You never want someone to die alone, no matter the circumstances. When people cross over into the "other side," it's best to have someone send them off, even if that means you have to be the person holding onto them when they finally let go.
The people in the following stories know that all too well, as they recently shared in a Reddit thread. We've gone through and found the most engaging stories from the bunch. Here's a warning though... these stories might shock you. And as always, all posts have been edited for clarity.
"When I was in the Peace Corps in Ghana, I saw a man stoned to death.
He had stolen a taxi in a nearby city and brought it to the village I was staying in. Unfortunately for him, the man he stole the taxi from was from the village he brought it to (I am not sure how he didn't know this, as it seemed everyone knew everyone in the surrounding villages/cities). The villagers ganged up on him and stoned him in the street. Men, women, and children all participated.
It was a very strange, surreal experience, and horrifying. None of the volunteers knew what to do.
All the Peace Corps volunteers in the village received counseling to help process the incident. It's been over 10 years and I still think about that day often."
"I was going to the Reno International Airport to pick up my wife. As we passed one of the parking lots, the car in front of me slammed on its brakes. I threw up my arms in a moment of agitation. At that point, my 8-year-old daughter said to me, 'Daddy, that plane just crashed.'
I looked to my left and sure enough, a small plane had crashed into the parking lot 50 yards from us. I immediately pulled over and told my daughter to wait in the car. I bolted out and headed towards the crash. A handful of people were in the vicinity kind of in shock. I have some first responder training and felt like I had to help if I could.
I was the first one to approach the crash. The plane was upside down and there was airplane fuel everywhere. Cars were smashed all around it. I foolishly stood in fuel as I assessed the situation. I'm not proud of that.
The first person I saw must have been the pilot. His upper body was dangling down and his lower half was trapped in the mangled metal. I yelled out to him, 'Can you hear me? Do you need help?' No response.
I moved to the other side of the plane where I saw the second person. A woman, handcuffed, dangling much in the same way as the pilot. She was also dead.
As a peaked my head around the crumpled metal I found the third and final person, who appeared to have been a bail bondsman at one point. He was in the worst shape of all.
That day changed my life. I had always wondered how I would respond to something like that. One part of me is relieved I didn't shy away. I went right up to the front line to help. The other part of me wonders what would have happened had a spark lit that fuel."
"Many, many years ago, I was dispatched to a job for a young adult male struck by a subway car. As a paramedic, I have been down this road a few times, it never ends well for anyone.
FDNY got the train blocked and the MTA guys had the third rail covered and grounds placed so it was time for me to slip under the car and figure a way out. As I slipped in and began talking to the patient and it became very obvious he was not going to live. His face was looking down at the ties but his feet were facing up, one leg was under his neck. He basically was folded in half and turned 180° over the length of his body. The weight of the subway car was holding his intestines and liver in position. His back was opened and one kidney was actually exposed.
I started an IV and gave him some morphine to at least kill the pain. I slithered up to his face and had the single most difficult conversation I ever had with him about the fact that as soon as we moved the subway car he was going to slip into shock and die. I refuse to ever not be 100% honest with my patients; he asked me a few questions about the process and what was going to happen. I asked if he wanted to call anyone and he said no.
Knowing what was about to happen, I asked if he wanted more morphine, I had an open order so I gave him an extremely stiff dose. I wanted to eliminate as much of his suffering as possible, he got basically three doses at once. He kept asking questions about everything and the process that FDNY was using to do the lift. When the coach jacks were locked in I told him it was time. I pumped up the morphine. He started to say goodbye but I told him I wasn't going anywhere. He closed his eyes and the respiratory rate dropped. The coach went up and my partner dragged him forward and out from the coupling knuckle. I slid back and slithered out under the platform recess and as soon as I got to my knees next to him I had nothing workable. His abdominal bleed actually started running pink with the I.V. fluid, when his heart ceased so did everything else.
That was this young man's final place in the world, holding my hand waiting and knowing we were in his final minutes. With the morphine, he never felt a thing."
