Death Bed Stories

Witness to End of Life

Daughter Holds Death Bed Vigil
Daughter Holds Death Bed Vigil. Design Pics/Ron Nickel / Getty Images

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Readers share their experiences being at the bedside of the dying.

Bitter Sweet Experience
story from Nov3

My grandmother suffered with Parkinson's for 3 years. A once lively woman who cared for all became a prisoner in her own body. She had absolutely no body control. She couldn't speak and communicated through blinking her eyes. Sunday while feeding her I told her how much I loved her, that she was my hero, and if she wanted to go be with God and her mother we would be okay.

She looked at me with approval in her eyes as she shed a tear. It was the last day she ate. Friday she was placed on 24 hour watch. I sat by her side and read several scriptures to her.

Her husband, my mother, and cousin, we're all present. At the time I didn't understand how they could say that she was dying but she appeared to be healed. She hadn't spoke a word in months but she was carrying a conversation in a language I didn't understand. She was unable to move her limbs for months but on this day she was swaying her legs and moving her arms. Her eyes were moving rapidly back in forth as in REM sleep.

I kissed her several times. I held her hand. I told her how much I would miss her. I told her not to be afraid she would be with God soon. At times I felt like she had already left because it seemed she was in another world. At 12 a.m. my mother went to bed and we sent my cousin home. My grandfather came to her bedside every 30 minutes on the hour, I never left her side.

I made up in my mind if she was leaving me I was going to be there.

At 12 a.m. My grandfather came to her bedside to hold her, hug her, and kiss her. Miraculously she kissed him back. At 12:30 the same thing. At 1 a.m. The same thing. At 1:30 while reading my bible I glanced up at him holding and kissing her and she kissing him back.

Her legs went into her favorite sleeping position. Her hands went up to grab his. Her lips kissed his lips and she floated away from this life. She never uttered a word that I could understand. She never acknowledged that we were in the room, but she always knew.

What I Would Do Differently

If I could do it all over again I would. I always believed in God, in heaven, in hell, but on this day she showed me in her last breath, in her last kiss, that death was nothing to fear. Simply a transition from one life to the next. The Only thing I would do differently is be more aware of my words. I told her I would be okay without her but I didn't realize forever was so long. I Let her go, but it is so hard, it hurts so bad, to live without her. It was so bitter sweet.

Final Days with My Mum
story by Shyamala

My dear mum whom I love so much and was my strength. Being the youngest I was her Pet. My mom was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after 2 years. She was assured that her chances are very good and surgery will be scheduled ASAP. After 2 years of pain and depression, and giving up on God - mum's spirits were up again. We were so happy to see mum sit up in her hospital bed with all her spiritual books back by her side.

She was so bubbly and happy. She had been given another chance. She got a bombshell the following day, the cancer had spread too much into her liver and nothing could be done. Mum was given 6 months when she was discharged. Mum passed away 7 days later. I was devastated. I needed mum so much. I was not ready to lose her. I just prayed and prayed and prayed for a miracle.

The "last night" Mum's breathing became heavier and heavier. We (children) were told the time was getting closer and kept vigil in the room with mom. We were advised to open all the windows and doors. It was already 4-5 am. My mum's brother whom she loved so dearly left saying he will be back later. I could not take listening to mum's breathing anymore. I just closed my ears and ran upstairs. A short while later my sis said "you better come down now." At that time everyone else in the house was in the room with mum - then I walked in - mum's face was facing me.

Just as I walked in her eyes opened, after 7 days. She looked at me and took a deep weep then looked all round at everyone very sadly. She looked up and gradually closed her eyes. That was the last of my mum.

I did not cry. I did not feel anything, no emotions, but immediately started moving on. We needed a saree to drape mum in. I opened mum's cupboard and a transparent bag just fell onto my hands, in it were 2 dry-cleaned sarees with a note with clear instructions on her funeral rites. That was our mum, always so organized. She ended the note with "you children have to be united, no one will be there for all of you." Thanks to mum's note we managed her funeral well. I guess mum was right when she said there will be no one for us. Even though we were all adults with our own families by then we would definitely have needed a shoulder to cry on, but we did not have it.

What I'd Do Differently

  • Done away with the morphine in the last days so that mum could have had some precious moments with us, as looking back now, we all feel mum definitely wanted to talk to us.
  • We should all have asked for forgiveness from mum before her final moment.
  • I am very thankful and blessed that I witnessed mum's passing. The memory of she opening her eyes and crying when I walked in reaffirmed my connection with mum, which I so greatly treasure.

