked if i should call my family from out of town and he said that would be a good idea. My Mom slept the whole day but at about 8pm she got a second wind and said her good byes to the family that were there and then closed her eyes, then opened them and said “lets get on with it” (meaning she was wanted death to come). I stayed up the night with my mom and she slept (now on morphine) the next day i left to clean myself up in the bathroom and came back and she looked worse. The day is kinda blurry (hadn’t slept in 48 hours) but at the moment of death my Mom stopped breathing and then her face contorted (looked like she was in pain) and all was silent…my brother went to get the doctor and i told him to wait…and she started breathing again…that happened two times before she died. It wasn’t peaceful or easy. I get comfort in thinking that while she was going thru it i held her hand and told her it was okay and maybe making it easier for her to know she was loved.

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Kristie West December 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Hi Norm,
thank you for sharing your story with me and everyone else here.
The thing with pain is that we often want to take it away from others when it is just the process of living – birth has pain in it for all involved, as does life, and death can too. From accounts of people who have been close to death or have had hearts stop and restart, rarely do they talk about pain as this seems to be a smaller part of the process. Pain is just a physical sensation that we identify as unpleasant and I would imagine that as your mum’s body shut down the physical sensations would have been less and less relevant to her.
Sometimes their pain is what draws us in closer and lets us know their death is close.
It sounds like your mum certainly did know she was loved.
Sending you lots of love too Norm.
Kristie
xx

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Sue Roszel December 3, 2012 at 5:02 am

My Mom died on November 6, 2012. She had advanced Alzheimer’s disease and on October 18 she had a fall in the nursing home and broke her pelvis. She seemed to be recovering from the fall quite well but 10 days later she started running a fever and vomiting. She was transported to the hospital and tests revealed that she had a bowel obstruction. After several family meetings and discussions with the doctors/medical staff we followed Mom’s wishes not to prolong her life.

In the hospital they were giving her morphine for the pain and a variety of other medications to help with her restlessness and severe agitiation. On Friday Mom kept fussing with her nightgown and bed sheets. She kept trying to take the nightgown off and finally we decided just to let her lay naked, covered only by a sheet. She seemed to be much more comfortable that way.

On Saturday evening, we were fortunate to be able to have her moved from the hospital to hospice. Less than an hour after arriving at hospice Mom seemed much calmer and less agitated. We told the hospice nurses that she had taken off her nightgown the day before and they said that was normal, and as long as we didn’t have any objection to it they were fine with it. She slept naked, again covered only by a sheet for most of that night.

Sunday she slept most of the day. My sisters and I took turns sitting with her, as well as some of her grandchildren. She had a few other visitors throughout the day and had a couple lucid hours in the early evening. We were very grateful for this time together with her. We told her jokes, sang to her, told stories, laughed and cried. She was aware of what was going on around her and even though her speaking was not the best, we were able to make out what she was saying. She spoke some of our names, she asked for a coffee (her major vice). One of my sisters made a little bit of coffee and we gave it to her on one of the sponge applicators. She was also able to take a little bit of coffee by straw, but she said she didn’t like it (this was funny to us because she was always very particular about her coffee). The hospice workers were wonderful at keeping on top of her pain and agitation. On Sunday night they hooked up a pain pump so the morphine was pumped at regular intervals. She slept fairly well on Sunday night.

By early Monday afternoon her breathing changed to soft rattle. As the day progressed her breathing was faster and the rattle was much deeper. She did have around an hour where she was semi-awake and seemed to know what was happening around her. My Mom loved to sing (a lot) and we were constantly singing to her. She had a lot of little jokes that she loved and we kept repeating them to her. We told her we loved her, hugged her, kissed her, held her hands. Some of my sisters (we are all grown adults) laid down in bed beside her. She was flushed and her body was warm. The hospice nurse told us this was normal. There was a ceiling fan in the room that we kept turning on and off and they opened the window and we put cool face cloths on her forehead. After supper a couple of my sisters went home because we didn’t think she would pass that night. Her breathing continued to get worse and we could see that her fingers were getting quite purple. The nurse came in around 9pm and immediately noticed the change in the breathing. She told us if any of the family wanted to be there we should call them back as she was probably going to pass in the next few hours.

As the night went on my Aunt and cousin come back. Twice over the next couple of hours we formed a circle around Mom’s bed and said prayers and sang hymns. It was a very emotional time for all of us. Around 2am my Aunt and cousin left to go home leaving my daughter (who is a nurse), my 4 sisters and I. 2 of my sisters left the room to go get some rest, the other 2 stayed resting in Mom’s room. My daughter and I sat on either side of Mom’s bed, holding her hands and listening to her breathe. When the nurse came in I asked about her breathing. She said that it looks painful but it is just a reflex, she said that it was not causing Mom any pain. The breathing appeared to be very laboured and very much a “death rattle”. It is a sound that you will never forget once you hear it.

Around 3:15 there was a sudden change in her breathing…it was slower and the rattle was gone. It was much more like normal breathing. My 2 sisters in the room jumped up and my daughter went to get the other 2 sisters. We all gathered around the bed again, sobbing, holding Mom and each other. We told her constantly that we loved her and that she was going home. We told her that her parents and siblings were waiting for her. We told her God and the angels were waiting for her. We told her that it was ok for her to go, that we would always miss her and love her. As a group we sang one of her favourite songs to her. Her breathing continued to slow and after a few minutes she took her last breath. Thankfully it was very peaceful. A quiet calm fell over the room.

The nurse told us to take all the time we needed with Mom. They called the funeral home and made arrangements for them to come to pick up Mom’s body. We had about 2 hours with Mom before they arrived. We took turns sitting with her and holding her. They told us they had a little ceremony when someone leaves the building. When the funeral director arrived he went and prepared Mom to leave. They covered her body (leaving her head/face out at our request) with a beautifully handmade quilt. I held a candle and led the small procession, with my sisters, daughter and hospice workers surrounding Mom as she was moved outside into the hearse. We all kissed her one last time and my older sister told the funeral director to take good care of our Mom.

To say this was the most profound experience of my life would be an understatement. I was sad, but I wasn’t scared. I was sad, but I wasn’t angry. The choices we made regarding Mom’s condition were not easy, but I accepted them knowing they were what Mom would have wanted. I have no regrets, I had a great relationship with my Mom and said everything that needed to be said while she was alive.

This is the 3rd time I have witnessed death, the first was my father-in-law when he was removed from life support after suffering a massive stroke. His passing was very fast and peaceful. The second time was an older cousin, who had been sick for many, many years. He had a bad fall and had broken some ribs and was seriously injured. He suffered terribly for 5 days, the hospital was not able to manage his pain and it was horrible for him and for his loved ones to witness. Although I don’t think he was in much pain at the end, his passing was not peaceful and was difficult to witness.

The woman who gave life to me is no longer here. For my entire life she has been my Mom, my friend, my mentor, my confidante. I am grateful that she is no longer suffering from Alzheimer’s disease…I choose to believe that where ever she is she has her memory back and knows the names of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.

I will miss her forever! My heart hurts, but right now I am just numb.

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Carole Holden December 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm

She was so lucky to have you all with her. That is a beautiful but sad story. My thoughts are with you. In time you will not get over it, but will get used to it. x

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Kristie West December 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Hi Carole, thanks for your comments!
I just want to comment on your last sentence ‘In time you will not get over it, but will get used to it. ‘ This is a commonly believed idea….but from my experience is not true. The right questions and a different way of looking at death can completely change it’s place in your life. Most people believe it’s about learning to cope with, manage, deal with death. The belief that it can never be totally different is not a useful one to hold (though it’s certainly common).
With the right steps and questions a death can become a beautiful, important, and meaningful part of your life…instead of something to get used to…or even something to get over.
Sending you much love,
K
xx

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Becky January 8, 2013 at 4:37 am

What if I feel that at the second my dad took his last breath with me alone by his bedside he took part of my soul with him? Actually this is the most comforting thought I have had since he died April 2012.
Hospice was supposed to come but didn’t, I was not prepared although I had read everything I could find about being with someone dying. I’m happy I was there but have no peace until I heard a second hand comment on TV about the last breath taking part of the living person’s soul. It seems like I am missing part of me, I am gone, a different empty me is here instead. It makes sense I think?

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Kristie West January 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hi Becky,
Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts here. When you talk about a part of you feeling missing, gone, and empty that makes sense so soon after your dad has died. These are common ways that some people can feel. At such point in the future as you do not want to feel like this anymore though then get in touch – it doesn’t have to be anything like this at all.
With much love
K
xx

Carole Holden December 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hi, My Dad passed away two weeks ago. I was with him and was very disturbed by the actual way that he died. As you say, I expected him to open his eyes, tell me to look after Mum, squeeze my hand and close his eyes.
But, he didn’t know he was dying, we weren’t sure it was going to be that soon either. His breathing was very noisy all day, he had COPD, and during the night it developed a pattern. I sat by his side listening to this pattern. Suddenly, at 6.55am there was a gurgling in his throat and for perhaps 30 seconds or more it was like he was drowning. My instinct was to hold his head and encourage him to breath. Now I wish I had just held him close while he left his body.
I will never forget his face when he stopped breathing, nor will I forget the absolute feeling of loss and pain.
Thank you for describing that moment as the butterfly breaking free from the cocoon….that is a beautiful way to describe that moment of struggling.
My Dad was the most beautiful soul on this earth and would have had a direct straight run to heaven!
I will miss him always and love him more.

