There is one phenomenon that connects all living things and that great unifier is death. No one has beaten it or avoided it no matter how great one's accomplishments are. And while there are some who are confident as to what lies beyond our passing, there are others who aren't quite so sure.
What we do know is that life, as Madonna puts it, is a mystery. One that we knew to fight for before we even knew what knowing was, struggling against tons of other little swimmers to fertilize that egg in our mothers. For many of us, something happens along the way and we delude ourselves into thinking that fighting at the level we had when we were little kids is no longer necessary.
It's a fight, born from fear of life not well-lived, that returns to all of us in our final moments, one that a TikToker named Katy (@katyyyywithay) said her father experienced when he died. She penned a video tribute to him, calling a moment from his death her "Roman empire," aka the thing that is constantly on her mind; a thought she can't seem to shake no matter what.
Her decision to share his words ultimately kicked off a series of shared anecdotes that seems to have gotten a lot of folks thinking about their lives and those of their departed loved ones, in a different light
Katy writes in an overlay of the video while holding up a picture of her standing beside her father: "My Roman Empire is that when my dad died, he was scared. actually yelling for help... but time keeps passing. like that's not that big of a deal.."
A number of other TikTokers shared their own personal anecdotes about losing loved ones, and some of the final words that they uttered on their deathbeds, along with their own "Roman Empire" moments.
"My dad knew he wouldn’t be able to drive much longer bc of the cancer & took 1 last drive while listening to American Pie. I sob thinking abt it," one person said.
Another person, whose father's life was cut tragically short, shared her last moment with him: "My dad grabbed my hand and said 'I’m not ready'. He was 48"
Someone else said their father was kept from being with their father in his final moments due to the government-mandated restrictions implemented in response to the fervor created over COVID-19: "Dad died alone in the hospital because of Covid/ICU restrictions, but he was always terrified of dying. I hate that I couldn’t be there for him."
One TikToker wrote: "My dad died a week ago. He wasn’t able to use words at the end but he was crying and I just kept wiping his tears away. I think he was scared."
While there were a number of people who shared how frightened their loves ones were, and there were plenty of tales of those who were reluctant to pass on and depart their families and friends, one TikTok user shared a story about her grandmother who seemed to see something as she was passing that put her at peace.
"My nana said “it’s beautiful here” when she was going. I hope it’s beautiful for all of your loved ones too," she wrote.
For others, their experiences with their loved ones were rooted in moments that we may often take for granted: "My mom hugged me and breathed in really deep.. and whispered 'I just want to remember how you smell' I remember thinking i wanted the same thing…."
And another TikTok user shared the way she honored a loved ones wishes when he as on his death bed: "My uncle said “I’m just scared I won’t be remembered” and I make a point to talk about him a lot. Sending love."
Upon reading many of the remarks left in response to Katy's video, one person wrote: "This comment section actually put me into a spiral"
As tragic as it is to think that our loved ones may leave us one day, posts like Katy's remind us to value the time we spend them as much as possible and that our own time will be up as well.