When hospice workers asked firefighters to help fulfill the dying wish of a former forest ranger with multiple sclerosis, they took him on a 3-hour tour of the woods on his gurney
Former forest ranger Edward Reis, 62, had been in hospice care for multiple sclerosis for years, unable to get outdoors, much less in the woods.
Just a couple of weeks before his death, he confessed his dying wish to the chaplain — to get back out into nature, into the forest.
The chaplain got together with Reis’ nurse, at Evergreen Health Hospice in Washington state, and devised a plan to take him on a “walk” in the woods near the ocean.
But they knew they couldn’t get the bed-ridden man there on their own. So they called the Snohomish County Fire Department and asked for help. The firemen didn’t hesitate.
The department sent a medical unit to pick Reis up in a firetruck and took him on a 3-hour tour of Meadowdale Beach Park on the Puget Sound.
Seven firemen, along with the nurse and chaplain, wheeled him down trail after trail on his gurney, “stopping so he could listen to a running brook or gaze at a verdant vista,” ABC News reported.
The firefighters would occasionally pick a flower of a piece of bark from a cedar tree and hold it near his face so he could breathe in the fragrance of the forest.
“He was just smiling the whole time … saying he was so happy,” his nurse Leigh Gardner said.
Chaplain Curt Huber said he believed the journey into nature was a “spiritual need” for Reis.
When Huber asked Reis where he’d most felt the presence of God, he “lit up” and immediately started talking about the forest.
Firefighter Shane Cooper called the trek “the highlight of his 25-year career.”
The fire department offered the service at no charge and had volunteer firefighters from other stations fill in at their post.