"When I was a young and naïve 15-year-old girl, I got into selling controlled substances because I was homeless. I went to people's houses to deal, and for the most part everybody I met kinda felt protective of me. Nobody really treated me the way they treated other dealers.
One day, I went to this apartment I'd never been to before and a man answered the door. He asked if I was the dealer and when I said yeah, he invited me into the apartment. He was acting really weird, and looking me up and down. I took out his delivery, and he grabbed it and kept asking if I'd cut it, and started getting really angry thinking I was trying to rip him off. He then grabbed me by my hair and threw me on the ground, saying I didn't know what I was getting myself into.
At this point, I started screaming and crying, begging him not to hurt me. He pulled out a weapon, and said he'd kill me if I didn't shut up. I couldn't stop crying. He started pulling down my pants. And kept slapping me. I remember trying to run but he'd grab my hair and rip some out while pulling me back to him.
I guess a neighbor heard me screaming or something because we heard sirens outside. He stopped, and started apologizing. He got up and started pacing. He walked to the window and looked outside. He kept cussing over and over. He shot himself in the head. I sat there staring. Blood everywhere. I just sat there. The cops knocked, and eventually broke in. But, I couldn't move. I stared at his eyes. His face. His hands. Then I looked at his house. Pictures of kids. Friends. Family. So normal.
That stuff destroyed his life. I never dealt again...and I still see him."
"I watched a dude get blown up by an IED in Baghdad. I can still see the the slight smile that was left on his face.
The combat outpost that I lived in was right next to an Iraqi Army checkpoint. Earlier in the day, a man came through the checkpoint on a scooter. The police pushed him off the scooter and took it. One policeman rode the scooter around for a few minutes while the other policeman talked with the scooter owner. They harassed him and pushed him around.
After they let him go, he went and got a bomb. He waited until they were distracted and he rode up and placed the bomb next to their guard shack. He rode off and detonated the bomb, killing one of the policemen."
"In my line of work, I have responded numerous times to people in various different stages of life. Usually I respond after death and handle that. On occasion, I have watched someone as they have died.
My most memorable experience happened just over a year ago. I responded to a single-vehicle accident with injuries. The location was on a service road next to a pretty major highway. It was very early in the morning, sometime after 1 am. I was very close to the accident and arrived first. When I showed up, I saw a motorcycle had collided with a curb at a three-way junction and gone airborne. The driver was not wearing a helmet and was thrown close to fifty feet away from the impact with the curb. I don't recall how fast he was said to have traveled but he ended up pretty far away.
I walked up to check on the man, who I thought might have a chance. He was facedown but I thought I could see him breathing. I remember calling for him to respond to me even though as I knelt next to him, I started to see more of the scene. I saw bits of brain matter on the ground and saw one side of his head was open and his brain was exposed. He landed head first when he landed and it looked like someone had taken a belt sander to his skull. He was not conscious but I knelt with him while he took staggered breaths for another minute or so.
By the time the ambulance showed up, he was long gone. There was nothing that could be done for him. It is a truly surreal experience to see how fleeting life is and tends to stick with me in enjoying as much of life as possible.
It still is very vivid in my mind and it's hard not to dwell on it but I do feel as if I was with this man when he died so that he wasn't alone. He may not have been aware that I was there but to know that he didn't die alone is something I can take a very small comfort in.
I've seen some grisly things in my career but for some reason this one stands out."
"I was on a school trip to Europe when I was 12 and saw a construction worker die in Brussels. He was working on a scaffold at the top of an eight-story building and fell just as my friends and I were rounding the corner. He landed in the cobblestone street about 10 feet in front of us. I got sprayed with things.
The crazy part is that they were filming a movie that same day all around the city, and when we saw it happen, I immediately assumed we had stumbled across the set somehow and were watching a stunt or something, so I just stared at his mangled corpse for a couple minutes until I realized what actually happened. I remember seeing it, and then either me or one of my friends said something like, 'Oh, this must be part of that movie they are doing,' and then I was looking around for cameras or film crew people and then kept looking back at the body and then someone came out from a cafe and laid a tablecloth over the body to cover it. I actually walked a couple blocks before getting dizzy and hurling in some tulips.