Very recently, I had a vision of mum and I begged her to stay and not leave us ever again. I told her we needed her more than ever. I was crying and mum was crying and I woke up wetting my bed. I crave for someone to walk into our lives to take the place of of my wonderful mum.

Knew Instantly When My Cousin's Spirit Left
story by Frances Thompson

On the last day, we were all at his bedside. He was semi-conscious and reached his arm up toward the corner of his bedroom and called out his brother's name. We knew who had come to transition him over. A few minutes later I was sitting in the kitchen area near the door. All of a sudden, there was a huge rush of wind coming from the bedroom and out the door.

I knew instantly that his spirit had left. I immediately went to his side and there was the most peaceful look on his face. He stopped breathing shortly thereafter. A very peaceful crossing. I wish more people could understand.

I have been with many people who have crossed over. (Worked in nursing homes for 18 years.) While there is a sadness to death, to me it is such a re-birth to some place much, much better. The hardest ones are to lose someone who is young. I know in my soul, that we are here for a purpose and for a limited time, but to lose someone young is hard.

Answer to My Christmas Eve Prayer
story by Barbe Brown

My mom drank until I was 10 years old. I was an accident, born 11 and 13 years after my big sisters. I bonded with my oldest sister and struggled to be close to mom. She found sobriety when I was 10 and worked hard in AA to maintain it. In high school we became closer. After I moved out I started calling her every day. She became my best friend and often surprised me with cards, a loving comment from out of the blue, and an unconditional love that I never felt in childhood. Mom did her work and we did our work together. There was nothing left unsaid when she died and she died peacefully.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December of 2000. We were lucky enough to have the foresight to get set up with Hospice (true angels on earth) not knowing how long mom had to live. As we got closer to Christmas the Hospice nurses kept telling us that she didn't have long. We celebrated with friends and family while mom was strong enough. On Christmas Eve I went to her house while dad ran some errands. As I was moving her to her sitting room to have some toast and coffee, she collapsed in my arms. I got her into bed and called the Hospice team. Mom regained consciousness and when we were alone again she said she had seen her stepmom. I asked if that was "comforting" and she said "no, not particularly."

On Christmas Eve, the whole family piled into her little room to share presents, hugs, and love. Later, at the Christmas Eve service I prayed that someone else come to get mom because she and her stepmom had some business left to finish. On Christmas Day mom was weak but alert. She ate a bit of dinner and when I took her plate she grabbed my hand and said "I love you."

My partner and I sat with mom on Christmas night. Although mom was weak and couldn't stand or sit up on her own she kept sitting up. I would ask "where are you going?" and she would smile and lay back down. She kept looking at one corner of the room and would often say "help me." But when we would inquire (morphine, pain, etc) she would push us away and say that she was okay. At one point we asked if she could see the angels and her response was "oh, yes I do!"

We kept her comfortable with a cool cloth and a towel to hold in her hands. We played soft music and held her hands and feet. Around 9:30 she called out to her sister who had died 40 years before "oh, Margie, can't we go somewhere now?" I asked if Margie was there and her response was "well, yes she is." That was the answer to my Christmas Eve prayer. I told her it was time to go and that we would be okay. She died just before 10pm on Christmas night. What a holy night it was. It felt as if we had walked her to the gates of heaven. She died peacefully.

After her body was removed from the house, I could still feel her presence. The family dog went to her room and jumped on her bed (something she NEVER did before). As the family sat together I felt her spirit leave. I have felt her presence many times since then.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I thought I had more time. I took 2 weeks off of work after Christmas thinking I had that time to spend with her. Instead I spent that time planning her funeral and helping dad sort through her belongings. I wish I would have spent more time with her before her death.
  • I was afraid of what to say, so I held back so not to scare her because I was scared. I would have talked more openly with her.
  • I watched as she died, my partner held her hand and my dad got in bed with her and held her. I was at her feet watching. I should have been holding her too.

Did the person do or say anything that surprised you? 

She kept calling to someone to help her (the angels?). She didn't want our help. It was as if she was trying to get out of her body but couldn't quite figure it out. And the fact the someone else did come to get her was a true answered prayer.

My mom was a remarkable woman. She has visited me on several occasions since her death. I want to pull her story together and write a book someday. It is a good story to tell. Thanks for the opportunity to tell my story here.

A Grandson's Promise
story by sonvonbaum

My grandfather was diagnosed with kidney cancer and kicked his cancer with fighting strength. But it was from an infection he contracted at the hospital that placed him on his deathbed. For 12 days he didn't eat and laid in bed in coma-like state. I refused to see him like that as he was always so strong and wise.

