Before old age caught up to him, Edward Reis cared about and loved anything to do with nature. He used to be a forest ranger and nothing delighted him as much as being outdoors did. Everything changed for Reis in 2008 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or MS which is an incapacitating autoimmune disease. Suddenly he was bedridden meaning simple things like going for a walk outside was something he couldn’t do anymore.
He was moved to a nursing home for adults in Washington State named Evergreen Hospice. Reis’ registered nurse, Leigh Gardner, saw him thrice a week for his hospice care and they ended up getting quite close to a point where he was her favorite patient. Reis told the hospice chaplain, Curt Huber, of his dream to go outside just one more time and he in turn told Leigh. She knew she would have to do everything in her power to assist in granting his final wish.
She contacted the Snohomish County Fire District 1 to see if there was any way that they may assist her in doing for Reis what she was planning. They agreed to do what was needed. Reis was described as a gentle soul by the nurse who cared for him so much and this is just one of the reasons she wanted to do this for him.
It was on 28 March 2014 that firefighters arrived at the Evergreen Hospice to take Reis out and make his final wish a reality. He enjoyed three hours outdoors in the Washington sun, Meadowdale Beach Park in Edmonds to be specific. Between the firefighters and hospice volunteers there weren’t many moments of quiet as they led Reis up and down the trails tirelessly. He thoroughly enjoyed the smell of the pure air, the songs from the birds and the rustling leaves. The group even touched bark and flowers so they could hold their hands up to his nose for him to smell. He was content.
Whether he was married at any time or not is just as much of a mystery as the kids he may or may not have had but in the end of it all Gardner and the firefighters were his family. Shane Cooper was one of the firefighters who enjoyed the day with Reis and he said even though Reis couldn’t really speak, he formed words with which to describe what he was experiencing. He said that these moments during the day made it all worthwhile and that this day will remain one of the highlights of his career and he had been in his position for 25 years at that point.
Gardner told about the moments when the trail became a bit too much for the gurney’s tiny wheels and they sat there to rest for a bit. She recalled how he just listened to everything going on around him. She went over to him and asked if he was happy to which he replied: I’m so happy. Reis passed on not long after this, his final few hours outside.