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Elizabeth January 20, 2013 at 2:02 am

My boyfriend died on new years eve. It was the most horrible thing I have ever witnessed. We were supposed to be going to his mum’s new years party and he asked me if I didn’t mind taking the dog for a quick walk before we left, so she wouldn’t get too crazy while we were gone. I should have realised something was wrong, and looking back it’s obvious that he was acting strangely. He had been depressed since he broke his neck after falling three years ago, but I thought that he was slowly starting to accept what had happened and try to move on.
I think that instinctively, I knew something was up. I walked around the block as quickly as I could and all I could think about was that I knew what he was going to do.
When I got back the house was silent, and there was an envelope on the table by the front door. I locked the dog in the kitchen and read the letter.
When I got to him, he was barely breathing. I called for an ambulance then just held him. I knew I had to be there for his final moments so I just kept telling him that I loved him over and over. He said he was sorry, and my heart just broke. As soon as his breathing stopped I started screaming hysterically. I wish that I hadn’t, because I know that hearing is the last thing to go, and he must have been so worried and scared. I wish that I had just held him until the paramedics came.
It’s all that I dream about now, his last moments. I’m glad that I was there to hold him when he died, but I only wish that I had kept calm until I was sure he was completely gone. I think being there has helped me come to terms with it and truly believe what happened. His eldest brother is still denying that he’s really dead.
I’ve still got so many tears left to cry over him, but I can feel myself starting to accept his death finally.
Just remember to tell the people you love how you feel about them. In his letter he said ‘I don’t want to keep you trapped any longer. I want you to move on and love someone who can love you back’. If I had just told him exactly how I felt, that I could never love someone as much as I loved him, I think he would still be alive, by my side.
Elli

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Claire February 1, 2013 at 5:06 am

This page, as many others of you have said, is a great comfort for me. I currently sit by my grandmothers side as she makes her tranistion. She is sleeping now and her breathing has slowed. Occasionally they will be a small break, almost a missed breath, and then she’ll start again. Nobody knows when it might be her final hour or moment. So for now we are all on standby sitting in her room not wanting her to leave yet but not wanting her to suffer. Yesterday we knew that this was coming so today I had a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye. I have found too that she can hear and understand perfectly well, her eyes don’t seem to focus glazed over comes to mind but she does little smiles or answers questions so that we know she can understand. So for anyone who is goin through similar my advice would be to talk to then when they’re awake. Don’t talk around them to the other people in the room but actually to them. If you can’t think what to say tell then your plans for the future or memories from the past. It really doesn’t matter. Just be here in the moment with them.

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Vickie February 2, 2013 at 11:49 pm

I was searching for some kind of website to help me deal with watching my 12 year old son pass away just this past Tuesday January 29, 2013. He had cancer a rare type of lymphoma that had gotten into his spinal fluid and then into his brain. He had been in and out of the hospital every month since October and finally this last time he was hospitalized we brought him in January 2 and he stayed in the ICU until he passed. We were all in the room with him because the doctors told us that his organs were failing and we needed to call all our family and friends that would like to come and be with him at the end to tell him goodbye. The room was full of people that loved him and I believe he knew we were there. I called my babysitter so my 2 year old daughter and 5 year old son could tell their big brother goodbye…(I didn’t want them to be there in person I thought it may be too traumatic for them) as soon as I held my son’s hand and held the phone near him and put it on speakerphone. His sister said byebye and when my 5 yr old son got on he said bye I love you and I looked up at the monitors and then saw the heartrate go to zero and a flat green line going across the screen. I quickly looked at his face and saw such a dramatic change it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced it was almost like a smoky haze in front of his face for a few seconds and then his eyes changed and his face lost all of its color and just looked so serene and so peaceful. I cannot get that image out of my head I see it everytime my thoughts drift off or everytime I close my eyes….I believe with everything in me that I saw the soul leave my boy’s body. It’s just this overwhelming feeling I have. But I am comforted knowing that my boy is not suffering and in pain any longer and that my mother was there to welcome him when he entered the gates of Heaven.

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Andre February 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm

In 2005 I lost my granma. She wasn’t healthy. She was going through dialysis. She was also a diabetic and has recently going through lots of heart ache from loss of loved ones such as her husband, her father, and a few friends. She was a young grandmother. she was only 55. Yes, I have a very young family. I remember for years prior trying to prepare myself for her death because of how sick she was and how wreckless she was with he health and knowing how tough it would be for me to accept her death being that she and I were very close. I honestly believed that I was ready. In my mind her health would continue to decline, and it did. I thought it would be a slow and dreadful process. However, she had come home at the end of the day complaining about how bad her head feel. “Worst headache I ever had.” She explained that she fell and hit her head going to dialysis. She wasn’t the type to accept help so she declined help from a nurse that watched her fall. Well, as she came home I came out of my room saw her and gave each other a huge hug. Miss those the most. I was on my way out to a bar to watch a fight. I received a phone call from my mother that she appears to be having a stroke because she is talking without making any sense. To make an already long story shorter, mom took her to the ER and when she was brought in she looking down and staring at her fingers and passed out…..had to be put on life support. She was not coherent when i watched her pass away. But I made I was there. To be super honest, watching a loved one pass away, in my opinion, makes the funeral much easier to cope with. Still sad, but much more accepting. As i read in some earlier posts, I agree that tv makes death look so beautiful. it took her exactly 33 minutes to finally die after being removed from life support. Dr’s try to give explain what your loved one my have connected to her and why because it can make it look way worse than it is. My granma had a breathing tube, IV’s, and wires all over her chest and head. NOT EXACTLY WHAT I WAS EXPECTING WHEN I THOUGHT ABOUT BEING AROUND HER FOR HER LAST BREATH. It was tough watching her life end but I had to keep saying to myself that she is already dead because she has no brain activity. As a person dies the body does move. Apparently the nerves are still active. She gripped my hand tightly during her last and pulled it toward her chest. I can imagine people thinking that this would be a sign of come back to life but its not. She even opened her eyes. my suggestion to deal with watching a loved one’s death is to always be there for them and love them regardless. Leave no regrets. Death can be sudden, planned, (or worse) a waiting game. It can be pretty, ugly, or both. In my granmas death, it was both. sad to see her go, but happy to see her no longer suffering.

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chris February 4, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Hello
It’s helpful to read about the physical side of death, as well as the emotional. My story is a bit strange – I am a twinless twin or someone whose twin died in utero (vanishing twin syndrome). I have always been haunted by death and terrified of dying and also of losing anyone (pets included) dear to me. I have suffered from inexplicable bouts of depression for many years (my life is outwardly good). It appears from ongoing research (not sure if I am allowed to mention websites so I won’t) that surviving twins do have access to some vague memories of their twin with them in the womb, and their twin’s death. This is certainly the case for me. I have an abiding, terrifying ‘memory’ of being very close to someone and having to watch while they die. It’s almost unbearable, particularly the actual moment of death where your loved one ‘winks’ out of existence. One moment there is aliveness in front of you, even a small shred is enough to keep you going, but the next moment that ‘aliveness’ is extinguished. I have a great deal of trouble making sense, cognitively, of that change. It seems I can’t seem to integrate the alive person with the dead, like they are two different people. Perhaps because I was developmentally too young.
I am getting somewhere with psychotherapy for this most unusual circumstance, but can really resonate with what people are saying here on this blog about their loved one’s last moments. it is immensely helpful to me to see these experiences in writing. The actual moment of death/passing and what it looks like is pretty taboo in Western culture.
Thank you Kristie for your blog, and for everyone’s contributions. And apologies for long post.

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Larry February 5, 2013 at 1:47 am

It was one year ago my father passed away after a long battle with renal failure and dementia. When he could no longer take care of himself we had to fulfill our promise to him and stop dialysis. When someone gives you this responsibility and you say yes, they should probably also tell you it will be the most difficult decision you will ever make in your life. My brother and I watched over Dad for 7 days straight 24/7 switching off taking naps working with hospice. Dad was comfortable in his bed surrounded by family. His passing was peaceful. I remember looking at our hospice nurse, Peggy, she was very nice. I said Peggy, his breathing isn’t quite right. She turned, looked at him and abruptly said “get your family, he’s leaving”. In a matter of a few minutes he had gracefully slipped off and was finally at peace. He was 81 and had endured many years of dialysis 3 days/week each lasting nearly 5 hours. He was tired. As much as I hated for him to leave us, I knew it was time and he had always said “If it’s time for me to go you HAVE to let me go”. Living with dementia and watching him slip further away every day was no picnic. He did dialysis for us. He didn’t want to do it but said OK…I’ll give it a try. We told him that if he ever started hating it he could stop. He never did. It was the single most important thing I’ve ever done in my life, helping Dad transition. It was heartbreaking and an honor at the same time. I miss him every day and know in heaven he is free from needles and his mind is sharp. I look for things in everyday life that make me smile and I know in my heart he is a part of everything that is beautiful I see, hear and experience.

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Serena February 11, 2013 at 6:24 am

When Robin died, it broke me. I didn’t see it… But I heard it.
Robin and his brother moved back to their hometown, and I had already resolved that I was in love with Robin. Telling him though… I didnt know when I could admit it. The memory of his lips against mine, his hand folded over mine… I wish I had told him.
Months later, on Christmas morning I called Robin. He was in the car with his brother, who was driving. He said they were going snowboarding, that it was a good day, and he wished me Merry Christmas.
In an ideal world, I would have told him I loved him. But instead I said ‘you too.’
Robin started to say something else… my name, I think.. But there was a weird high pitched noise. I heard Robin shout something. There was a loud bang, and the phone disconnected.
I found out hours later that they had hit an oncoming car. Both died instantly.
I heard him die, I think. And I never told him I loved him. 21 years old, and he was dead in a car hours away from me and I heard it happen.
You all seem to have this lovely sense of hope on here… But I can’t find that hope. I always believed that dying was just the end. Pure and simple. Robin is gone forever and will never even know how much I loved him with every single fiber of my being. He believed in heaven and I scoffed at it once. Now I wish I could believe.
All I can do now is bask in memories of him. Robin, the only person who could look at me without disgust, knowing how I self harmed. The first person who approached me when. I moved here and became my friend.
I never told him I loved him because I was afraid I would lose him.
I lost him anyway.

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Cyndi May 13, 2013 at 5:28 am

He knew you loved him. Our hearts and eyes say what our lips won’t.

He knew.

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Sue February 24, 2013 at 6:45 am

My Mom just passed away this afternoon and no, it wasn’t like in the movies. Her breathing was horrible-she had so much fluid in her lungs and it just rattled when she breathed. When she died I was the only one in the room-my Dad had went out for a cigarette and the hospice nurse and chaplain were in the nurses station. When she died all the gunk in her lungs came out with her last breath and after a few seconds I knew she was gone. Peaceful? No, more like she was just gone. It breaks my heart that my last image of her will be this but I am glad I was there when she died. And at THAT moment. My Dad can’t say the same thing because he was out smoking a cigarette.