Our family was gathered at my grandparent's home for Hanukkah in 2002. I just completed my first semester at college.

I was the only one who had yet to speak to him. But I had this strange feeling that I needed to go to see him. My grandmother walked me to the bedroom. His favorite song Rhapsody in Blue played in the background. I came to his side and let him know that everything would be okay with the family.

I promised that I would do my best to look after everyone and that if he was ready to go, it would be okay. I thanked him for all his wisdom and display of strength, that I would one day make him proud by working hard at my career and to always be a good and loving person. With one sigh, his heart stopped. He was gone.

My dad said that my grandfather was blessed by my gift to set him free from pain. I had a hard time accepting that he chose me as the last one to see him go. I thought he would of left with my dad or his two siblings or my cousins. But today I know I was the one blessed by grandpa.

Estranged Daughter Makes Amends with Dying Mother
story by Sheila Svati

I was finally able to become more compassionate towards my mother when I witnessed her frailty for the first time, on her deathbed. My intention became to try making her imminent transition a less lonely, scary event. I owed her that and wanted to be there for her during this most sacred time. My mother was there with her love when I came into this life and now I wanted to be there for her, with my love, as she left it. Even though it had been impossible for me for such a long time, I finally made her the priority again, over my own feelings. I softened, and told her how much I had always loved her, even when I felt I had already lost her years ago.

She was my mother and despite the bad, there was a lot of love between us over our many years together and the last 10 were only a small fraction of the over seven decades she had lived. She had meant so much to me as a child and now I started to remember that and be grateful for that and for her, and told her so. Much that had long been blocked between us started to flow again, although it was pretty much a one-sided conversation now because it was too late for her to participate much, that didn’t matter. Hearts can open and close in a single moment.

I wanted to help her feel free to let go, let go of all the suffering and all that had caused her heart to harden. She deserved a break; it had been a long hard life for her. She had put up a good fight and had survived the casualties long enough. I soothed her, whispered to her, and talked about the spiritual beauty of death, of transitioning to a better place that would surely be filled with only love and acceptance.

She was aware that her children were there with her and I believe that gave her great peace. We did not desert her in the end. My sister, brother and I all pushed our lifetimes of personal issues aside and held hands as we prayed aloud for her until the final moment came. She had been struggling with her erratic, labored breathing until all of a sudden everything just stopped and she was quiet. She then smiled largely, as if someone she loved was greeting her with open arms, as though there was something or someone beautiful and comforting surrounding her with light, and then, she was gone. It was an amazing, ecstatic experience. I was so happy for her, happy to have been witness to such a beautiful death experience and to have been there for her when it really counted. She was finally freed from her nightmare and allowed to return home.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I work on forgiving myself for what I really regret; for not having had the sense to see that I should have/could have asked my mother for HER forgiveness of me while I had the chance, for MY transgressions.
  • I wasn't the only "victim." It never occurred to me then, I was so focused on wanting an apology from her for all her "wrongs" towards me. I had after all, become so mean to her too during those last years, equally hurtful and withholding. I needed to ask her for her forgiveness, and I didn't know that then. I do now.

What I wouldn’t do just to be able to take my mother to lunch on any given day, to have just one afternoon more with her, to look into her eyes and be able to celebrate just a few simple moments together, with only love between us again just one last time. It is my tragic regret.

A Tear Rolled Down Her Cheek
by Barbara Cadiz

We found out my best friend Shuggie had stage 4 lung cancer, they said she had 1 year and she died 10 days later.

The day we knew something wasn't right, they took her to the hospital and told us it was just a matter of time. They told us to go home and they would call us.

I waited all night and the next day at noon because I still hadn't heard anything I rushed to the hospital. She had a breathing tube down her throat and was in a coma. I started crying and begging her not to leave me and then a tear rolled down her cheek. I realized that my asking her not to leave was wrong and I just said "It's okay Shuggie you can go" and a couple of seconds later she let out a raspy sound and was gone.

The tear that streamed down her face while she was in a coma told me that she knew I was there.

I always sense angels near me and during her last days she would look at me and tell me about the spirits around me. She once told me about an American Indian Older Man around me and I have been told by others that one of my spirit guides is an American Indian man.

Reconnective Healing Aids Transition Process
story by Missniemo

Through the Grace of God, I was able to administer a Reconnective Healing treatment to one of my closest friend's father on his death bed. It was one of the most beautiful and sacred moments I've ever experienced, and I was so humbled and grateful to be a part of his transition.

