18 Last Words Medical Workers Heard Dying Patients Utter That Range From Surprisingly Silly To Utterly Terrifying

I'm not sure how death has become a niche I frequently cover, but considering we all deal with death and grief, I do believe there's power in talking through what final moments look like.

Person pushing a person on a stretcher through a bright, illuminated doorway, symbolizing transition or passage. Image categorized as Internet Finds
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And since death is such a taboo topic, there's so much people don't know until they experience it. As Hospice Nurse Julie explained to us in a previous article, many patients go through the "actively dying phase," whereby the body begins to shut down. Symptoms can be scary to witness (like "fish-out-of-water" breathing, the death rattle, and the rally), but they're common and not to be feared.

A goldfish lies on a wet, textured surface with puddles and droplets surrounding it
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Still, no one knows for certain how they'll die, and we can't exactly predict or plan what those infamous "last words" will look like. In some cases, they're powerful or heartbreaking — in many others, they're a little anti-climatic (like, "Ice cream please," as you'll read below).

It's also important to note — in many cases, "last words" are often nonexistent because people become nonverbal as their bodies begin to shut down.

So, to get an idea of the range of what last words can look like, over on Reddit, people who work in the medical field shared all the memorable — from the scary to the heartwarming to the anti-climatic — last words they heard from dying patients:

Warning: You might not want to read this right before bed like I did. 

1."I have done hospice work, home health care, and worked in a nursing home. The best was in a nursing home with an [older] man. We knew it was coming soon, but he had no family, so we took turns just being with him. He opened his eyes, smiled, and said, 'It's such a lovely day. Don't let this spoil it.' It really was a perfect Spring day; he passed about five minutes later."

A nurse wearing a stethoscope gently places a hand on the shoulder of an elderly man in a wheelchair, offering comfort and support
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2.(Cont'd) "The saddest was a lady in hospice care. She kept saying, 'Not until they're all here! Not until they're all here!' The family finally admitted she had a son that she had disowned many years prior. They tried to locate him but weren't successful. She died crying for her boy."


3."A few stay with me. For context, [I'm a] paramedic. 'I think I'm going to die' — it's happened on more than one occasion where a patient directly tells me they are going to die and seconds later go into cardiac arrest. It's so common that 'a sense of impending doom' is a legitimate symptom."

A paramedic in an ambulance holds a tablet while assisting a patient lying down, providing urgent medical care

4."A dying man to his daughter. 'Honey, I'm sorry, but I have to go.'"


5."An older woman was on the phone with her husband, deciding what her code status (aka whether or not to do CPR) should be. She went into cardiac arrest mid-sentence. We didn't notice the phone when doing CPR until after she was pronounced dead. The husband listened to the entire thing."

An elderly man in a striped shirt is talking on the phone while looking out of a window
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6."'I want to tell everyone everything, but I can't.' Panicked, pumped full of morphine. Not sinister, just too much left unsaid."


7."Never really had any scary ones. Most of my work has been in cancer, so they've either died in a relatively comfortable manner with palliative care, or they've tended to go pretty suddenly. My favorite was a chap who was unresponsive for a few days, woke up suddenly, and asked for a Cornetto (ice cream, not a croissant). A nurse popped to the shops and got him one. He ate it and then closed his eyes and died. The dude just had to get one last Cornetto in. Legend."

A hand holds a frozen dessert cone topped with peanuts, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream
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8."I was a third-year medical student and was assigned a patient with end-stage hepatic encephalopathy. His vitals were crashing; they called an RRT, and we ran in to assess. We asked, 'Sir sir, are you alright?' And his answer was as if a child was asking, 'Ice cream, please.' He became unresponsive right after and died. His plaintiff little whimper for ice cream fucked me up."


9."I work as a paramedic. [A man crashed his motorcycle] into an electric box by a stop light. He ended up in the wood line in a forest preserve. He was injured, but not that badly. We ran it as a traumatic accident and transported him to a nearby trauma center. He was awake and talking en route."

