A hospice nurse recalled last week a sunny day back in August when everything came together to give Jim, a dying cancer patient, a brilliant return to his beloved ocean one last time.
The nurse, Cathy Betham, discovered during Jim Handy’s final days that his wish, as a resident of Cape May, New Jersey, was to once more dip his toes in the ocean, so she set out to try to make it happen.
Even though his mobility was very limited, perhaps people could carry him down to the beach. She had no luck going to the local firehouse. Only two EMTs were there on duty. She went to the police station across the street and found the same situation. A busy summer was tying up these valuable officials. But the officers said they would call her if they could find a solution.
Instead of bundling the patient into a police car, they decided to take Jim for a wheelchair stroll on the sunny afternoon. Big sun hat on his head, Susan rolled her husband up the road to the meeting place. They stopped first to get him a favorite drink, a cherry slurpee.
It turns out two members of the Stone Harbor Beach Patrol were waiting for them with a big beach wheelchair with smooth, wide tires that could be pushed straight into the water. With an air of friendliness, Dennis and Zack hoisted the patient into the chair and the family walked onto the sand.
“They pushed him into the water past his feet and he stayed there for about 30 minutes,” wrote Cathy in the Cape May County Herald. “He (felt) the water splashing on his legs and, of course, kept eating his cherry Slurpee.”
Jim passed away the next morning but his wife Susan said that “dduring the night he was still talking about his trip to the beach ‘to put his toes in the water.'”
Cathy said she won’t ever forget that day when strangers were able to come together and make one man’s last wish come true.
(See more photos from the Cape May County Herald)