10 People Whose Dying Wish was to See a Film

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To many people, movies are more than flashing images with sound. They can transport people to other worlds, place us in other people’s skins and connect humans in a way that no other medium can. They are an indelible part of many cultures around the world and to some people, an integral part of their lives. That’s why some people’s last wish on Earth is to sit down and lose themselves in the magical world of film.

(Editor’s note: get some Kleenex handy)

10. Christopher Saffy

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Christopher Saffy of Spotsylvania, Virginia, was born with kidney problems and had his first surgery when he was just 18 days old. When he was two, he had surgery to get a kidney transplant and was given a stoma, which is a hole in the abdomen that leads to the bladder. By the time that he was 11, the transplanted kidney was failing and he needed a new one by the end of May of 2001, or his life would be in danger.

It was during this time of uncertainty that the Make-a-Wish foundation got involved. On July 24, 2001, they flew Christopher to Hollywood where he met Jackie Chan and attended the premiere of Chan’s Rush Hour 2. Also, while at the premiere, Saffy met other movie stars including Chan’s costar Chris Tucker, as well as Jamie Foxx, the Olsen twins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Steven Seagal, and Pauly Shore. But even during his visit, Saffy was aware of his illness. He was in Los Angeles for four days and had to go to the hospital twice for dialysis.

Upon returning home, Saffy did get a kidney transplant, but it failed. As a result, he had to keep going for dialysis a few times every week from the age of 11 onwards. Despite his illness and being forced to miss a few days of school every week, Saffy graduated from high school in 2009, just a semester later than scheduled.

9. Daniel Fleetwood

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Like many kids (and even adults), Daniel Fleetwood fell in love with Star Wars when he was first introduced to it. As he grew up, the love for the franchise never faded and he would dress up in a costume to go to the premieres of the sequels.

As an adult, Daniel married a woman named Ashley, and he worked as a mental health counselor in Spring, Texas. Then in 2013, when he was 30, he received some troubling news. He was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma, which is a rare connective tissue cancer. Over the next two years the disease spread and Daniel got sicker. On September 2, 2015, his doctor told the 32-year-old husband and Star Wars fan that he had one, maybe two months to live.

In early November, Daniel had survived longer than expected, but his lungs were covered in tumors. His family didn’t think he would survive to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is set to open in the United States in about a week and a half. This upset his wife Ashley and she wrote about it on a Facebook post, wishing that he could see the movie before he passed on. A short time after writing it, Ashley’s single posting went viral with the hashtag #ForceForDaniel. Ashley’s request even had support from Mark Hamill, John Boyega, and Carrie Fisher.

On November 4, director of The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, personally called the couple and arranged a screening for Daniel the next day, making him the first Star Wars fan to see the new film. Sadly, Daniel passed away in his sleep five days after seeing the movie. Amazingly, as you’ll see, this wasn’t the only time that J.J. Abrams, Disney, and Lucasfilm went to incredible effort to ensure that their dying fans got to see a movie before they passed on.

8. Scott Stouffer

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Scott Stouffer of Maple Park, Illinois, had always been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, so when the Peter Jackson adaptations came out, he would take his wife, son, and two daughters to see them. They started with the first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, in 2001, and from there it grew to be a holiday tradition. The family saw all of The Lord of the Rings movies and then the first two Hobbit movies together. They managed to do this even as the children started going away to school and moving out.

Before the family had a chance to see the third and final installment of The Hobbit, Scott was diagnosed with neuroendocrine and in mid-2014 he had stopped treatment because it wasn’t working. By the fall, his health was much worse and it didn’t look like he was going to survive until December 17, when The Battle of the Five Armies was set to be released. So Scott’s youngest daughter started a social media campaign, asking Warner Bros. to allow her family to see the sixth and final Jackson-Tolkien adaptation, just like they did every holiday when one of the films was released.

Warner Bros. responded by saying that they work with Make-a-Wish foundation and they try to grant as many wishes as they can, but they could not do individual wishes like the one the Stouffer’s family was looking for. Scott passed away on December 14, 2014, just three days before the movie opened.

