Recently, hospice workers made a rather unusual request to their local fire department. They asked firefighters to fulfill the dying wish of a former forest ranger with Multiple Sclerosis, so they rolled him on a gurney for a 3-hour tour of the woods he so loved.
Edward Reis, 62, is a former forest ranger who had been in hospice for multiple sclerosis for several years, unable to go outdoors, much less into the woods.
Just a few weeks before his death, he shared his dying wish to the chaplain — to get back out into nature, to the forest.
The chaplain coordinated with a Reis’ nurse at the Evergreen Health Hospice in Washington State and came up with a plan to take him on a final “walk” in the woods near the ocean.
But they knew that they would not be able to get the bedridden man to the woods on their own. So they called the Snohomish County Fire Department and asked for their assistance. The firemen immediately agreed to help.
The department sent a medical unit to pick Reis up in a fire truck. They then took him on a 3-hour tour of Meadowdale Beach Park on the Puget Sound.
A total of seven firemen, along with the nurse and chaplain, wheeled the former park ranger 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 also would occasionally pick up a flower or a piece of bark from a cedar tree and hold it near Reis’ 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 that he believed the journey into nature satisfied a “spiritual need” for Reis.
When Huber Asked Reis what place he felt the presence of God most, he “lit up” and immediately start talking about the forest.
Firefighter Shane Cooper described the trek as “the highlight of his 25-year career.”
The fire department offered the service at no charge and had volunteered firefighters from the other stations step in to fill in at their posts.
What an amazing story about getting back to what’s really important in life before it’s over.
May you rest in peace, Mr. Reis.