She had Alzheimers and was in a NH. She broke her hip in December and a month later it was her femur. She had to have surgery to fix both and never recovered from it. She told my Dad she had seen her father and his parents a couple of weeks ago and told us she was going to die. Her 75th birthday was last Sunday-we think she stuck around for it.

Like Larry said, now our parents are in heaven and have no pain and their minds are sharp. Death to me isn’t the end-it’s freedom. I hope she is finally at peace and having a great time seeing old friends and family members that have passed before her.

Love you Mom, wherever you are!

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Kristie West February 27, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Much love to you Sue
xxx

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Lorraine March 9, 2013 at 1:43 am

I lost my beloved mum on February 27th 2013. She was 58 years old. She had been ill with COPD for 7 years and battled it bravely but finally succumbed.
She had a peaceful painless passing. I sat with my brother and my mum’s younger sister and we watched her slip away. We held her hand, kissed her and told her it was ok to let go. I know she hung on for my 40th birthday a few days beforehand. It was heartbreaking to see the woman I love more than anything leave us, I am still in a daze and not coping very well really.
She had her final wish, to be at home, with her family. Everyone had visited her days before when she was still able to talk. Her nurses had given her morphine for the pain and I am grateful that she wasnt distressed when she passed. It was a beautiful transition. I have some comfort knowing that shes at peace now. She gave me life, and I was with her at the end of hers.
Goodbye Mum RIP.

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Harriet April 6, 2013 at 5:08 am

My sister had pancreatic cancer and was released from her chemo trial about four days before she died. At that point she was at home and in hospice care. The hospice nurse gave us a very important booklet that outlined the process of death and physical signs to be aware of. It was immensely helpful to us and took away a great deal of our anxieties. The booklet was absolutely accurate, so try and track down a copy from hospice. During the ordeal of watching my dear sister struggle out of this world, I realized I’ll be lucky if I get to die in my own bed at home as well. When my sister died the window was open to soft spring breezes and birdsong. She was surrounded by the daffodils she cultivated and the familiar sound of footsteps and creaking floorboards.

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Patti April 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

My Mother passed away early February, 2013. It was a brief battle with cancer. Very little suffering, at least that she let us know of. I was incredibly blessed by being with her when she passed. We had just gotten her home on hospice the day before. I had not been alone with her since we had gotten her home. There was a moment when she was alone and I went to her bedside without any agenda other than to be with her. I was holding her hand and talking with her. Unplanned I told her how much we loved her, thanked her. Told her we would be ok. We will miss her terribly, but it was time for her to go “home”. That Grandma, Aunt Rita, Uncle Tommy, everyone was waiting for her. She squeezed my hand, and in disbelief I looked at my hand, and then back up at her and I saw her take her last breath. I have never experienced something so profound in my life. I will never be able to think of that, or tell that without saying, WOW. I will always consider it a beautiful gift she gave me. No one will ever tell me that a person dying can’t hear you. That experience gave me a sense of peace about dying. She went so calmly and she seemed to have chosen her own moment to die. I know she is at peace and I will see her again.

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Robert April 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I’m glad so many people could find the courage to be there and receive peace from the passing of their family members, but I guess I’m different. I’m only in my 20s and was more like my dad’s friend than a son in later years. We confided in each other, share the same interests, went to the movies or out to eat just to spend time together, etc… Neither one of us are highly religious but we both believe & know our bible so he’s pretty steady in his belief as am I that we will see each other again so my grieving is more to do with my pain rather than his though that’s how grieving works. When people grieve it’s over the loss of future time spent with that person from what I comprehend. Originally my dad went in for symptoms that were treated and was doing much better, but he contracted pneumonia which sometimes happens I understand when people go into the hospital with low immune systems and it has affected his ability to breathe. Now we’re just waiting for the inevitable and I couldn’t bear my last memories of him being of his death and the heart monitor going off. I of course went to see him, though until that day I still had hope, and let him know how much I cared. Knowing him as well as I seem to I believe he understands my not being there when he passes and I inferred when I saw him that he liked that I was there but was surprised and possibly didn’t want me to see him so sick. I think in my situation the worst was when I did go to see him my hopes were lost more because his were than what the doctors were saying. At that point he wasn’t getting better but not any worse either but now his health has begun to decline so it seems his belief and our fear that he wouldn’t get any better has come true. Unlike others who’ve posted his death hasn’t occurred but I sit in dread of the call obviously. I guess I’m typing this to help get some of my emotions out as I ran across this old blog post while looking more for people like me who didn’t know if they could stand to be there or even more like me who acknowledge they can’t or couldn’t

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Kristie West April 18, 2013 at 6:25 am

Hi Robert,
Thank you for sharing. Sending you much love – wherever you are right now and on your dad and your journey.
Though in this partcular post everyone is talking about being there at a death no that it is absolutely not right for everybody and not right with every death. This blog might help to look at too.
I have been present at deaths, though I was not present at my dad’s death or indeed any of the death that happened in that 4 month period….and I would not change it for a number of reasons. It may be right for you to be there…it may not. It may be right for your dad to have you there…it may not. There is no one way it should happen.
Much love to you,
Kristie
xx

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Jay April 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Hi there, My Grandpa died almost 2 months ago, and I watched him die. It wasn’t like you said a Hollywood style of death it was very different. I’m now (2 months later) dealing with this. After he died, I was keeping busy with moving, and moving my other family members to a different place, so I didn’t really have time to deal with it. So now I am… and its heart breaking. But at the same time I am glad that he is gone because now he is no longer in pain. He died from Cancer.

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Chris May 1, 2013 at 4:16 am

Kristie -

Death is just not pretty. Leaving aside all personal feelings, having seen both my parents die from cancer, I can tell you that you just have to accept it. It just happens, and sometimes, there is nothing you can do about it and just try to make sure the person who is going to die is comforted.

I’m in my 20s and I witnessed both of my parents expire. But this is not advice from a family member’s point of view; I’d like to give you advice as a caregiver. Comfort is the first and foremost concern any caregiver should have. The terminally ill are still concerned about their dignity and their families. If you’re in hospice or palliative care, make sure family members are aware that there are some things they may want to leave the room for. The patient as well as the family benefit from this.

Also, end-of-life caregivers can really provide a profound measure of comfort and serenity to both the patient and the family. A nurse who interacts on a personal level, talking about things like past experiences and shared joys, can really buoy a patient’s spirits. And that helps the family. A patient who likes her nurse or caregiver will be much more calm and lucid than one who is agitated.

I hope this helps.

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Kristie West May 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thank you for sharing Chris.

Acceptance is one option…but only when we don’t realise that we can have something else. If someone is willing and wants change it is possible to completely change an experience of death, which is something far beyond acceptance, coping, or managing. I’m a walking example of that.
Everything has beauty in it – including death.

Kristie
xx

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Julie Payne May 29, 2013 at 12:51 am

I’m very very frightened right now. My Mum has leukemia and has a prognosis of approx 6-8 weeks if she has Chemo. She doesn’t want it and is in hospital right now but insists she wants to be at home not in a hospital or hospice. I am an only child and there are no other relatives so this is all on me. I have my own family, two lovely children aged 7 and 9 and I am going to have to leave them behind and move in with her to help her through this. I am absolutely terrified and genuinely don’t want to watch her die but feel a duty and obligation to her that overtakes everything else. I understand that it is going to be messy and very very traumatic. She is going to be discharged after a blood transfusion possibly on Thursday or Friday and so the countdown begins. Never before have I wished I had a sibling so much, I’m so scared of what lies ahead.

Reading these posts is at least giving me a heads up on what is likely to happen and I thank you all for sharing. Wish me luck, the next few days are going to be the toughest of my life.

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Kristie West May 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Julie,
Sending you lots and lots of love right now. This is a huge job you have taken on.
The first two things that come to mind – use all the support you can get. Are there other family members around who can help support you? Nurses? Even your kids a little bit? (We live in a society now that often likes to ‘protect’ kids from the reality of death….which is why we live in such a death unaware and fearing society.)
Also, make sure you take care of yourself. Not just your mum. It can seem the right thing to put all the emphasis on your mum….but it will be so much better for you if you are putting some energy into your own wellbeing too. And if you are in a better place it will be better for your mum too. You being burnt out, tired and frustrated won’t be all that helpful to her. The better you look after yourself the better you’ll be able to look after her.
Much love,
Kristie
xx

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Jason June 12, 2013 at 9:40 am

Hi.

I felt compelled to share my story too after reading the above stories.

My mum had fought and won caner some 17 years ago. At least for a while, until it came back 2 years ago. it was just months after my grandma’s death and we were preparing for a family trip to Taiwan before my university starts. The swell on her cheek made us worried. We made her promise to go and see the doctor after the trip.

The diagnosis came back that her cancer have relapsed. Chemo-ed, relapsed, chemo+radio-therapy, and yet another relapse. The doctor indicated that she is too weak for any more treatment, gave her 3-4 more months and recommended hospice care. My mum seemed to accept it, while for me, I was like in denial and hoping that miracles can come, and make her curable again.

For the few weeks after that, without the chemotherapy and drugs, she got better, and we went to celebrate Chinese new year. That was the few moments my family really got together, and we certainly enjoyed. She even bought a lot of stuff to eat.

It was a gradual downhill after that. She started having problems eating, and her appetite worsened. She got weaker too. The hospice nurse who came in every week recommended in-patient care. We didnt see the need for it, and she was very reluctant about it. Until when one day her leg swelled and she got sent to hospital that that we saw the care that she really needs. Despite her protests, we got her in. It was such a heartbreaking moment.

For almost every evening after that, I will head down to see her,to feed her dinner. Dad will be there in the afternoon. It was very tiring, but I do my best to stay until the last buses. The nurses were really nice and comforting, and one even offered me food.

Internship starts and I got down even later. sometimes i managed to catch her at dinner. Went from porridge to mashed food. Couldnt even sit up properly. Not allowed to go to toilet (uses the urine bag).

on her birthday, i was overloaded with stuff to do, and went down only at evening. brought her yam paste, which she ate only a little and choked. Didnt really know how to celebrate. The tired me went home slightly earlier too.

