Secrets spilled in life's final minutes

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 7:01am

Reddit is a social platform where clever memes, photos of kittens and discussions of space, science and politics are interwoven with NSFW jokes, original artwork and an abundance of sexual innuendo.

It can be simultaneously fascinating and offensive. And occasionally it is a place where the most intimate human moments are laid bare.

Recently, user twistedeye posed this question: "To the doctors nurses, police, paramedics etc. of Reddit. Did you ever hear a death bed confession and what was it? Did you feel like it brought relief to the person confessing?"

More than 8,000 comments have been posted in response. None of them has been verified. User privacy is an important part of Reddit, but the community is also quick to police itself when fraud is suspected.

The stories that emerged ranged from an emergency dispatcher's memory of an imminent suicide to a son discovering he was not his father's child.

Reading them was much like attending the wake for a good friend: moments of laughter followed by stunned silence. But most of all it was filled with too-rare examples of the best the Internet has to offer: a sense of real, if sometimes awkward, community. Some of the submissions have been edited for clarity.

The student nurse

"In nursing school a lady in her mid-40s came in after a car accident," wrote sweetexasmarty. "She needed surgery, and before she went in she made me promise to tell her husband that she had a child before she met him and put it up for adoption and should her son ever come looking for her to let him know she was sorry and loved him every day. She lived and I hope she got to tell him that herself."

The son who wasn't

User RDarkLord volunteered to donate tissue after his father had a massive heart attack.

"After they did the required comparability tests, a doctor came in, sat me down and explained that I could not be a donor, because not only was I not a match I wasn't even related to him. I could never bring myself to tell him -- he's still in my heart my dad."

"And you're sure this wasn't a mistake right?" asked bigDeeOT. "Do y'all look different? My last bio professor actually told me that she used to do DNA testing and stories like this are surprisingly a lot more common that you think."

RDarkLord said that he did eventually confront his mother and that her explanation confirmed why he looked so different from his sisters.

Tell them I'm sorry

"When I first started as a 911 dispatcher I had a call come in and all that the person said was 'Tell them I'm sorry,' and hung up," said mayaseye. "I knew right away what we were going to find when we got there. It was the worst feeling. I just felt so dirty that I was the last one to talk to this guy, and no matter how fast we sent help it didn't matter it was just too late. So I guess he was confessing, but it just made me feel icky."

A grandmother's confession

"My grandmother outlived my mother and died at 101. She lived with me until she had to go into a nursing home only 6 months before she died," stormydog wrote. "While at the nursing home, I guess she thought I should know some family secrets, since she was the only one who knew them. She told me her mother died from complications of a back-alley abortion in 1922 NYC. Then she said her father started 'treating me like I was his wife' (I didn't ask her to expand on that, I understood what she meant) until he started 'keeping company' with a Jewish woman. He apparently had several children with the Jewish woman and they lived in a 2 family house with his first set of children on one floor and the Jewish woman on the other."

I'm scared

"This may not seem like much, but the last words my mom said to me before she died were 'Baby, I'm scared,' " wrote Orange_Penguin. "She wasn't scared of anything - she was a paramedic for over 20 years and had practically seen it all. That was the most horrifying part about watching her die. In all the times she'd been forced to go to the hospital, I had NEVER heard her say that she was scared."

"That made me cry," posted bdsmash. "I fear my Mother will say, 'I don't want to go... I don't want to go.' "

Call me back!

"My grandma went a little loopy before she went, but she left a vm for her best friend in the last days along the lines of 'Maggie, it's Deborah. I'm dying, and it's a lot of fun! Call me back!' " said buddynach0.

"This is by far the greatest thing on this thread, possibly the greatest thing ever. Thank you for sharing!" wrote pods_and_cigarettes.

Completely alone

"I was a health care aide on a geriatric ward when a woman so old and frail she looked dead already motioned to me to come to her. I put my ear next to her mouth and she quietly said, 'I just wanted to say 'goodbye' to someone.' It broke my heart. She died a few days later," said jacobtwo-two.

User Caf-fiend responded that her mother died alone in the middle of the night in a hospital room after being in and out of the hospital for four years. She admitted that she hadn't made time to see her mother during this stay and still regrets it. "I hope she was able to have a nice conversation with somebody, or squeeze a hand before she went. We weren't very close in the end, but the thought of her being all alone tears me up inside."

