This heartwarming story is sure to restore your hope in humanity. Thanks to the efforts of two dedicated hospice workers and a fire department’s medical unit, a dying man’s final wish was fulfilled.
In 2008, Edward Reis, of Washington state, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The disease left him bed-ridden, which was particularly hard on Reis given his love for the outdoors. At age 54, he was forced to move into Evergreen Hospice, according to ABC News.
To provide Reis with hospice care, a registered nurse named Leigh Gardner came to visit Reis three days a week. Reis and Leigh quickly became good friends forming a strong bond as she described him as a “gentle, gentle soul.”
Leigh learned that Reis was a former forest ranger, and loved nothing more than being in the great outdoors. So when Reis’ one last wish was to go outside just one more time, Leigh was determined to make that happen for her good friend.
“I could just see his spirit kind of light up as soon as we started talking about being outside, and in the forest in particular, and I had just the thought right at that moment that, ‘Gosh, it would be good if we could get him outside,'” Evergreen Hospice chaplain Curt Huber told the station.
As the former forest ranger neared the end, his nursing home decided to give him a final taste of fresh air.
They contacted a local fire department, and within two weeks Reis was on his way to the Meadowdale Beach Park in Edmonds, Washington.
At the park, Reis’ nurse, Leigh Gardner, joined Huber and seven members of the fire department as they wheeled Reis around the park on his gurney.
Gardner told ABC News: “It was like a hiking trail … and we would stop every so often and he would just sit and listen.”
Throughout the hike, the firefighters would bring pieces of cedar to Reis’ gurney so that he could breathe in the scent.
“He was just smiling the whole time,” Gardner said. “He was saying he was so happy. He was incredibly grateful to us.”
“And you know I went over to him and I said, ‘Are you happy?’ He’s like, ‘I’m so happy.'”
One of the firefighters, Shane Cooper, said the experience was a “highlight” of his career, especially since he and his colleagues had recovered dozens of bodies from a mudslide in Oso, Washington, not long before.
“We saw a lot of bad things up there in Oso, and this was a time to just watch somebody at the end of their life enjoy what they could,” he said. “It felt good inside to help him and to watch his face. The payment was in his expression when he was out there.”
The Evergreen Hospice Volunteers described how rewarding the experience was on their Facebook page.
“People sometimes think that working in hospice care is depressing,” they wrote. “This story … demonstrates the depths of the rewards that caring for the dying can bring.”
Reis passed away a few weeks later.