One morning , as i was at the train station going to work, dad called me to go down immediately. My mind was a blank. Take train? Taxi? i rushed down anyway.

She was breathing really hard. Each breathe seemed to be a labored one. the rest of the family came and some relatives. We started telling her that its okay to go. Her eyes wasnt really staring at anything. A few times, her breathing seems to stop. But came back seconds later.

Then at a point of time, she closed her mouth. Its like she is trying to stop. And one last breathe and she stayed silent. Tears really came down. the nurses’ comforting hug seems to make me cry even further. The only only times i have cried as a guy is when my mum’s beats me at young.

I actually also felt relieved that she’s gone. No more pain and sufferings from her cancer.
Yet, I also wanted her to come back. i have gotten use to her not being at home, but yet the feeling of knowing that she is totally not coming back is different. Clearing her stuff and handling her assets proved even more difficult. Me and my family will really be different again because she has been the one pulling and controlling the family all these while, being a the middle of all affairs, even fights and quarrels. now that she is gone, its like a huge part is missing.

Sometimes, the images of her last breath flashed into my mind and I will be like emotional again. Currently, my army mate and his mum are also battling cancer. I hope that they goes through it well too.

Sorry for the really long story but I really want to get this out. Hopefully me and my family and everyone else goes through this soon!

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Ash June 18, 2013 at 5:32 am

Hi. My father passed away 10 years ago. I was 16 and forsome reason I began to think about the event tonight. He passed away of a massive heart attack and I remember what he looked like very vividly. I will never truly know how alive or dead he actually was. Apparently his major artery completely broke from his heart. I just remember how he looked. It is very haunting in that anyone who sees someone like that, cannot forget it. I remember his eyes open, almost bulging, his arm outstretched, his fingers and toes curled and his tongue bluish. It is painful in an emotional way, but it also difficult in the most human way-a human being, dead. I often wonder what he felt or thought (if he did at all). Often people will say “he died in peace” and I wonder- what is peaceful death? Being alone? Or being with people who love you? Maybe it is different for different people. Sorry for the rambling.. Lots of thought tonight.

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Candice Murphy June 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Less than 2 weeks ago I lost two people that I am close to. I lost my grandmother who was 92 and my fiance’s sister who was 52…both on the same day. That in itself was a lot to take. I was with my grandmother as she was dying. I was by her side at the nursing home as she took her last breaths. She would take a breath and then there was about a 5 to 6 second pause before she would take another breath. I wasn’t in the room when she took her last breath and I am thankful because I think that would have been too hard for me to see. However, my fiance was alone with his sister as she took her last breath and died. He told me that it was indescribeable and that the look on her face as she passed was something that was very hard for him to express and deal with. We take comfort in knowing they are safe in Heaven now but it was a very sad time for us both.

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Brian Miller July 18, 2013 at 8:08 am

I would like to start by saying that every experience i have read on here has touched my soul and I am thankful for each sharing as they have helped me to to cry, reflect and release some of the deep sting watching my Mother breathe her last 2 years ago as of june 25th at 5:06 pm. It was the most crippling and spiritually freeing experience of my life. It seems far ago, it seems yesterday. She was 67 and I , 39. Being her only gay son of 4 boys we had a very special bond…..you know, Mother-son/ and or daughter. We did everything together. Her demise was sudden. She began acting strangely one day. I took her to the hospital..Three weeks later,discovery of small strokes,2 anyuerisms, a failed surgery to fix one which let to the major stroke in icu, she was on life support and unable to go on. I signed for the surgery and made the call to remove support . My 3 brothers and i were with her at the end. They removed the tubes and her eyes opened,glazed and nonfocused. One. Spkit miment of “oh a miracle?”. But the doc assuured me it was only reflex. Within 20 minutes, her breathing slowed, then stopped. Then her heart stopped. Slowly she paled from forehead down….she was gone. I had not left her since driving her to hospital 3 weeks prior. I knew the end was coming and against urges from others hadnt left her. After her final breath my brother said “come on, its time to go”. I turned, going to the door and stopped, running back to the bed saying” i havent left her side, i cant “, vut i knew she was gone. The walk out of that room was THE MOST DIFFICULT walk of my life. My best friend and giver of life was gone. My heart is still broken to this day and life will never be the same. I cry more often than i should but as time passes i laugh too at her memories. So yes, this is good for some and nit for others. It broke me, but i would not trade that precios moment for anything in the world. I love you Mama’!!! And, i thank you so much for this forim. I pray that everyone who has shared found some solace as have I. Thank you and God bless………..

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Anne July 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

My Mam passed away on Wednesday after 18 months of being diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. I was at her bedside when she passed but I agree it is not as in the films. I am so confused because when I took her into hospital (as she could not breath when she tried to walk), I feel guilty that I may have brought her passing on earlier than if she had remained at home, as she did not want to miss Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final so I managed to get the hospital TV on for her and she seemed settled. I know this sounds silly but I can’t help but think she would have been better at home although I know she could not have carried on their on her own. Basically my mam’s condition deteriorated although the doctor had told her she could go home, I insisted she was worse than she was before she came in, eventually the doctor’s agreed and Mam was put on a syringe driver with morphine etc…as she became agitated when she could not breath although they still tried to fight a lung infection, however on her last night she needed additional medication as she started to come round from the sedation she was under, I kept asking the nurses but they were busy but in the end gave Mam a top up after an 1 hour and 45 mins, at which point she was crying out for me, then the nurses said they would move her in bed to make her more comfortable but I was to wait outside, for a few minutes Mam continued to cry and shout for me then it went silent, and I stupidly thought “oh good she is more peaceful we will get a bit of sleep now, the medication must have kicked in”, with that I heard the nurses saying my mams name over and over again and then they told her they would come and get me. On re-entering the room I noticed my Mam’s eyes were open wide and her mouth open, I said to the nurse, that my Mam didn’t look too well, she left the room but returned two minutes later and asked if I wanted her to get my Brother for me. I said yes, then I went to the door and said to the nurse I thought my Mam had passed on, she came to check and said no she hadn’t, I thought stupidly that I had misread the signs but 2 minutes later my Mam gave a couple of short gasps and the nurse came and re-checked and she had gone. I felt so angry that Mam had suffered needlessly by not having her additional medication when needed and I am mad with myself for not insisting they gave her it straight away although I did ask 4 times for help, but when all is said and done she could not have carried on much longer and I am grateful to the hospital for all they have done over the last few weeks.

Sorry if I have gone on about this but I just needed to get it off my chest as I don’t want to keep burdening any of my close family with the horrible details.

Thanks Anne

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Kristie West August 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Hi Anne, I’m glad you had the opportunity to share your story with us here.
K
xx

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Cindy O. August 2, 2013 at 12:01 am

When my Mother died of final stage Dementia in a nursing facility in Feb this year, I experienced the “burst of energy” 4 days prior to her death. It was wonderful to have my Mom back for a few hours. I was afraid that I had made the wrong decision putting on “comfort care. I had never heard of of this as this was my first experience being so close to a death. The nurses assured me that it was quite common and I have read alot on it since. In May of this year I spent the last 6 days of my Dads life with him with Hospice in his home. He had stage 4 Lung Cancer. He was very thin and on quite a lot of morphine. 3 days prior to his death he screamed and bolted off of the couch as if he were scared to death. He ran into the laundry room scared as all heck and was incoherrant (sp). He finaly slid to the ground and lost control of his bowels. He was strong as an Ox but by sister and I were able to get him in his wheelchair and calmed. After that we ordered a Morphine pump to keep him sedated and comfotrable. He never regained concionness and passed away peacefully 3 days later. My quesiton is this…Can the “burst of energy” go both ways? I have been very disturbed by this and do not know who to ask about it.
Thank you so much!
Cindy

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Kristie West August 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hi Cindy,
what do you mean by the burst of energy going both ways? Do you mean can it work in a positive and a negative way? Just want to be sure before giving you an answer so what I write is relevant to what you’re asking.
K
xx

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Judy Martin April 27, 2014 at 1:55 am

It is very commonly known that just about all dying people will experience a “burst of energy” days prior to actual death. This happens with almost all living things. Many reports of it manifesting in different ways but usually they will have a GOOD Burst of energy as almost they are getting better. I don’t know if that was what happened to you but I do know enough to agree with you. I’m sorry for you. It does stay in your mind like a constant photograph that you cannot turn the page. Perhaps his energy allowed him to live out a prominent memory in his mind. But it is always expected among the dying for them to receive this energy burst before passing.

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Lisa September 22, 2014 at 2:36 am

I know what you mean. Just 2 days before she passed my aunt was so alive. We laughed and laughed and had a wonderful time. I think God does this to give us one last beautiful memory of our loved one. God bless you!

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Dawn August 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

My sister died of graft verses host disease 2 1/2 weeks ago. I was there, along with my parents. She was had just turned 38, was 13 years younger than I was. She was diagnosed with acute myoletic leukemia just a year ago. In November she had a stem cell transplant. The donor was my brother, and supposedly it was a perfect match. But in late March, she became very ill. Her new blood was attacking all of her digestive system, from top to bottom, and her liver. She could not swallow or keep food or water down. From the end of March until her death on August 8th, she was hospitalized in isolation, as the medical team had to suppress her immune system to keep the disease from destroying her organs. She did not respond to the treatments; the best they could do was keep her liver from getting worse. The disease made her very weak and emaciated; she could hardly speak because of the dryness and ulcers in her mouth. Finally they doctors told her there was nothing more they could do. They gave her weeks to a few months. But the next day, she began to massively hemorrhage internally – her organs were bleeding, just falling apart, from inflammation. She lived only a few days after that. When my mother called and said she had only a few days, I threw my things into a suitcase and drove seven hours to be with her. The night before she died, my parents and I slept in her hospital room. She had been placed in what she called the “death room,” a large room right across from the nurses station reserved for terminal patients. She had never wanted to be in that room.
That last night was surreal. I could not sleep because I was afraid she would slip away while I was sleeping. About 16 hours before her death, she had ceased to stir. She was heavily medicated for pain, which was a blessing. Her breathing was very labored. It seemed unnatural and mechanical, but it was regular. But as morning approached, it began to slow down and was shallower as well. My parents and I kept track of her breaths per minute through they night. They slowed from 16 to 8 by morning. When she moaned, my father would whisper in her ear and tell her that we were all there, and that she was going home soon and would be free of her pain. Suddenly, around 5 am, she began breathing a bit irregularly. By about 6:30 am she would stop breathing for up to 40 seconds at a time. I won’t forget what seemed to be her last “real” breath. It was accompanied with a clear sort of groan. It really seemed to be a sign that the end was imminent. After that, her breaths became very shallow and infrequent. In the last few minutes, her chest hardly moved, and then it just stopped, and she was gone. Her hands stayed warm for several minutes, but the doctor confirmed that her heart had stopped beating. I won’t ever forget that moment, or the hours before. It was so painful, but I wanted to be there; I could not bear the thought of her being alone in her last hours. As much as it hurts, I believe that being present at her death will help me grieve – it made her death very real and immediate. Since I am so much older, I remember watching her as a newborn and thinking that she was talking to the angels when she smiled in her sleep. She could not smile as she was dying. But in her final hours, her face was more relaxed and peaceful than it had been in months, and now she is indeed talking with the angels.

