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Pine River man makes bucket-list trip to East Coast with hospice help

When Mike Oates’ doctor delivered the news — nothing more could be done for his lung cancer — he went home and started making plans for the time he had left.

It was a long shot, but at the top of the list was a long-overdue trip home to the East Coast and New York complete with a Yankees-Red Sox baseball game for his daughter, Laura.

Oates’ list-making was interrupted by a call from a friend. She had recently lost her husband, one of Mike’s good friends, and urged him to find help and comfort in hospice care.

During one of his first visits with his hospice nurse, Oates mentioned how much he wanted to make a trip to New York to see family. He had not been home in more than 40 years.

They immediately started making arrangements to accommodate Oates’ health, putting emergency plans in place. Within weeks Mike and his 13-year old daughter, Laura, were boarding a plane bound for the East Coast.

When the plane touched down, a whirlwind tour began. Most of Oates’ family are retired police, fireman and civil servants so they were escorted in style to their first destination: Washington, D.C., for a tour of the Capitol by U.S Capitol police, followed by FBI headquarters and the national monuments at the peak of cherry blossom season.

The United States flag flying in front of the Capitol was lowered at sunset and presented to Mike and Laura as a keepsake.

From Washington, D.C., they drove to Long Island for a family reunion, including introductions to some family Oates had never met, having left more than 40 years ago.

The Long Island Railroad took the pair into New York City where they met a cousin and two New York police officers who escorted them to the Empire State Building, Ground Zero and Battery Park before lunch at Jack Dempsey’s Lounge.

But, one of the highlights of the trip was yet to come.

Oates’ Irish parents worked hard, raising their family in the heart of the city.

“Dad could only afford to take one of us kids a year to a Yankees game,” Oates said. “So every three years my number came up and I got to go to the ballpark with dad.”

When Oates and Laura stepped into a Delta Suites luxury box to watch the Yankees beat rival Red Sox it felt like so much more than just crossing something off a list.

“It was definitely a moment I will remember forever,” said Laura, who, after the trip out east now has aspirations to go to college in New York and keep in touch with her new family.

Oates said when he started making his list it seemed like a pipe dream to pull it all together with the care he was going to need.

“I am so grateful to the nurses and volunteers at Good Samaritan Society Hospice who know the secret to spending out whatever time you have left is not at all about dying. In fact, it is about living — living every second of it,” he said.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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