Please forgive me

"A call had come out of a shooting that had just occurred. It was in a neighboring division, but we were close so we decided to go," said CopWithoutVest. "We were the first unit and there is a guy, shot right in the forehead walking back and forth. He is on his cell phone screaming and crying and asking his mother to please forgive him for everything he has done because he got shot and was going to die." He posted later that he never found out whether the man died.

Loved his family

"My grandfather who had been married for 42 years and had 4 children and was on his death bed from lung cancer told me he was gay when I was 16. He loved his family," said baconand**ts.

User RagingCacti responded, "I'm not sure if I feel happy for him living a long, fulfilling life with a family he loved; or feel sorry for him, for having to live a life never telling anyone until the very bitter end."

The original poster wrote, "I think he loved his wife as his closest friend, I never knew if she knew or not. I know he loved his kids to death. I respect him greatly."

Living for two

User fatesarchitect said this thread prompted her to register for Reddit to post her story of a 24-year-old cousin who died after two double lung transplants and a long struggle with cystic fibrosis. She said the only spot not bruised or covered with tubes was on her cousin's cheek, and so she rubbed that spot and told stories about travel to Africa and Scotland.

"I'll do everything for you," fatesarchitect said. "It's okay."

"She opened her eyes and smiled at me, and then closed them again. It was the last time I saw her awake and alive. She died a few days later; she got the second transplant, and never woke up.

She loved butterflies, and since she died, I've had them land on me with strange regularity all over the world. She's going with me because I'm living for both of us, or so I'm going to keep telling myself."

"Dammit all," wrote DarkWolfLove. "I have CF as well. And hopefully you don't hate me too much for this, but I don't take care of myself as much as I should. I have it pretty good for such a disease, but I still feel shameful reading this, and knowing other girls who have died young. I'm sorry you lost such a cool person so early. I'm also sorry I take my own life for granted."

Apology accepted

An elderly man living in a predominantly white area was brought into a medical facility where Anjolifwr, who describes himself as a "non-white person," was studying. It was his first patient.

"As I turn around, the patient grabs my hand and says, 'Can I tell you something?'

After I agree, he says, 'I never liked colored folk before.' He went on to explain that he finally understood, and that skin color made no difference, and he was so sorry and appreciative of the care he received. He started crying while he apologized to me.

"I told him I understood, and I 'accepted' his apology (he seemed to be asking me for forgiveness.) I just tried to be as kind and understanding as possible. It seemed to me that he realized he was near his end, and was doing his best to make amends. Honestly, the whole situation made me very sad."

Secret sword

A couple of days before her grandfather died, Staankygirl and her family were summoned to his bedside. "He almost broke into tears," she said. "He told us that he has felt guilty since World War II... something about being in an Asian country.... and then opening fire and clearing the building and him stealing a samurai sword from a glass case in the middle of a government building. He said where it was hidden in his house and that the press would be all over it if they found out, but that he feels horrible for stealing it. Conclusion: We may or may not have been sitting on a multi-million dollar fortune, also, my grandfather was a stand up guy... felt guilty for stealing in the war and wanted to get it out. Class act. A few days later he died. OP will surely deliver when I head back to England and find/ research the sword."

Sense of humor

"My dad's last words (heart attack in the shower, he died while we were waiting 45 f**king minutes for an ambulance to travel two miles) were 'I always knew I'd be bollocks-naked when I died, My life was f**king brilliant,' " Gillybilly wrote.

"My mom's last words to me were 'You have to learn the difference between Chinese and Japanese people, because they don't like it when you mix them up.' I wish I was joking," said SydTheDrunk.

Ending on a high note

"My pediatrician told me about how when she was still a really new doctor she had a little boy come in who had stuck a penny up his nose and had to get it removed. He was crying to his mom that he wanted her to have his Stretch Armstrong doll and that his younger brother was still not allowed in his room after he died. He basically dictated his will to my pediatrician and his mom," wrote celiabobelia

"When I first read this, I got really sad because I thought the kid had died," wrote CaptForestWhitaker. "Then I wondered how far up his nose this penny got stuck, then I realized I am dumb."

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