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beverley October 17, 2013 at 1:00 am

Last year I watched my beloved partner die from a perforated bowel. He had been told the week before that the Lymphoma that he had been fighting for two years had spread to his liver,and that he had weeks to months to live .One week later,he was dead. The doctor told me that the perforated bowel was caused by the lymphoma. He was rushed to hospital and when he was there they didn’t even perform a scan to see what was going on ,they gave him drugs to sedate him and help with the pain. No one told me that this was him dying and I feel so angry about it as I left him that night thinking he would be ok and come home. We weren’t told that his bowel had perforated until 4pm the following day by which time he was sleeping mostly. His consultant came to see me to explain and the proceeded to ask ‘I think that he needs more pain relief, but do you’ he asked me and I said yes .I then went back in the room and sat beside my partner holding his hand and because I hadn’t been informed of how death occurs I didn’t notice any change in breathing pattern or any discolouration. In his notes the doctor had written that my partner had cold hands and feet but I didn’t even notice that! He would answer me if I spoke to him but all of a sudden he lifted his head up and said, ‘sorry,im not much company am I’ then he went back to sleep. It was only1 hour after he had increased dosage of drugs when he suddenly took an almighty deep breath and his whole torso lifted up from the bed when he did this , his eyes which were closed, then rolled to the back of his head and as he let out his breath they closed again. His mouth fell open and his jaw fell back and he was gone. I found this very distressing and can’t get that last breath out of my mind. What actually happened to him then? why did he take that breath and his body raise with eyes rolling? I so want the answers to these questions. I believe that the doctor knew that he would die once they administered the extra pain relief but they use the doctrine of double effect which is legal I wish that he had explained to me that once my partner had more pain relief he could pass away quicker as I had things that I wanted to say to him before he passed and I thought that we had more time.I have tormented myself for 11 months now with this. Has anyone else experienced any of these things?Also, I think that it would be helpful to have a nurse with you in the room when someone is passing, to talk you through what is happening as it happens because I didn’t see that last breath coming and am so angry with myself for missing the signs.I found the end quite scary and was in shock I think. .And still am. That will live with me forever.

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Elaine October 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm

I watched my husband die just 85 days after being diagnosed (esophageal cancer). It was the most traumatic thing I have ever witnessed. We had held onto hope the WHOLE time and then they said there was nothing they could do.

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Sophie October 21, 2013 at 8:19 am

Hi Kristie
I’m only 16, and my dad has been given 6 months to live (terminal lung cancer). I’ve had family and friends die before, but I’ve never actually been there to witness it, and given that my parents split up a long time ago, it’s likely that I’m going to be the only person there when he passes away – apart from my little brother, but I’m going to do my best to make sure he doesn’t witness dads death first hand. It’s an understatement to say that I’m devastated, and absolutely terrified. But I have more practical worries – do you think it hurts? (sorry, I know it’s an obvious question) and what do I do after he’s gone? I’m so scared, I’m sorry for offloading this on to you. xx

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Kristie West October 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hi Sophie,

I’m glad you got in touch. You have so much on your plate and trying to protect your brother from your father’s death is quite a burden to bear. Being present at a death can be a very healthy, healing, and powerful experience. Many who have been present at a death are very very glad for it. Though it is not so for everyone. My suggestion would be to check with your little brother what HE would want. There are many who were ‘protected’ from being present at a death…and can be very unhappy about that as they weren’t given a choice. A death can be a very difficult thing to see….but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t see it or that it isn’t right for them. I consider it a great honour to be present at a death. Check with your brother. Make sure he understands that it might not be easy and peaceful (maybe it will be but maybe it won’t) and see what he wants to do.

As for the question about whether it can hurt – the dying process can involve pain and struggle, just like being born can. Coming into this life can be a bit traumatic…and the same goes for leaving it. But that doesn’t make it bad or wrong. This blog might help you http://kristiewest.com/2013/03/07/i-wish-they-hadnt-suffered-the-point-of-their-pain-yup-it-has-a-point/
As for the actual death…many who have died and have been resuscitated have said that at the moment they experienced their death all pain left them. This is something I can’t really comment on as it hasn’t happened to me.

And for what to do after the death…when you are ready let me know (kristie@kristiewest.com) and I can send you some more specific stuff about that. The most important thing now is looking after yourself and enjoying your precious time with your dad.

K
xx

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Imern November 15, 2013 at 2:39 am

Hey,
I just watched my grandpa die on ocotber 29,2013 and it was the most upsetting thing ever- I am 15 and I was really close to him. My grandpa was diagnosed with esophagus cancer alst septemebr and from then on our life was a roller coaster- he was in the icu before he died and he was in icu when he died as well. Last time we were told he wouldn’t survive and he did. This time were told the same but the cancer had spread and he wasn’t breathing himself-he was on life support. We had hope lilke last time but our prayers didn’t work this time. We were told to take him off of life support because we were making him suffer and his condition was worsening. We took the life support off and he only breathed for 2 minutes himself. He breathed gradually. And near his last breaths he started breathing less and taking deeper breaths. In less than 2 minutes he was gone and now is with God. My grandpa was really strong and brave- and had the heart of gold. I still remember him taking his last breaths and I go back to that night and see him go away from us.
Seeing someone you love take their least breaths is very hard. My grandpa was in the icu for 2 weeks before he died and my last words to him-when he was conscious- were bye after a phone call.

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Imern November 23, 2013 at 5:44 am

I posted on this site and my post never came up—

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Monica January 28, 2014 at 6:24 pm

January 4 2014
In to the light
The room was filled with family. No one was being quiet. I sat down beside my brother’s bed, as I promised him today was the day that he would pass. I made a promise when he was conscious that I would not let him suffer. He was laying there unconscious breathing too deeply. The noise level was disturbing so I turned to say shhhh as I thought to myself, there is man here trying to die. A little respect please. A minute later they took it outside the room. The room was quiet.
I placed my hand in his left hand and his wrist was so so cold, almost frozen but yet his forearm was very warm. I held his wrist very tight to warm it up. I didn’t want him to be cold.
His skin was very clammy. I placed my head down to his arm and rested it there. I closed my eyes to meditate and to connect with him at some level. I could feel my eyes roll back and I saw a great white light. It felt as if for a moment he pulled me into him as to say this is what I see. I was no longer afraid. A hand touched my back and it snapped me out of a trance. I looked up to see my brothers breathing begin to slow. My eyes began to water as I told him to go into that light. To let go and that I love him so much. I rubbed his arm so he knew I was there. Another breath and I saw no more. I felt his chest, no beat. The nurse stepped in and I asked him to stay by my side. Hans took another shallow breath and then another as I still repeated go into the light and I love you. I love you I love you. His face was so peaceful. His heart beat was gone. I watched my brother take his last breath and journey out of his body. His soul was free of pain. It was the most beautiful experience I have ever had. It lasted but 4 minutes or so. The nurse checked and no more beat no nothing. I stood up and placed my hands on his face and kissed him goodbye. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was lost. I again sat at the right of his bed and began to hold his lifeless hand and I watched it go from blue to a beautiful pale pink. I closed his mouth and I closed his eyes forever. I ran my hand down his long graying hair. I sat and just starred off not believing what I had just witnessed. My beloved brother was indeed gone from this world. He chose me to be with in his final moments and I’ll never know why, but I am truly honored and blessed.
I miss you and will always love you.
Your sister,
M

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cathy February 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

Has anyone ever witnessed someone pass who growled like a demon, eyes fluttered open and shut, and opened and slammed their mouth shut-causing it to bleed? These were the last moments with my grandmother 10 years ago (she died of leukemia) and I still cannot find any information on why this would happen. It was like a horror movie. Anyone?

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Kristie West March 7, 2014 at 12:06 am

Hi Cathy, this isn’t unusual. The body can do all sorts of weird, scary, even violent-looking things, as it shuts down. When my grandfather died most of the family considered the way his body reacted pretty brutal. Coming into this world can take all manner of forms and can be seemingly very very difficult……and going out of this life can be the same. The body will react in all sorts of ways….and the hollywood style ending (nice and peaceful, close their eyes and head rolls slightly to the side) is NOT the most common story I hear…and I hear a lot of death stories.
Kristie
xx

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Judy Martin April 27, 2014 at 1:43 am

Your story BROKE my heart love. I am sorry. Only once did I encounter anything like you described and it was when I worked in Home Health/Hospice. A very elderly lady lost her mother who was well over 90 years old. I saw this elderly daughter at a local Flea Market several years later. She ran up to me, I did not remember her but she did me. She grabbed my arms so tightly that her nails left indentions in my arms and she burst out screaming and crying describing how her elderly mother died. She was tormented all these years later and said her Mother was screaming and begging to not let “THEM” take her, she pleaded for someone to save her. She said her Mother had a look of such horror on her face that it had haunted her every minute. It was clear this poor woman needed help but I was in such shock I didn’t know what to say. Of course, she went into more detail but it was closest to what you described. I do not know what happens at death but I do know there IS something beyond. We just have to be careful of how we live our lives and most importantly, what we keep in our hearts. NO ONE can be certain no matter how religious they think they are. I think there is something that we all do not understand. Peace and Love to You sweetheart. My prayers will be with you. Just pray. The bible says we can pray for the departed.

