Right before I got married, I ended up with food poisoning that was so bad that it landed me in the hospital. While I was there, I accidentally overheard a heartbreaking exchange between a doctor and a patient.
The patient happened to be my roommate, a man recovering from prostate cancer surgery. In the wee hours of the morning, his physician came into the room to deliver bad news: Some of the cancer still remained.
I listened from the other side of the privacy curtain as the doctor described the man’s treatment options. It was absolutely clear, though, that this patient would die from the disease.
Hearing that news so calming delivered chilled me to my core. Indeed, I imagine that Joe Booth of New Albany, Indiana, must’ve felt the same way when he received similar counsel back in February.
According to USA Today, 69-year-old Booth had fought prostate cancer for two years when his doctor told him to stop taking his medication. Why? It wasn’t doing much good.
I got to share an afternoon with Joe Booth while he fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams. Last week, Mr. Booth passed away. Here was Joe’s last flight.
— Thomas Novelly (@TomNovelly) April 12, 2018
Booth understood what that meant. He’d just about reached his fill of days, and he would soon move from this life to the next.
A blog post on the Norton Healthcare website chronicled how Booth and Dr. Arash Rezazadeh, an oncologist, began speaking about dreams and life goals. Natural enough conversation when a man is facing death.
Sure enough, Booth had something he wanted to do before the end, something he’d never managed during life. He wanted to fly in a plane.
At one point, he’d built model World War II airplanes. Yet he’d never taken to the skies himself during his nearly seven decades.
The poignancy of his request and the patient way in which he endured chronic pain inspired his nurse, Tracey Hoffman, to make his dream come true. “Here we are talking about the end of his life, and he’s thinking about how he had never been in an airplane,” she said.
“I decided to put it on social media. … My phone started to explode.”
Over 25 pilots volunteered to give Booth his own private farewell flight, and Hoffman eventually connected with Bryan Ogle at Bowman Airport. On Feb. 25, Booth found himself soaring high above the ground.
Aboard a small plane, he could see a dramatic view of the Ohio River, which had flooded just before the flight. Ogle even let him take the controls for a few minutes.
“It was an experience,” Booth said after landing. “It’s a different world all together up there.”
When asked what advice he’d give others, he said, “Try to do as much as you can, and don’t give up at all. You’ll find yourself going into a hole you don’t want to be in if you do.”
Booth passed away on April 5, and at the funeral, his family told Hoffman that the experience of watching him fly was truly beautiful.
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