Edward Reis was a dying forest ranger who wanted to fulfill one last wish before saying goodbye to the world — to go back to visit the woods. His hospice nurse, Leigh Gardner from Washington, made sure that his wish came true, giving the man a happy ending.
A visit to the woods
In 2008, Reis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For two hours per day, three days a week, Gardner would visit Reis at his adult nursing home. Since he had spent most of his adult life exploring outdoors, Reis did not want to leave the world without spending some of his last moments in the woods. He conveyed his wish to the hospice chaplain who then relayed it to Gardener. The staff members decided to make Reis’ wish come true.
“After calling the Snohomish County Fire District and recruiting the help of several volunteer firefighters, Reis was taken on a peaceful voyage through Meadowdale Beach Park in Edmonds. For three hours, the firefighters carried Reis and his gurney through the forest. They would periodically stop at creeks and clearings so Reis could take in the scenery, and they even collected cedar branches for the ex-park ranger to smell,” according to Good News Network.
Reis soaked it all in because he knew that he might not see another tree ever again. When details of the incident were posted on the Facebook page, it went viral, was liked by over 36,000 people, and shared 9,000 times. Unfortunately, Reis passed away a few weeks later. The Chaplin believes that the outdoor trip fulfilled Reis’ spiritual needs. In fact, Reis admitted to him that he felt God’s presence the most in the forest. The firefighters who helped with the trip had provided the service for free. One firefighter recounts how happy he felt while looking at the serene face of Reis who was absorbed in his thoughts in the forest.
Gardner, too, is happy that she got the chance to meet Reis. “We kind of were his family in the end… For the first couple of weeks after he’d passed away I was like: ‘It’s so weird not going three times a week and working so hard to take care of him.’ It felt a little odd. So I miss his presence and just, you know, he was a gentle, gentle soul,” she said to ABC News.
In the U.S., one of the most famous organizations dedicated to fulfilling last wishes is the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The first child helped by the organization was Frank “Bopsy” Salazar in the early 1980s, a 5-year-old kid who was admitted to a hospital in Arizona after being diagnosed with terminal leukemia. When asked what his last wish was, Bopsy said that he wanted to be a fireman, visit Disneyland, and ride in a hot air balloon.
All his wishes were made to come true. “Rather than just a simple tour of the fire station, Phoenix firefighter Bob Walp went beyond the call of duty to make Bopsy’s last wish extremely special. He presented Bopsy with a customized badge and jacket and allowed him to use a hose, climb a ladder, and ride around in the truck,” according to Listverse.
Bopsy also visited Disneyland where he rode a hot air balloon. After Easter 1981, his condition started getting worse. Bob Walp visited him and took the kid downstairs from his hospital room to give him a final gift — the fire truck had been renamed “Bopsy 1.” The child passed away that same day.