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."
"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.
"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.