7. Roy Rhodes

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Roy Rhodes served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and received two medals for his service. After returning from Vietnam, Roy was a volunteer firefighter for 17 years. He got married and started a family. But then a series of tragedies would hit him and his family in 1985. First, Roy was diagnosed with lung cancer and one of his lungs needed to be removed. Then in 1986, his four-year-old son passed away from leukemia and in October of the same year, Rhodes found out that he had a tumor on the other lung.

By spring 1986, Roy was 38-years-old and dying, but he had one last wish. Ever since he read about Oliver Stone’s Platoon, he wanted to see it because he said that his military service in Vietnam was the highlight of his life. The problem was that Roy was too sick to go to the theater when the movie was released in February of 1987.

Somehow, Roy’s friends managed to get in contact with Oliver Stone, who arranged to have a specially produced VHS tape express mailed to Rhodes while the film was still in theaters. After sending the video, Stone spoke to Rhodes’ mother and told her to pass along to Rhodes that the movie was coming and to hold on. Stone also told her that he would keep their family in his prayers.

On March 6, 1987, Roy’s friends and family got together to watch the movie in his home in Terra Alta, West Virginia, fulfilling his dying wish.

6. Daniel Craft

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Daniel Craft was a film buff who lived in New York City. He worked for MTV’s data department and was also one of the founders of The New York Asian Film Festival. Craft spoke Mandarin and even acted in a few Chinese television shows, usually being the evil white person. But then at 38, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He had to undergo three rounds of chemo, and then got a bone marrow transplant, which meant more chemo. He survived three infections, was hospitalized 10 times and had hundreds of doctors’ appointments in the span of three and a half years. Then in late 2013, he was diagnosed with a completely different rare form of cancer that left him with just weeks to live.

Daniel’s wife, Paige, was willing to do anything to help her dying husband. In December of 2013, she managed to get Daniel out of the hospital to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey because before the movie, there was supposed to be a special 10 minute preview of Star Trek Into Darkness and Daniel was a huge Star Trek fan. But for some reason, the preview wasn’t screened at the showing they went to.

That’s when a friend of the couple posted Paige’s plea on reddit, asking if anyone knew if there was some way that Daniel could see Into Darkness, which was set to be released in May 2013. A day or two later, the thread had gone viral and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Damon Lindelof left voicemails for Paige saying they would set something up quickly. The next day, a producer showed up at Daniel’s home with a rough cut of the film on DVD. Daniel signed a bunch of non-disclosure forms, then Paige made some popcorn and Daniel watched the movie. Abrams told him not to judge the movie too harshly because it was an incredibly rough cut, but Daniel apparently loved the film.

Shortly after watching the movie, Daniel went to bed and never woke up. He died two days later on January 6, at the age of 41 in a hospice.

5. Stratford Caldecott

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From a young age, Stratford Caldecott loved comic books. As an adult, he married, had a child, and was one of the leading Catholic writers in the world. Then in October of 2011, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While going through treatment, he watched a lot of Marvel movies and television shows. His daughter Sophie said that it was a form of escapism for him and that he loved them for their themes of hope, good fighting evil, and that in the end, the greater good is triumphant.

In March of 2014, Captain America: The Winter Solider was released in England, where Stratford lived, but at this point, he was too sick to go to the theater. The DVD was going to be released in August of 2014, but the doctors didn’t think that the 60-year-old grandfather had that long to live. So in May of 2014, on her blog, Sophie wrote a plea with the hopes of getting Marvel and Disney to send them a DVD early. In order to do this, she asked people to take pictures of themselves with a sign saying “#CapForStrat.” The hashtag caught on with none other than the Avengers themselves. The first to respond was Mark Ruffalo, who lost his own father to prostate cancer. Next was Samuel L. Jackson and then almost all the main cast members of the Avengers from the first film and many of the main cast members of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started posting pictures of themselves holding a sign that said #CapForStrat.

In just under a week, one of the writers of the Captain America sequel, Christopher Markus, called the family and arranged a private viewing that Stratford could watch from his bed. About two months later on July 17, Stratford succumbed to his cancer.

