Her dying wish... To pet a horse one last time

Dying wish: To pet a horse one more time

KENTWOOD, MICH. - When end of life is near, and you know it, what will your dying wish be, and how good will you feel if that wish could be granted?

An 87-year old Grand Rapids woman's final wish was to pet a horse one last time. She got the chance to do it Thursday afternoon at Equine Assisted Development of the Great Lakes in Kentwood, Michigan.

Phyllis Ryerson has stage 4 Esophageal Cancer, and she's been told by her doctors that there's nothing more that they can do.

Her health recently deteriorated to a point where she came under the care at Emmanuel Hospice in Grand Rapids.

Phyllis arrived at the horse stables around 1 o'clock Thursday afternoon. Using her walker, she gingerly moved inside the barn and had the chance to see a handful of horses.

"What fun this is," Ryerson said, with a huge grin on her face.

After she acquainted herself with all the horses, one of them was brought to her, and that was the moment when Phyllis' dying wish came true.

"Thank you very much," Ryerson said, as she held back tears, while petting the horse. "This means so much to me."

Ryerson was able to pet and brush the horse for close to 20 minutes.

"It's a very comforting thing to know that I'm at the end of a long, wonderful life I've had, so I'm very comfortable with the decisions that have been made," said Ryerson. "I will remember this day."

Moments like this are as rewarding for the Hospice care workers as they are for the patients.

"It's the things that harken back to their childhood that mean the most to the patients," said Dana Rittenberg, RN case manager for Emmanuel Hospice. "With Phyllis today, it was about the smells [of a barn] and feeling the horse; it was about the whole experience.

It wasn't just about going to see a horse. This experience was about something that's deep in her, and that's something we want to keep alive [in all our patients] until the very end."

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Contact Brent Ashcroft: brentashcroft@wzzm13.com. Follow Brent on Twitter: @brentashcroft

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