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Kimberly March 18, 2014 at 2:18 am

On June 4th 2013 my friend died. She had fallen 2 months earlier and hit her head. It bled so much that caused her to go into liver failure as she secretely had cirrhosis from alcoholism. She was suffering and was too afraid to tell me she had been an alcoholic.
When she initially went in to the hospital they talked about doing brain surgery because she hit her head so hard she had swelling. They continued to keep her and i wondered why. A little while later i went to see her and she looked like a bronze statue! I bawled my eyes out because I knew what it meant. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head frequently and her abdomen looked very distended. At that time I knew she was dying. Two weeks later I went to see her and knew it was time. I tried not to cry but left the room several times to do it. She saw things and people that were not there. She kept picking at the sheets and had rapid breathing. She slept a lot. I told her how much she meant to me and that it was ok to go. I told her I would see meet her at the river. I knew when I left that

she was going to die. She died the next morning at 5am. I got the call and was devastated. I have never been close with someone who that died other than my grandma 30 years ago. She was so sick and suffered in silence. I loved her regardless if she was an alcoholic. She lied about the tests on her liver being “fine”. I would have given anything to have known or helped in some way. I think back to a time when I had back surgery and she came to see me with a yellow tint to her eyes and skin. She was sicker than I was. I think of her every day as I drive by her street. I feel the void of her being here as the world continues to go on without her. Maybe to her husband and others she was “just a drunk.” I was proud to call Cheryl Treaster my friend. I miss her so much still.
She was so special to me we shared a step grandbaby.

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Georgina Walker March 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm

i’ve worked as a Nurses Assistant for many years. i’ve seen many people that passed away. Mostly elderly folks but we cared for 4 younger people that were hurt badly and couldn’t function in a regular hospital. they needed to be documented every 30 minutes.
one was a girl named Linda. when i first saw her, i thought she was a 9 year old boy! then i saw the Harley-Davidson tattoo on her right arm and was totally freaked out.. when i went to see her, she’d laugh and move her arms and legs around. i’d take her for walks do her hair. i read her chart and discovered she had a little boy. and her condition was caused by a heroin overdose. another was Kelly. he was gorgeous! blond hair blue eyes. he ended up in extended care by wrecking his motocrcycle. the physical injuries had healed, but he’d sustained a very bad head injury. i went to the room and held his hand and said i was coming back in a minute to change his bedding. i walked out of the room, got the linens i needed and walked back into Kelly’s room. then i smelled…the smell of death. he had pushed his body so far up that his head was above he end of the bed. all of his tubes had been pulled out. it took merely minutes. i will never forget Kelly and Linda. perhaps their lives were send to teach a lesson. No drugs, and ride safely.
RIP Kelly, and Hey, Linda! i wish i could visit, but i’m 1500 miles from them! i’ve had 3 friends commit suicide, which gives the loved ones more pain and grief i believe. thanks for this blog. love and light coming your way, Kristie.

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Julie April 11, 2014 at 11:43 am

Hi, I have read most of the posts on your site and they have all been interesting and helpful to read.
I have always feared death after witnessing a friend die when I was only 10 and he was 11. He was hit by a truck while we were out with his family rabbiting. I was pretty traumatised at the time and for years after, and could not handle seeing anything dead. Then in 2001 my mother was dying of cancer, and I was organising to be with her when the doctors only gave her a couple of weeks. However, the morning I left, the hospital had rang to say she was unconscious, and I didn’t find out until I got there. I had half an hour with her, with my dad and aunt, and I was holding her hand when she passed away. She did change colour, but seemed pretty peaceful, and I was devastated. She was a strong woman, and found out what would happen, and was prepared. Two weeks later, we were told my grandmother (mum’s mum) who was also at the same hospital as a resident, was dying. She was 99, and relied on my mum who would come and feed her, talk to her and love her. I was also honoured to be there when she died, in fact I was cuddling her at the time of her passing. I remember saying that my mum had promised her she would be with her when she passed, and I said she was there waiting as promised. And that is the moment she took her last breath. It was so painful, to loose her too, but she knew mum had gone, so gave up I think.
Only a couple of months ago my dad also passed away. I got a call to say he was refusing his dialysis (which he had been having for 5 or so years). I rang him and made him promise to have it that day and I would come down to see him right away (he was 2 hours away). I thought I would talk him out of it, and things would go on. I got there, and he did agree to have the dialysis that day, but he was not well. He had multiple infections that wouldn’t clear up. My sister came home to be with me,and we stayed with him for nearly 2 weeks. He had another session of dialysis and then the specialist came to see me and told me that he was just too week to have anymore. We knew that when they stopped, it would only be a matter of days to a week until he would die. They told us that it was a good way to die (if you got to choose) and he wouldn’t be in a lot of pain. He was good for most of that time, and he got to say goodbye to absolutely everyone he cared about and who cared about him. I ended up sleeping at the hospital for 5 days to be with him, and those are days that I treasure. The end when it came, was unexpected if you know what I mean. I had the same ball of pain in my stomach when my mum died. One thing though that sticks in my mind, was that at the moment he stopped breathing or died, he sat up, and had such a surprised expression in his face, and I don’t know how to react to that. I don’t know if it means anything, or if , well, I don’t know. Even though no one knows for sure, I just wonder what he saw.
Anyway I think it is a privilege to have been there for both of my parents passing and also my grandmother.
thank you for your time,
Julie

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Marlies April 21, 2014 at 6:44 pm

On February 2013 I witnessed the love of my life dying.

I had known him for almost 20 years but somehow we never got close. We barely saw each other in those years. Than we connected through facebook at the end of 2012 just 2 months before I told my ex husband I wanted to leave him. In October 18 I met him on a birthday party and we talked until 4.30 in the morning. It felt good but because of my fresh separation (read divorce) it took until June 2013 to make us a couple. Ever since that first night we were together, either at his place or mine with or without my 2 children. We had a wonderful time and as we got to know each other better, we grew closer and closer and more and more in love. We went to Paris, to Las Vegas, we spent two holidays at Lake Garda…. it really seemed too good to be true. And that was true… He got more tired as the months passed, and sometimes after sports, he had chest pains. I once asked him to please go see the doctor but apparently he felt no serious fear. Until that Thursday when he played a game of tennis and left early because he wasn’t feeling well. He called me since I was visiting a friend and asked me to come home. He had never sone this before and the fear in is voice made me leave instantly. While driving home I called the doctor who said he had to call himself. So when I ran in his appartment he called the doctor. While sitting next to him still with my coat on ready to see the doctor or go to the hospital he sort of fainted. I grabbed his phone and screamed to the lady to send an ambulance. I stayed on the phone as his body cramped and he moved up his arms and legs, witnessing his body urging for oxigen and then he stopped breathing. Some vomit came from his mouth when the lady told me to check if his tongue wasn’t in his throath and I had to lay him on his back to do heart massage. I had never done this before, in my blind panic I screamed and cried without tears, hysterically, and starting to massage his heart. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, I thought he might choke on some vomit still in his mouth and I was so affraid to loose him. The time for the ambulance to arrive felt like ages. In reality it took 10 minutes and they continued to reanimate another hour…. It was all too late… At 23.30 the doctor asked me to come and said there was nothing more they could do. There he lay…. the love of my life for 8 months, died on 13 February 2014. It was devastating, not peaceful or pretty. It was the most horrific thing I had ever witnessed in my life so far. He hadn’t see it coming, we still had so many plans… He had bought me white roses for Valentine’s day with a card I only found 4 weeks after his death. It still feels as if it happened yesterday. It’s so hard to overcome. It’s so hard to understand. He was only 41 years old. The world is just not fair. I have a hard time moving on, all I want is having him back in our lives. There were so many people who loved him. I am grateful to have met the love of my life, but so sad and depressed that I lost him.
Strength to all,
Marlies

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Judy Martin April 27, 2014 at 1:35 am

I’m so sorry for your loss and the way it ended. My heart breaks for you as I know your description too well. Just know that HE “IS” in a better place and perhaps your plans were not fulfilled but we can not know the greater plan that is more powerful than our own. Blessing You.

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Judy Martin April 27, 2014 at 1:33 am

Dear Author: After reading your article searching for how often someone actually has to go through this was almost a relief to find. To watch even 1 person that you love most in this world take their last breath is one of life’s most horrible events. I have had to hold 3 of the very ones who I loved the most in this world. It is a Blessing and a Curse. Each one gave me such a GIFT with GOD’S presence and I witnessed something “DIVINE” each and every time. So I believe God knew I would not have been able to make it through their Passing without those gifts. Each one, I watched leave, I KNEW beyond a doubt that they simply just left my arms and went into God’s arms. Each event was completely different but each one equally a miracle to watch. It did NOT help my grieving that much but it saved my life because each day I live, it isn’t a matter of finding a reason to live, it is a matter of finding a reason not to die. Depression has always been my Greatest Battle and consumed me all my life. I just know God gave me those gifts and their TREMENDOUS LOVE for me. What greater gift can we receive? Everyone is NOT religious I know but I worked in hospice for 15 years and I rarely heard any stories but I heard some good and bad. To me, there is NO question that we just change at death. We do NOT die, we simply change and leave this world. Thank you for allowing me to comment. I hope this may help someone. Good subject that people need because I don’t know how many have to go through this but it is something that changes you in every way and is ‘engraved’ in you memory forever. Totally different than just learning someone you loved died. I don’t know which is worse.