I remember that event so clearly, but I remember very little from the rest of that trip and absolutely nothing after I got sick in the tulips. My friends later told me that when I got back to the tour bus I just sat and stared out the window for the rest of the day. They think I was in shock."
"When I was 11, we were riding dirt bikes at a popular place to do it at, another rider hit something at really high speed and rag dolled pretty badly, hitting his head, his helmet got crushed in the accident and in his final moments he pulled it off and his brain pretty much fell out of the back of his head. He was dead instantly.
I remember the accident because my father yelled at me and my brothers to 'get back' repeatedly at first. I thought it was because his bike was going to 'catch on fire' or 'blow up' (I was a little kid) but managed to get a glimpse of why through the people who were there trying to help the guy.
I have to say, even at that age, death never really bothered me. It was surreal, almost like I was watching a movie or tv show through my eyes seeing something so messed up. To me, even though the guy got his head badly crushed, he seemed either asleep, or it just wasn't even real. My school counselor tried talking to me about it for weeks after. I was really indifferent to be honest. I didn't have bad dreams or anything. My younger brothers didn't see what I saw, but if they did, it might've affected them very differently."
"I was in the Oklahoma City bombing (there was a daycare across the street from the government building). It's so weird to look back on now because it's quite clearly traumatic and it obviously had a huge impact on my development. I got to watch people being removed from the wreckage and saw people having first aide rendered on them (many did not make it).
At the time, I had no idea how to react. I was a selfish and spoiled kid at that point and the experience really humbled me. I don't really know what conclusions I drew at the time since I was so young, but I do have years of reflection on the event. I used to think about it a lot when I was in school. When I used to reflect on it, I would always come to the conclusion that this world was a pretty awful place - it made me into a skeptic. I don't think about it any more, and I have struggled to change my view of life for the past several years. I've not yet entirely changed my mind - humans still suck - but I understand a lot more now than I did then, and I have no difficulty accepting what happened. Horrible things like it happen every day and all I can do is try to be the best person I can to as many people as possible. McVeigh was nothing more than ignorant... perhaps if the skeptics of the world would have helped him come to grips with his issues the bombing might never have happened.
I'm glad to have experienced what I did. It was obviously pretty horrible and gave me way too much to think about at such a young age, but the situation gave me the gift of critical thinking. Nothing is as it appears and the whole world would rather you not take a look behind the curtain. The lasting impact of the bombing on me was to make me eternally inquisitive. Every situation has an alternate angle. Every person has an agenda. Consideration of every variable is paramount in every situation."
"I went to a Tyler The Creator concert in SXSW back in 2014 with a couple of friends. We arrived around 11 pm and waited to get in. As time went on, more people showed up it and started to get crowded. One of the workers there saw that the line was piling up and asked people to move to the streets (roads were barricaded for the event). The venue was minutes from letting people in.
Suddenly, I heard thumps coming from the end of the street; my initial thought was the typical wasted people in Austin being rowdy. But I heard more thuds coming closer and what sounds like a vehicle speeding with police behind. I heard a car plow right through the barricade and hit the crowd of people in the street. By the time I could turn around, the car was about a foot or two away from hitting me. The car was gone as quickly as it showed up. I could barely even react before the car sped off.
I vividly remember seeing the destruction left behind. Dozens of people were on the ground bleeding, some pieces of clothing and shoes scatted around, people screaming in terror and for help, others running to aid the injured. I wanted to help but my body was frozen in place. I was confused, I didn't know how/what to feel or react. I couldn't comprehend how something so gruesome could happen so quickly. I remember seeing the worker who told the people to move to the street, bawling her eyes out, I'm guessing she felt guilty.
