7 powerful photographs of terminally ill patients living out their final wishes

Before 54-year-old Mario passed away, he had one special goodbye he needed to say ... to his favorite giraffe.

Mario had worked as a maintenance man at the Rotterdam zoo in the Netherlands for over 25 years. After his shifts, he loved to visit and help care for the animals, including the giraffes.

As Mario's fight against terminal brain cancer came to an end, all he wanted to do was visit the zoo one last time. He wanted to say goodbye to his colleagues — and maybe share a final moment with some of his furry friends.


Thanks to one incredible organization, Mario got his wish.

"To say goodbye to the animals." All photos by the Ambulance Wish Foundation, used with permission.

The Ambulance Wish Foundation, a Dutch nonprofit, helps people like Mario experience one final request.

It's a lot like Make-A-Wish, only it's not just for kids.

In 2006, Kees Veldboer, who was an ambulance driver at the time, was moving a patient from one hospital to another. The patient was a terminally ill man who had spent three straight months confined to a hospital bed. During the trip from one hospital to the other, the patient told Veldboer that he wanted to see the Vlaardingen canal one last time. He wanted to sit in the sun and wind and smell the water again before going back inside.

"To see the ocean again."

Veldboer made the patient's last wish happen, and as tears of joy streamed down the man's face, Veldboer knew he had tapped into a powerful way to bring peace to people in their final days.

Soon after, the Ambulance Wish Foundation was born.

Based in the Netherlands, Veldboer's organization scoffs at the logistical hurdles of transporting terminally ill patients who need high levels of care and, often, lots of medical equipment. The Ambulance Wish Foundation employs a fleet of custom-built ambulances and always has highly trained medical staff on hand for emergencies.

"To visit my best friend's grave."

Their message? Positive end-of-life experiences are far too important to pass up.

Today, the AWF has over 230 volunteers and has fulfilled nearly 7,000 wishes.

Even more beautiful than the work this organization does, though, are the things its patients are asking for.

"To enjoy a delicious ice cream cone."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation specializes in granting wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, many of whom have barely begun to live. The children's wishes run the gamut, from starring in a music video to a day as a hero soldier in the Army.

But what does Veldboer do for older folks who have already experienced so much? What do their wishes look like?

Mostly, it's the little things they cherish, like seeing their home one last time or spending a few hours just looking at something beautiful.

Veldboer, in an interview with the BBC, describes one woman who had not been home for six months. When they brought her into her living room on a stretcher, she hoisted herself up and stayed there for hours, doing nothing but looking around — likely replaying an entire lifetime worth of memories — before quietly asking them to take her away.

Another patient simply wanted to see her favorite Rembrandt painting again.

"To see my favorite painting one last time."

And another just wanted to spend an afternoon watching dolphins play.

"To watch the dolphins play."

On and on the wishes go — about four of them fulfilled every day. People who just want to see their grandchild for the first time, or stand on the beach again before they can't anymore.

Turns out that life's simplest pleasures just might be its most meaningful.

Sometimes it feels like there's never enough time. Not in a day. Not in a year. Not in a life.

"To attend my granddaughter's wedding."

But maybe it's better to cherish what we have rather than spend so much time thinking about all the things we haven't done yet.

Maybe the things we remember at the end aren't the time we went skydiving or the time we hiked across Europe. When our time is up, maybe what we'll remember most is more mundane — the tacky wallpaper in the house we grew up in, a sunny day spent on the water, or those little everyday moments spent with the people we love the most.

Whatever it is, it's comforting to know there are people out there who want our last memories of this place to be good ones.

I can't think of a more wonderful job.

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Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

"Can I buy you a drink?" is a loaded question.

It could be an innocent request from someone who's interested in having a cordial conversation. Other time, saying "yes" means you may have to fend off someone who feels entitled to spend the rest of the night with you.

In the worst-case scenario, someone is trying to take advantage of you or has a roofie in their pocket.

Feminist blogger Jennifer Dziura found a fool-proof way to stay safe while understanding someone's intentions: ask for a non-alcoholic beverage or food. If they're sincerely interested in spending some time getting to know you, they won't mind buying something booze-free.

RELATED: States are starting to require mental health classes for all students. It's about dang time.

But if it's their intention to lower your defenses, they'll throw a mild tantrum after you refuse the booze. Her thoughts on the "Can I buy you a drink?" conundrum made their way to Tumblr.

via AshleysCo / Tumblr


via AshleysCo / Tumblr

The posts caught the attention of a bartender who knows there are lot of men out there whose sole intention is to get somone drunk to take advantage.

"Most of the time, when someone you don't know is buying you a drink, they're NOT doing it out of a sense of cordiality," the bartender wrote. "They're buying you a drink for the sole purpose of making you let your guard down."

So they shared a few tips on how to be safe and social when someone asks to buy you a drink.

From the other side of the bar, I see this crap all the time. Seriously. I work at a high-density bar, and let me tell you, I have anywhere from 10-20 guys every night come up and tell me to, "serve her a stronger drink, I'm trying to get lucky tonight, know what I mean?" usually accompanied with a wink and a gesture at a girl who, in my experience, is going to go from mildly buzzed to definitively hammered if I keep serving her. Now, I like to think I'm a responsible bartender, so I usually tell guys like that to piss off, and, if I can, try to tell the girl's more sober friends that they need to keep an eye on her.
But everyone- just so you know, most of the time, when someone you don't know is buying you a drink, they're NOT doing it out of a sense of cordiality, they're buying you a drink for the sole purpose of making you let your guard down.

Tips for getting drinks-

1. ALWAYS GO TO THE BAR TO GET YOUR OWN DRINK, DO NOT LET STRANGERS CARRY YOUR DRINKS. This is an opportune time for dropping something into your cocktail, and you're none the wiser.

2.IF YOU ORDER SOMETHING NON-ALCOHOLIC, I promise you, the bartender doesn't give two shits that you're not drinking cocktails with your friends, and often, totally understands that you don't want to let your guard down around strangers. Usually, you can just tell the bartender that you'd like something light, and that's a big clue to us that you're uncomfortable with whomever you're standing next to. Again, we see this all the time.

3. If you're in a position to where you feel uncomfortable not ordering alcohol:
Here's a list of light liquors, and mixers that won't get you drunk, and will still look like an actual cocktail:

X-rated + sprite = easy to drink, sweet, and 12% alcoholic content. Not strong at all, usually runs $6-$8, depending on your state.
Amaretto + sour= sweet, not strong, 26%.
Peach Schnapps+ ginger ale= tastes like mellow butterscotch, 24%.
Melon liquor (Midori, in most bars) + soda water = not overly sweet, 21%
Coffee liquor (Kahlua) +soda = not super sweet, 20%.
Hope this helps someone out!

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If you do accept a drink from someone at a bar and you want to talk, there's no need to feel obligated to spend the rest of the night with them.

Jaqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says to be polite you only have to "Engage in some friendly chit-chat, but you are not obligated to do more than that."

If someone asks to buy you a drink and you don't want it, Whitmore has a great tip. "Say thank you, but you are trying to cut back, have to drive or you don't accept drinks from strangers," Whitmore says.

What if they've already sent the drink over? "Give the drink to the bartender and tell him or her to enjoy it," Whitmore says.

Have fun. Stay safe, and make sure to bring a great wing-man or wing-woman with you.

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