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Kim April 30, 2014 at 2:10 pm

It was 5 a.m. when my mother came over from her house next door and started the coffee and woke me up. She said “coffee’s ready”. I got up and went to the living room where my coffee was waiting already made and sitting by chair. We sat quietly as usual until the second cup. I made our second cup and Mom got up from the recliner and hurried into the bathroom. I could hear her throw up. When she came out I asked was she okay and she said yes. I got my son off on the school bus and went to check on my Mom who had went lay down in my room. Mom was 74 so I asked her was she having any other symptoms such as chest pain, arm pain, or jaw pain and she said no. I went and got my blood pressure cuff and she sat up and let me take her pressure. It was 135/70 which isn’t terrible. I went back in the living room. She got up and threw up a second time and I suggested getting someone to be with my daughter and us going to the doctor but she said thought it was something she may have ate the night before and asked for an antacid. I got her the antacid and she said down in the recliner beside mine and reclined back. Mom said she was chilled and asked for a lap blanket and I got one and covered her and sat back down in the recliner beside hers. She said ” Let me take a little nap and then I will go with you to feed the animals” then pulled the blanket up over her shoulder and turned over away from me. In less than a minute later I heard her quietly say “oh”. If the room had not been completely silent and I had not been sitting less than 3 feet away I would not have heard her. I asked was she okay. Mom did not say anything so I asked again and then I heard her make a gurgly sound. I jumped up and ran to the other side of her and my mama was gone. Her eyes were opened and you could tell they were dilated and her mouth was open. I began to plead with her not be gone but she was. I pulled her to the floor and called 911 and did CPR for over 20 minutes until the EMTs arrived. About once a minute she looked like she was trying to breathe but she was not getting air. The EMTs later told me that it was just a body reflex. They worked on her and shocked her 3 times with no response for at a half hour. They continued doing CPR and brought her to the hospital and they tried for another hour. The doctor was able to get a slight pulse and heart rate once but could not keep it going. It is 3 weeks today since I lost her. I carry the guilt of not being able to bring her back and all the “what ifs”. Everyone says how lucky was to be there with her during her last moments but I don’t feel lucky. I play out every second of that whole morning over and over in my head every day all day. I walk, I talk, I cook, I clean but I feel like I am just a shell. I feel overwhelmed by the sadness, everything around me reminds me of her and keep a lump in my chest trying to fight back the tears. My mom was my constant companion and my best friend since she moved next to me and my husband 20 years ago. I just wish I could hold her once more.

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Marlies May 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Judy, what a story…. I have read your story with amazement. Keep strong, keep faith. xxx

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Albert May 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

After reading every response, I have to echo the sentiments of those who felt that witnessing a death was unsettling and saddening.

My grandfather suffered a stroke four years ago and broke his pelvis. He maintained his upper body strength, appetite, chess playing ability, and rock-solid “I am always right” attitude that was always seemed somewhat reassuring no matter how wrong he was. Appearing to be in the same mental health, but being unable to walk eventually took away his desire to exercise, which probably led to his second stroke, which hindered his ability to talk.

This was a much greater loss than not being able to walk. Even though he could always joke about his inability to walk, not being able to express himself was pure torture. He would want to say something, but just mumble eh eh eh. He couldn’t write either. He somehow knew what he wanted to express, but forgot the rules of grammar, vocabulary, and/or hand eye coordination. Clearly tormented, he slowly lost the will to live. The only thing that he had remaining was his iron will, which was now focused on trying to leave this earth as quickly as possible.

So only a few days after he suffered his second stroke, he seemed to be physically recovering but was mentally prepared to die. He declined quickly.

His third stroke should have been a blessing. It damaged his brainstem and breathing rhythm. His brain commanded his lungs to breathe as quickly and deeply as possible. Like an old man who climbed several sets of stairs. He was in constant hyperventilation which changed his blood PH, damaging his other organs which had been in great health.

The day before he died, his eyes were open, but yellowed and darting from place to place seemingly randomly. The doctor said he was unconscious. It was terrible to watch. Finally, on the last day, his breathing muscles were finally giving way. They were just too tired to work. Being so healthy in the past only prolonged the pain.

Finally, on the day he died all his indicators were dropping. His diaphragm, so weakened, was now only able to work very slowly. He gasped for what few breaths he could get. Then his body heaved, and he vomited brown liquid which he promptly choked on. His heart rate immediately dropped to zero, but the nurse moved him to his side. His heart started again but only briefly, stopping for good several minutes later.

The experience was certainly more sad than honored, even if he wanted not to live anymore and lived to the ripe old age of 88.

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Shocked June 4, 2014 at 2:35 am

I just witnessed a man die from a massive heart attack in a parking lot. He seemed confused and suddenly dropped. His face first seemed paper white and then turned purple. Everyone rushed to help and some called 911. Another person gave him CPR until the ambulances arrived. They tried to bring him back to no avail. In the hustle and bustle we tend to forget how fragile life is and everyone’s clock is ticking.

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Christian July 1, 2014 at 7:08 am

I was in the hospital room with my mamaw when she died. The hospital workers had removed all the tubes and wires, and she was on a breathing machine and they unplugged that too. When they called me and my family back there after doing so, we put on these paper gowns over our clothes and gloves. I was in there with my Dad, 3 cousins, uncle, Dad, brother, sister, aunts, and uncle. I remember my papaw was singing go rest high up on that mountain, I remember holding my sister and crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. It was too long before she was officially dead. I can still hear my papaw’s voice in my head asking “Sugar pie are you still there?” over and over. I remember my dad sitting down and putting my head in his hands. My sister hugged and she stroked my hair, I remember looking at her and thinking “this ain’t the woman that I remember.” and we all kissed her on the cheek, I held her hand for a minute and it felt cold, it didn’t feel right. I remember everything, and I can’t shake it from my mind, and I can’t forget how she looked before I left the hospital room.

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Rosalie July 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I watched my husband die of liver failure last year and it is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. He was taken off all medication at midday on the Thursday and slowly went downhill all afternoon, he was out of it by 5pm and was fitting and very very restless, he spent the next few hours this way until around 2am when he become extremely aggitated, foaming at the mouth and very very distressed, at this point I am sorry to say that I was begging him to go, just to stop the anguish he was feeling and that I was watching. I had no idea what to expect at the end, but at 5.15 he suddenly seemed to quieten down, took fewer and very shallow breaths, his face was contorted, I held him so hard. The nurse came in, I asked if this was it, he looked at Jon, looked at me and nodded, he then put my hand on top of Jon’s heart. I literally felt my darling take his last breaths, stood there by his side until it was all over and then fell apart! I can see the last hours of his life in the hospital so vividly but have so little recollection of what happened in the weeks folllowing. It is certainly not for the faint hearted but in a very perverse way it makes me feel even closer to him although he is no longer here.

I hope this helps someone out there…… I

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Laurie July 23, 2014 at 5:34 am

My mom had stage 4 terminal lung cancer. She was a non smoker, non drinker and never did any type of drugs. She was a hard working single mother since I was 2 yrs old when she left my dad. She never remarried. She worked hard to be such a good mother. I cared for her in my home her last 6 yrs of her life. 8 mos before she died she was diagnosed w/ cancer after a continuous cough that wouldnt go away. On Feb 20, 2011 it was my daughters 16th bday. The night before my mom ate well after not eating for about a week. She had lost her appetite only drinking ensure and small things. She was wearing diapers and seemed to be in horrible pain if I just touched her. For some reason she ate really good right before bed. I checked on her throughout the night & she was fine. The morning of 2/20 I woke up to find her staring off into space, not responding to my voice. She just looked at me. I tried to give her a sip of water but she just opened her mouth a little for the straw to go inside but seemed to not know how to sip from the straw. She was not speaking. I would say MOM??? and she would just say Hmm? But nothing else. I called the hospice nurse and asked her to come right away. Over an hour passed before she came. Right in front of my mom she told me “Well honey… shes dying.. this is the process..” like it was no big deal. She was not compassionate at all. I asked her to call the ambulance to take her to the hospice center now. I need help dont know what to do. After asking several times she called and the ambulance took her. When we got there they gave her morphine pill under her tongue and that was the last time she opened her eyes. I stayed w/ her in the hospice and never left. 2 days past now its my sons 6th bday. Im still in hospice and mom never woke up. Shes still sleeping.. her skin is turning purple and her toes and hands are curled inward. her skin has purple blotches everywhere. The doctor comes once a day thats all.. nurses are not helpful. Im alone just me and my friend. The nurses come to turn her position once an hour. They ask me to step out cuz they say its not a good sight to see. I talk to her… tell her its ok to let go. The dr said she cant explain how shes still alive as her body is shut down and only thing keeping her alive is her heart. She had a quadruple heart bypass several years ago. Theres no bowel sounds. The dr said shes brain dead. Her pupils are large and pure black. I sit next to her making rosaries for the nurses and family. Family called from the Philippines to say their goodbyes to her. I put the phone to her ear & I could hear people talking, crying… day 3 I am still here… all day all night and im sitting next to her looking down making rosaries still. In the corner of my eye I see something move. I look to my left. My mom turns her head towards me after not being able to move for 3 days and she moves her mouth as if trying to talk… but no voice comes out. She turns her head back and takes a couple of hard deep breaths and I see her chest just go flat. I stare at her chest hoping its going to rise again but nothing. I panick and I scream MOM please dont leave me!! I hit the nurse button I dont know how many times.. multiple times. She comes w/ the blood pressure machine and BP machine says 000 all the way across. She tries again …000. I am screaming and crying. A nurse from the next room comes and hugs me & the other nurse does too. I hold her hand and cry. I call my husband at work and tell him shes gone and he comes… the mortuary ppl come and get her and take her away. I know she didnt want to die on the kids birthdays . I still wonder what she was trying to say to me…

also a few days before she went to hospice center she was playing/picking at her blanket too just like another story i read on this blog.. I asked mom what are you doing? She said looking for her medicine.. she would pick /touch her blanket. Why do they do that and what are they really doing? She also spoke in her native language from the philippines and spoke about Adalida… I asked my cousin who is Adalida and she said she was the head maid.. the head of all the maids in my grandmas house . I asked where is Adalida now? She said she died many many years ago. I told cousin my mom talked about her and called out her name and my cousin was quiet for a minute…

For a month after my mom died I saw her in my house in the form of white streaks of light going up over my body like it was flying.. up left to right up towards the ceiling and up thru the ceiling. My oldest daughter who was 23 at the time was standing in the kitchen and she said lets go outside.. .she didnt wanna scare my son and asked me if I saw that and I said Yes. I also would see “Something” in the front of my bedroom doorway and it would spook me. My cat and dog would sit in front of her bedroom door and wouldnt leave. after about a month it all stopped

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Tracy July 25, 2014 at 4:02 am

I know hospice can help to control pain, but what can they do to ease the suffering of fighting for each breath? That seems to be the way my mom will go according to the docs and I just don’t know if I can take it watching her struggle. Do they do something – does morphine help – to make that feeling of suffocating not be there?