I snapped back and went to check in on my friends, making sure they were okay. We found each other and two of my friends had other people's blood on them. We were all at a loss for words. The ambulance showed up and started tending the wounded. The police said they would like to speak to the witnesses but at that point we just wanted to go home. We left and on the way back it was utter silence with the occasional 'What the...' I still didn't know how to react, it was surreal.
It wasn't until I got home and my mom asked what was wrong, I immediately broke down crying and told her what happened. I had a hard time sleeping for a couple days. I kept checking the news to see if everyone was okay, but 23 people were injured and two people died that day.
I think about those people sometimes. I wish I could've helped."
"This happened a few years ago back when I used to live in my parents house.
I had just left our driveway and was driving to the beach and as I came over the crest of a small hill I saw the body of an elderly man lying on the side of the road in the gutter.
I immediately pulled over and jumped out, my girlfriend at the time I was driving with called 911 as I ran over to him. He was making small gasping noises and staring straight up at the sky, and I tried to get a response from him but he didn't react. I checked his breathing and pulse and found neither, so I immediately started CPR.
I'd never done CPR before, not even on one of those dummies. I'd seen charts on how to do it and had basic knowledge of it from surf school when I was younger, but I was surprised how much came back to me.
I distinctly remember three things: the taste of his expired breath as I gave him mouth-to-mouth, blood, all over my hands and legs from a gaping head wound he must've sustained when he collapsed on the road, and the disturbing, crushing sensation of what I imagine was his sternum or ribs as I pushed down while doing CPR. That was definitely not something I was ready for.
I don't know how long I was doing CPR on him, but the ambulance had to come from the other side of town, which even at speed was a 10-12 minute drive, and the paramedics had me continue doing CPR on him as they arrived and set up their defibrillators. The worst part of all was when his elderly sister came out to see what the fuss was. He had obviously just left his house to go for a walk and had only made it 30 feet or so, but I vividly remember the anguished look on her face and the broken cries as she desperately called his name while watching me struggle to revive her loved one.
Once the paramedics took over and shocked him a few times with the defibrillators, they took him away (there were at least two or three ambulance crews there). As they were leaving, one of them turned to me and said 'we've got a bit of a pulse there, so that's something,' though his furrowed brow and concerned eyes told me the reality was that he probably wouldn't make it to the hospital.
And just like that they were gone, and myself and my girlfriend were left on the side of the road with this gentleman's blood staining our clothes and beach towels. We just turned around and drove back to my house to try and digest what had happened. Later on that evening, we went to the hospital to find out his condition, but we were told rather flatly that he had died on arrival.
I'll never forget the noises he made as he struggled with his final breaths, or the long sigh that I swear I heard just before I placed a beach towel under his cracked skull. He had a glazed look in his eyes, and he seemed to be staring through me, as if he could see something I couldn't. I like to think that he spent his last moments in the warm sunshine, gazing up at the beautiful deep blue summer sky.
To some people I know this is a daily occurrence and part of their job - paramedics, police officers etc, but considering I had only just turned 18 at the time it had a pretty big effect on me.
At least I know now how I react under circumstances like that, and that an elderly gentleman didn't die alone."
"I was on a camping trip near a small airport. A local pilot came by to say hi, offered to take one of our friends up for a ride. He was showing off and it was just after sunset. He performed a low altitude flyby of our camp with his lights off, lost his horizon, and dug in a wingtip on the turn.
I was first on the scene. My friend had been thrown clear, and looked normal enough that I tried to take her pulse. Still warm, no pulse.
The pilot caught his lower jaw on the edge of the windshield going through it, and it had torn loose from his skull and taken most of the flesh down his chest off with it. I wasn't even all that grossed out, because it looked like a really bad movie effect.
There was very little blood, surprisingly. Turns out that's because their hearts had stopped at the impact, and there was no pressure to force it out.
I managed to keep all the other campers and the pilot's friends away from it while we called the cops and the FAA. I then went back, and managed my friends freaking out for the rest of the night.
I had my own nervous breakdown about it the next day on the way out."