10 Heartwarming Stories Of Last Wishes Being Fulfilled
With all of the bad things going on in the world today, it’s that much more heartwarming to hear stories like these. Not enough people have the chance to fulfill their last wishes, but the people on this list did. Whether it was by their own hard work or the hard work of groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, these men and women were able to live out their dreams before passing away.
10The Man Who Dreamed Of Flying Again
Robert Fletcher spent almost his whole life in the air. His passion for flying began when he first learned how to pilot an aircraft from a group of friends. Fletcher later developed his skills while working at the Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby, Ohio, where he repaired and painted the planes. As a perk of the job, he would test the mechanics of the single-engine planes by performing gravity-defying spiral tricks and loops.
Sadly, Fletcher was no longer able to fly as he got older, but he never lost his love of reminiscing about the days he spent in the air. After hearing many of Fletcher’s stories, the caretakers at his hospice decided to make it their mission to grant his wish of taking one more flight. The caretakers worked together with Lost Nation to arrange for Fletcher and his two children, who are both afraid of flying, to take a ride in a Cessna 172 for a few hours. Despite their fears, his kids joined an elated Fletcher on his last flight.
9The Man Who Wanted To See His Dog
Dogs are known as a man’s best friend—and there was nothing that homeless Iowa man Kevin McClain wanted more than to see his best friend one last time. The 57-year-old man had lived in his car in Cedar Rapids for years with his dog, Yurtsie, as his only companion. When McClain became terminally ill with lung cancer and was rushed to the hospital, Yurtsie was taken from him and sent to a local animal shelter. As he lay on his deathbed, McClain asked to see his dog again.
Fortunately, McClain’s paramedic, Jan Erceg, volunteered at the shelter where Yurtsie was taken and was able to organize one last meeting between the two. Yurtsie was placed on McClain’s bed and immediately began licking him all over in recognition. McClain passed away only a few days later. Yurtsie has since been adopted by a new family.
8The Woman Who Wanted To See Dolphins
When Linda Herdt first discovered that she had pulmonary fibrosis, she was told that she was unlikely to live more than five years. Miraculously, the Wyoming native managed to beat the disease for over two decades. Then, at age 44, her condition suddenly began to deteriorate and doctors estimated that she had less than six months left.
Linda’s struggle had kept her bedridden for almost 20 years, only finding the strength to venture out to the local Walmart about once a month. So when the Dream Foundation heard of Linda’s battle, they were determined to grant her last wish—to interact with dolphins. With the help of Sea World, they flew Linda out to San Diego to see the dolphins, giving her a “reason to continue fighting to stay alive.” Linda also got to fulfill her other lifelong dream—to see the ocean for the first time.
7The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Firefighter
While Chris Greicius was the original inspiration for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Frank “Bopsy” Salazar became the first ever child to have his wish formally granted by the organization. After being diagnosed with terminal leukemia at the age of five, Bopsy’s mother checked him into St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Arizona, despite the fact that her insurance refused to pay for it.
His mother, Octaviana Trujillo, was eventually introduced to Linda Pauling—Chris Greicius’s mother. Pauling explained that she was starting a foundation to make the last wishes of children come true and offered to make Bopsy their first formal wish. Pauling’s partner, Arizona police officer Frank Shankwitz, then came by to get to know Bopsy and find out his wish. Bopsy named off several dreams, including a hot air balloon ride, a trip to Disneyland, and being a fireman.
Bopsy got his trip to Disneyland as well as his hot air balloon ride—but they both paled in comparison to his experience becoming a fireman. 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.
Bopsy’s condition took a turn for the worst after Easter 1981. Shankwitz had come to visit Bopsy one last time when there was a knock on the hospital window. Bopsy was surprised to find Bob Walp climbing into his room, along with four other firefighters from a ladder truck on the ground below. He was then wheeled downstairs to see his “team”—only to find that their fire truck had been renamed “Bopsy 1.” He passed away later that evening.
6The Teacher Who Wouldn’t Go Until She Had Her Degree
As a teacher, Harriet Richardson Ames dedicated her life to education. Because of this, it was her dream to receive her bachelor’s degree in education before passing away. Unlike most stories on this list, Harriet’s dying wish wasn’t fulfilled thanks to the kindness of others, but by her own hard work and determination.
Throughout the years, Harriet had received various credits toward her degree at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth Teachers’ College, and Keene State. While she did receive a two-year teaching degree from Keene State in 1931, she had given up on her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree by 1971, unsure if she had enough credits to actually earn it or not. When she was interviewed for Keene State’s centennial, it became clear that the last item on Harriet’s bucket list was to receive her degree. Immediately, the school researched the courses she took and got to work seeing if they could make that wish come true.
Harriet had once stated: “If I die tomorrow, I’ll know I’ll die happy, because my degree’s in the works.” Three weeks after reaching her 100th birthday, she was finally awarded her diploma. Harriet passed away the next day, with her diploma on her bedside table.
5The Girl Who Wanted To Hear Carols
While most eight-year-old girls would be spending the latter part of December getting ready for Christmas, Laney Brown was losing her battle with a terminal and very rare form of leukemia. She had been diagnosed only seven months before and doctors gave her only a few months to live. After hearing the horrible news, her family was determined to make the best of Laney’s last few months. Little did they know that their plight would trigger an immense outpouring of support from their Pennsylvania community.