My friend asked me to come over at 10:00 p.m. to do a Reconnective Healing treatment (holistic energy healing) for her father on his death bed. I am also an intuitive person, so before I began the healing, I checked in on his status. I saw him in my mind's eye in front of "The Light", but the light was a smaller sphere at this time. I could sense very heavily that he was not ready to go, and I saw him reaching back with his hand extended to his family. He was determined not to leave them. His father was also present in spirit, I believe, to help him cross over. He was in a drug-induced coma, dying from cancer, until I started the healing session. He came directly into consciousness and sat up in bed. After my friend and her mom assured him all was well, he sank back in bed and relaxed. The treatment lasted for about 1/2 hr., which is normal.

After I was done, I checked in on him again. This time, the light was MUCH BIGGER, and I could see several family members (in spirit) inside the light waiting for him. He was ready to go now. He was gently looking back this time, but I could keenly sense that it was only to say "goodbye". His demeanor had totally changed from before the healing to being totally at peace with the transition process. His father thanked me (intuitively) for helping. My friend's Dad passed away ever so peacefully the next morning. My friend's mom also thanked me because her husband had the strength after the healing to hold her hand until he made his transition. He had not had the strength to do this for almost three weeks prior. What a Blessing and gift God was able to give this family through me. What a gift and blessing to me, as well. I am forever humbled and grateful.

Someday, I aspire to volunteer for Hospice to donate this energy healing service to people nearing their transition. I do believe it helps them greatly to prepare.

Powerful Aura of Peace
story by Cassie

I was quite close to my friend's grandmother, Maggie, who I helped to care for. She was very old, in pain and had suffered a broken leg, gone into hospital and caught pneumonia. She also had dementia and a fear of dying.

Maggie had been semi-comatose for a few days. Her son, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there and so was I. Maggie's grandson and great-grandson went outside her window to play the bagpipes (Maggie was Scottish and had been a piper herself). As they played one tune, Maggie raised her head, opened her eyes and looked at each of us in turn. Her eyes were clear and bright and so, so blue. In them there was an expression of peace, no sign of pain, and we all felt she was telling us how much she loved us. Then she laid her head on her pillow, took her last breath and slipped away so peacefully. It was truly awe-inspiring and a beautiful moment. I firmly believe she chose her exact moment of death and the manner.

It was so beautiful I wouldn't change a thing. I'm so glad I saw my friend at peace. And her eyes which I'd always seen clouded with pain and age were so clear and beautiful. Her spirit was in complete and perfect peace.I felt I was in the presence of something very holy. There was such a powerful aura of peace all around, coming from Maggie.

Angels Surrounded my Brother
story by Chet

My brother was dying of Hep. C, and laid on death bed for 4 days, no talking, just getting pain meds. On day 4, I told him I was taking Mom and Dad back to their hotel. My Mom knew it was time, and I did too (HSP). I told my brother in his ear it was time to go back home. He open one eye and a tear drop fell down his face. He heard me, and died with in one hour. Angels surrounded my brother, he went peacefully to heaven. My brother and I are still connected, as he dances in other dance hall.

My Grandmother Wanted to Die Alone in Her Sleep
story by Robin<

My Grandmother  was very much like my mother. She was a hospice patient within a nursing home for the last few weeks of her life. She was dying of metastatic breast cancer and was 86 years old.

Being with her in the end was so hard in so many ways. I work with birthing women and understand that there is an order of events but that they take different times and no one can predict how fast or how slow. I tried very hard to be calm and patient, just holding the space for her. The other resident was watching TV and that so annoyed me, but what could I do?

She had always wanted to die alone in her sleep. I stepped out of the room to walk my husband and baby to their car. He'd brought the baby to me to nurse. When I walked back into the room, my Grandma only breathed a few more times. I worry she was trying to go alone and I surprised her.

Holy Event
story by Judy

I was a hospice volunteer with my first patient who made the transition. I had never sat with a dying person before, and I was asked to sit with an elderly man who was all alone. I arrived at the hospital at 9:30 in the morning and the gentleman was lying in the bed, breathing slightly, and not aware of my presence. I held his hand and talked to him quietly, letting him know that he was not alone. At 9:57 A.M. he took his last breath. I don't know if this came from him, or an angel, but when he passed over, I heard these words ... "none of this really matters." The holy event was peaceful, I was honored to be with him at the time of death, and I will never forget it.