4. Irene Sullivan

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On July 14, 1985, Irene Sullivan of San Jose, California, turned 47, but sadly it would be her last birthday because she was dying of leukemia. When Irene’s husband and sister asked her if there was anything they could do for her, she told them that she wanted to do something for her 11-year-old son, Christopher. Both she and her son were big movie buffs and Christopher was really looking forward to seeing the movie Cocoon with her. But the movie had only been in theaters a month and Irene was too weak to go out.

Seeing the importance of her last birthday wish, her family contacted someone at the San Francisco Chronicle, who got in touch with 20th Century Fox and two days later, a VHS copy was delivered to the family. Irene slept the whole day before, just so she could stay up and watch the movie, which is about a group of senior citizens who find a fountain of youth and then are given the choice between being taken away from Earth to a planet where they can stay young forever or stay on Earth, where they will grow old and die.

During the movie, Christopher lay on the bed beside his mother and held her hand. They cried during the sad parts, but they smiled when the characters talked about living forever somewhere other than Earth.

3. Sean Dunlap

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14-year-old Sean Dunlap of New Orleans, Louisiana, never really had an easy life. For 11 years he suffered from muscle cancer and in the spring of 1991, Sean was starting to lose the battle. One thing he had been looking forward to was seeing the film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which was set to be released June 14, 1991. But because of his worsening health, Sean probably would not live that long.

The star of Robin Hood, Kevin Costner, was in New Orleans at the time because he was shooting the film JFK and heard about Sean’s dilemma. So on June 1, Costner arranged a private screening at a movie theater in a suburb of New Orleans and invited Sean and some of his friends and family to attend. During the screening, Costner sat beside Sean, who hopefully didn’t cringe too much at Kevin Costner’s accent fluctuations during the film. A week after the screening, Sean lost the battle with his muscle cancer.

2. Stanley Reid

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When Stanley Reid turned six in 1983, his parents knew it would be the last birthday that they would share with their son. Stanley had a rare tumor on his chest called Burkitts Lymphoma. When they asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he had a request that would have been easy for most children: he wanted to see the third movie of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, which had just been released in theaters around the time of his birthday.

Hearing about the request, friends of the family called around and eventually someone was able to get in contact with Lucasfilm. Within 15 minutes of the call, Lucasfilm arranged to have six reels of the film that had only been in theaters for two weeks, and a movie screen to be sent over to the hospital, which was about 50 miles outside of Los Angeles.

Less than 24 hours after the call, on June 3, Stanley watched the movie next to his parents in the basement of the hospital. They were worried he may not be strong enough to stay awake during the screening. He closed his eyes during the parts with too much talking and romance, but his eyes were alive when he watched the action scenes.

After the movie, Stanley seemed to be invigorated, but sadly two days later, on June 5, at 12:35 a.m., passed away with his parents by his side.

1. Colby Curtin

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Two days before Christmas in 2005, seven-year-old Colby Curtin of Huntington Beach, California, was diagnosed with cancer. Over the next three years, she battled with the illness while trying to live a normal life. One of those normal things she did was watch movies, and like many other children and adults, she fell in love with the beautiful movies made by Pixar.

In April of 2009, she went to see the movie Monsters vs. Aliens, and during the previews they showed a trailer for Pixar’s Up. Upon seeing the trailer, she was mesmerized and definitely wanted to see that movie. Sadly, the week the movie opened in May of 2009, Colby’s health took a turn for the worse. Colby’s mother tried to get a wheelchair to take her daughter to the movie, but the hospice didn’t deliver it and after the weekend, the 10-year-old was too sick to go to the theater. That’s when a family friend started cold calling Pixar and Disney and amazingly got through to someone at Pixar.

The day after the call, on June 10, 2009, Pixar sent an employee with a bag full of stuffed animals, an Up poster and of course, a DVD copy of the film. Colby and her family gathered around the TV and watched one of the saddest movies ever in the most somber situation possible. Colby couldn’t see the TV, so her mother gave her a play-by-play and when she was asked if she enjoyed the movie, she nodded her head. Sadly, Colby passed away seven hours after watching the film with her parents at her bedside.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, follow him on Pinterest or visit his website.


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