Using the power of social media, the family set up a Facebook page known as “Team Laney” which soon went viral, gaining around 94,000 followers. On December 17, her family was told Laney had only weeks to live. With her birthday only three days away, the Make-A-Wish Foundation was able to set up a video meeting between Laney and her favorite singer, Taylor Swift. The next day, December 21, Laney’s other wish of listening to Christmas carols was fulfilled when over 10,000 people showed up to sing carols on the street outside of her room. The carolers sang for over an hour, with tunes including “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” and even “Happy Birthday.” Laney lost her battle with Leukemia on Christmas Day, but not before having her final wishes come true thanks to the generosity of others.
4The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Die A Virgin
In 2001, there was a bit of a moral uproar over the granting of one terminally ill Australian boy’s wish not to die a virgin. The 15-year-old’s cancer had kept him in the hospital for many years, unable to experience dating as normal kids his age would. Because of this, the boy’s controversial final wish was to have sex before he passed away. Without the knowledge of his parents, his friends granted his wish by setting up a meeting with a prostitute outside of the hospital.
Despite taking precautions to make sure the encounter was safe and consensual, the incident could still be considered illegal because of the boy’s age. An intense ethical debate ensued after the news of his last wish broke. Some child psychologists felt that granting the wish was illegal and extremely unethical, while others felt it should have been granted because the boy was going to die soon and probably craved the non-clinical contact. No matter which side of the debate you’re on, it’s certain that this Australian boy passed away happy.
3The Boy Who Wanted To Meet The Queen
When Oliver Burton, who had been born with Down syndrome, was three he was given news that no one wants to hear—a leukemia diagnosis. At 10 years old, things looked bleak for Oliver, who had been given only a few weeks to live. Most boys his age would dream of meeting a famous sports player or actor, but not Oliver. At the top of this little boy’s list was meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
While the Queen herself was unable to fulfill his last wish, an unlikely candidate stepped up instead. When actress Helen Mirren heard about Oliver’s wish, she was more than happy to play Queen for a day. The National Children’s Tumour Leukemia Cancer Trust arranged for Mirren to meet with Oliver and even had a limo bring him and his family to London to watch her play the Queen in The Audience. After the play, Oliver was brought backstage to share tea and crumpets with Mirren—she even knighted him as “Sir Oliver.” Mirren stayed in character the whole time and Oliver’s parents said that Oliver believed she was the real Queen.
2The Boy Who Wanted To Marry His Sweetheart
When it comes to regrets, “the one that got away” is usually up there on the list. Fortunately for a little boy dying of leukemia, his last wish to marry his sweetheart was granted. Reece Fleming was diagnosed with leukemia at just four years old and battled with the condition for four long years. As his condition continued to worsen, his family was told that he had only around three weeks to live.
When asked if he had any last wishes, Reece made it known that he wanted to “marry” his sweetheart, Elleanor Pursglove, before he passed. His mother explained that they had been good friends for years and Reece had even asked her to marry him a few times before she finally accepted. The mock wedding occurred at the Fleming house, where Reece had been moved after being given his grim prognosis. The families did their best to make the wedding seem as real as possible, even having the couple exchange rings. Prior to the wedding, Reece was also given the chance to ride in a Ferrari and Porsche, as well as having a pirate-themed party with his friends at the local Kingsway Fire Station. After Elleanor left that day, his mother said Reece looked completely at peace. He passed away the day after the wedding.
1The Boy Who Inspired Make-A-Wish
Christopher James Greicius always dreamed of becoming a man in blue. He had revered police officers his whole life and wanted nothing more than to become one. Unfortunately, this little boy’s dream was put on hold when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Unwilling to let Chris’s last wish go unfulfilled, US Customs officer Tommy Austin had promised him a ride in a real police helicopter. As Chris’s leukemia worsened, Tommy knew he didn’t have much time, but he was determined to make his dream come true.
Tommy contacted police officer Ron Cox and asked for help in making the wish come true. On April 29, 1980, Tommy made good his promise of taking Chris on a ride in a police helicopter—and that was only the start. After an aerial tour of the city, the helicopter landed at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, where Chris was met by three squad cars and a motorcycle ridden by Officer Frank Shankwitz. The group then escorted the boy to become the first honorary state trooper in Arizona history.
After his return to the hospital, Chris’s condition continued to decline. Three days later, Ron Cox came to the ward to present Chris with his own custom-made highway patrol uniform. Chris had also told Frank Shankwitz that he liked the wings on his uniform, but Frank explained that he needed to pass the motorcycle test before receiving them. Without wasting any time, Frank and the other officers set up a miniaturized version of the motorcycle test, which Chris was able to pass on his battery-powered motorcycle. The next day, the officers were able to present him with a well-earned set of motorcycle wings. Chris passed away the following day. Many of the people Chris had touched in his short life went on to found the Make-A-Wish Foundation in his honor.
Shelby Hoebee is an undergraduate pursuing a degree in Medicinal Biochemistry and Psychology. She hopes to go on to medical school in order to become a psychiatrist. She’s fascinated by the unexplained and macabre in the world.