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Tammy Plocharczyk July 28, 2014 at 6:03 am

The night before my mom passed away, she let out a blood curdling scream. It’s been weighing on my heart ever since she passed away in 2012. She had cancer and was taking a lot of medication, could this be why? In the back of my mind I often wonder if she’d seen something that scared her? Has anyone had this happen to them?

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Jamie Lancaster August 5, 2014 at 7:42 am

I was with the love of my life, taylor, for 8 years and September 3th of 2009 I held him tightly in my arms as he took his lasts breath due to a heroin overdose. I remember hearing the ambulance coming but i knew that it was to late.I watched them try to shock him and bring him back and i just remember thinking, WHY? Why did I have to see the man who I loved more than anything in this world die like this? He was sober for 6 months but that morning he wanted to get high and I told him he was stupid and not to but his excuse to relapse was because it was his 28th birthday, now Sep 3rd is his death date…

It is now 2014 and to this day I refuse to accept that he is really gone, I just cant and Ive talked to many drs and been prescribed everything you can think of BUT nothing takes away the pain I feel each and every day…

I want my life back, I really do but I dont know where to even begin…

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Davy August 20, 2014 at 12:19 am

I was searching on the internet on people dying with eyes wide open and I came across this post. Recently my father passed away. He had similar symptoms a week before he died. He used to feel very cold and would sweat a lot. No one could understand why he is sweating so much. Then he did not feel like eating at all. Just little bite here and there. The day he passed away, he got with a surge of energy and asked for food. So my mom gave him whatever was there. She gave him a sponge bath and he looked cheerful. So we thought he is getting better finally. He had heart issues, where his hear would beat very fast for some reason. He was hospitalized for almost a month.

An hour before, I reported that he could not breathe properly, so the nurse gave him oxygen mask. Now my brother was leaving the hospital ward, so my mom was busy talking to him. When she turned around to him, he was staring at something on the ceiling. So she asked him “What are you looking at?” He made some signs with his hand and spoke in his mask. She was afraid to open his mask and hear him. So he went back to look at what he was looking, then a my mom saw his tears drop down. So she told him, don’t worry. He continued to keep looking at whatever he was looking and then his eyes became big. Mom says, his eyes were really wide open, and then she saw the heart rate monitor start to skw down. By the time doc’s came and did what they had to do, he has already passed on. Till today, I think, he must be knowing that he is dying or whatever he saw made him emotional. Then only he cried. I was researching why his eyes grew wide open. One theory according to Hinduism is that the soul leaves the body through various chakras or openings in the body, if it goes to a higher place then it leaves from the head area, if it leaves for the world of suffering, then it leaves from below the naval. In this case, man is agitated or ends up urinating after death occurs. Some people are aggressive, some get depressed, some see all kinds of bad things.

On the other hand, I a nurse told me on day, that she saw a kid dying and the kid said “Mom I can see a garden”, just before she died.

I feel when the soul is ready to reunite with her creator, she passes through all the desires we accumulate within us. I try to meditate at times and I see all sorts of things. Sometime good, sometime bad.

Anyways, the point was. One day we too are going. Recent death experience about my father has changed my life. I miss my father a lot. I know I will meet him someday.

I often ask god, why did you make us. Why do we come into this world to suffer and one day die. So many questions to ask god, when I meet him.

A lot of folks above have expressed their emotions on this page. I think we should spend more time in loving each other more.

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Whitney September 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

It has been almost 17 months since I lost my aunt. She had a brain aneurysm rupture while at home, and was rushed to the hospital where she later died. The aneurysm was so far down on the brain stem, and so much damage was done she couldn’t be saved. We as a family went into her room in the NICU (Neurological ICU)…my grandparents, my uncle, cousin and my mother. Our priest was with us as well as her Neurosurgeon and ICU nurse. As she was receiving Last Rites…I looked up to see her heart beat the last few beats. I turned and looked at the doctor who lipped “I’m sorry” with tears rushing down her face. It seemed like slow motion that these nurses started flooding the room only to be pushed back. I will never forget the physical, mental, emotional feelings. I couldn’t breathe for what felt like an eternity my whole body started shaking, I could feel my heart pounding through my whole body, I started crying so hard, I felt like I was going to throw up. I had never seen someone die…all of a sudden she was gone…who I had just seen 2 weeks before, and we had been laughing and joking. There was no warning! I was devastated… I had no clue that one could hurt so bad emotionally, mentally, and physically and still keep moving. The worst in the following weeks was the replaying of the day she died…over and over when I tried to sleep…do anything actually. I still see it when trying to do something…or sleep at night.
Watching someone die is different for everyone. Sudden death I feel is the worst. The pain is indescribable. It took 9 months for me truly let go and laugh. My friends took my out for my birthday…I had a good time… I laughed and laughed…so hard my face, side, and head hurt. After almost 17 months I still cry… I dread holidays, family birthday parties and other special occasions. A piece of all of us died that day, and nothing will ever be the same again.
There is no true closure…yes we were there when she left, but it feels incomplete. I miss her everyday, and wish I could just hug her one last time.

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Yo September 15, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Kristie–you are a practical and emotional genius. I consider myself an intelligent person, and MOST of this has not ever crossed my mind. You’ve helped me tremendously (I lost my grandma, my mom, and have lost two beautiful dogs and four sweet kitties in the last few years–the first four all in 2011 alone).

I have been to the bottom, and feel like I’m very slowly ascending. Your advice has made me feel lighter already. Thank you.

I am also caregiver to my dad (who is 100% dependent, and can be not-so-thankful at times…). Reading these stories of what I know to be the inevitable, and remembering my own experiences in a new light, reminds me in force to cherish today, no matter how difficult. To remember that, with progressive illness, today–no matter how difficult–could very well be one of the best days left with my dad.

I can’t deny the negatives, but accentuating the positives will help me come to terms when the time comes. Thank you again for your precious, precocious wisdom, from the bottom of my heart.

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Kristie West September 22, 2014 at 4:32 am

You are very welcome. I am so glad you’ve found my words helpful to gain a new perspective. :)

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Lexi September 22, 2014 at 12:30 am

In May of this year my 96 year old grandpa was still going to the gym, driving himself to doctor’s appointments, and taking care of my 93 year old grandma in their studio apartment completely independent. Words can’t describe how close I am to these two and they certainly gave me reason to believe they’d be around forever. I got the call late May that my grandpa had lost his balance and had fallen, accidentally taking my grandma down with him. Although my grandpa was fine, my grandma had broken her pelvis and went to the hospital. A few days later my grandpa sold his car and checked himself into the hospital for what would be his last few weeks. Unbeknownst to the family that he had been trying to protect, my grandpa had been battling liver cancer on his own until it had become too much. He would redirect any visitors in the hospital to go visit my grandma who he thought needed more support than he, so no one felt the gravity of death encroaching (we were not told of his diagnosis until a few days before he passed). But day by day he ate less, spoke fewer words and drew his eyes and lips together tighter. That was the hardest part- seeing this joyous man wear this angry, pain filled face, without words. He was moved to palliative care and his passing was quick and a look of peace washed over his face after he exhaled his last breath with no death rattles. Our family’s grieving process was then channeled into taking care of my ailing grandma who had been going downhill ever since her initial fall. I now write this 3 months later from hospice holding her hand during her transition out of the physical world. Her process could not be more different than my grandpa. This woman had never suffered from Alzheimer’s or any type of dementia. But there is something that should be on every caregiver’s radar, and that is terminal agitation. You may start to lose your loved one even before the vitals plunge. A week ago my grandma told us that she felt really sick and had a pain that was all over her body that could not be verbalized. She had been endlessly agitated, screaming for help, asking compulsively if she were on the bedpan (which she never was when she asked). Her bedsores were excruciating and became an obsession. She would pick at the blanket and constantly ask to be moved up on the bed until her head touched the headboard. She gradually slipped into cycles of long sleeps and punctuated agitation/panic during waking moments. Her desire to eat slipped away. The agitation got so bad we were advised to bring her to hospice to “adjust her medications to control the agitation” but with the idea that once stabilized she’d be back at home. We did not know the agitation was part of the dying process. And even though her vitals were fine we did not know that the breathing had changed so much that she was admitted with only days left. We give her morphine whenever she seems to be in pain and she has since slipped into a coma-like state, not eating or drinking or communicating. We have had moments of nodding to questions of “are you ok?” and one “I love you” before she stopped being able to form intelligible statements. But even that “I love you” was followed minutes later with obsessive “help!”s and “am I on the bedpan?”. She is calm now but we’re left with so many questions about what her mind is processing and whether she is still “there” the way she used to be. Or whether she’s already lost some of herself. She is so tough and afraid of dying that even through this whole process she is clinging to life with all the strength she can muster. Because of this I honestly can’t expect her to pass peacefully like my grandpa did and am greatly fearing the death rattles and horrific body responses. But then again she is such a fighter and always has been, so I’m not sure if I could imagine it any other way. I just don’t want her to be scared on her journey. The family has decided to stay by her side until she passes.

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Lisa September 22, 2014 at 2:04 am

Seeing my aunt pass was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. We were all there, her daughter was humming to her. She took one last deep breath, and just like the movies she left us. I felt so honored and lucky to have been there.
She my grandmother passed, though, it was so scary to me. Maybe because I was only 14, but her breathing became very ragged and shallow almost like she was desperate for air, then it stopped and started again. It took her about 2 minutes to pass. It was horrible.

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Rachel H October 22, 2014 at 4:31 am

I truly appreciate what you had to say. Being with my mom when she passed away in July was difficult but not being there would have been even more so. Being a 7y cancer fighter she lost her battle at 59 years old. Thank you letting me know that witnessing someone die might not look easy. As i am searchong for why did this and that happen, your words may be the only ones i need in order to let that piece of my grief, thinking i should have done more to comfort or care for, go.

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Kristie West October 22, 2014 at 5:50 am

I’m really glad to read this Rachel. Much love xxx

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