"As we pulled into the hospital, he grabbed my hand and said, 'I see the light. I'm dying right now.' I tried to reassure him, but by the time he got into the ER, he had died. The ER doc screamed at us for not having him intubated, and so on. I told the doctor what happened, and he immediately apologized."


10."I was in the Army. One of my fellow soldiers was able to call their parents on a satellite phone during their death. Their last words were apologies for causing so much trouble as a teen and how they wished they could be back home to fix everything. The parents were in shock. I had to take the phone to let them know their child was gone. I relive this scene on repeat in my nightmares."

A man is lying in bed, clutching his head with both hands, appearing to be in pain or distress
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11."I had a patient that was on the ICU unit. He just kept saying, 'Please just call my mom. She will come get me, I swear. Please, I just want my mom. Please, I won't do anything else just get my mom. I want my mom.' He was 96."


"It's quite common [to have elder] dying patients crying out and asking for their mama."


12."I once had a guy tell me, 'In about an hour and a half, I'm gonna quit.' He proceeded to code multiple times. [We] ended up pronouncing him dead about an hour and a half later. I think those who are alert and are going to die know it's coming."


13."Maybe not the best last words, but a good story nonetheless. He was 92, climbed most of the big mountains except K2 and Everest, and was married for 70 years. His wife passed a week before he did. He had been to the hospital exactly twice—when he was born and when he died. He was on no regular medications, lived at home, was fully independent, and was still driving."

An elderly man stands at a window in a dimly lit room, looking outside thoughtfully while holding a pair of glasses

14."Paramedic here. Went on a lift assist last year. I tried forever to get this woman up off of her bathroom floor. She was a very large woman, so we had to call the fire department for help. She had been weak for the past couple of days, so I convinced her to go to the hospital for evaluation."

"While wheeling her to the ambulance, she told her son, 'I'll call you when I get there.' From loading her into the ambulance to when I climbed in, she went into pulseless v-tach and died. It was so surreal."


15."One of my mom's patients was an older man at the ER who was cursing out his wife with the final gasps of breath he could muster. His words were incoherent, but you could feel they were full of anger."

"We later found out he was poisoned, and the wife was likely the culprit due to an insurance fraud case."


16."I spoke with the medic who worked on my son. The last thing he said was, 'I think I did something really stupid.' Then he went to sleep and never woke back up."

Paramedics assist a person on a stretcher into an ambulance. The person appears to be receiving medical attention

17."I worked in a senior care home for many years. Most of the older adults would mumble stuff that I couldn't make out, but one woman, in particular, said something like, 'How are you here?' while looking at the corner of the room a couple of hours before death. Another one told a care aide that her husband was waiting."


And lastly:

18."I volunteered at a hospice in my 20s. I sort of got roped into the role but eventually came to enjoy the setting. It was a hospice for men dying of HIV. One particular shift, I finished at 4 p.m., but an awful snowstorm hit the city, and the hospice offered me a bed to sleep in one of the empty rooms. I had a difficult time feeling at all tired because I knew someone had died there a few afternoons ago, so I decided to go and visit a resident who was imminently dying. A few of the residents that night were dying, and some had friends at their bedside, but he didn't have any."

Snowfall in an urban setting with buildings and leafless trees visible through a heavy snowstorm. Streets are barely seen through the thick snowfall

(Cont'd) "That night, I slept curled up in the [hospice's] kitchen and waited until morning to head home. When I arrived home, there was police tape surrounding my apartment building. One of my neighbors broke into several apartments with a rifle, including mine, shooting whomever he could find before shooting himself."

Police crime scene tape with "Warning - Do Not Enter" barriers blocking entrance to a blurred indoor area with people in the background

For more reading about death and dying, check out our previous articles:

“That’s Just Not True”: A Hospice Nurse Is Debunking Myths And Answering All The Hard Questions About Death And Dying

This Hospice Nurse Is Educating People About The “Actively Dying” Phase Of Death To Alleviate People's Fears, And It's Eye-Opening

People Who Witnessed A Loved One Die Shared What They Wish They Had Known Beforehand, And It’s Heartbreaking But Necessary To Hear

If you or someone you know is experiencing feelings of grief, visit The Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services for resources and support. For grief resources for children, visit Good Grief.