Author of FFVII: Lifestream & FFVII: Reflections
I'm fine with a deathbed confession like you were saying, EM, and I do want to see her expanded on as a person like you. I've just always believed that could be done while also doing what MelodicEnigma was saying. Add the deathbed confession on top of that (with Cloud being affected by her confession and loss enough to give her some small amount of reciprocation, even if it's just holding her for a moment without saying anything as she's laying there) and it works just fine. I agree her death is likely to be the big emotional gut punch of Part 1, and rightly so. And having her fatal wound(s) come from taking a blow/shot meant for Cloud and thus, saving his life at the cost of her own, would lead in nicely to that confession and final moment together.