John Blanton had one of his last wishes fulfilled on August 28, 2020, at Roseburg Regional Airport. John, a former private pilot, long dreamed of flying in a plane one final time. As he and Mercy Hospice Chaplain Sabin Gautreau met over the past few months, John’s wish came to light. When Chaplain Sabin found out that John loved to fly, he asked, “Would you go up again if you had the chance?”
John didn’t even blink. Instead, with a huge smile beaming across his face, he said, “Of course!”
Flying runs in John’s family, as both of John’s brothers were pilots – one served in that capacity in the Navy on the famous carrier Enterprise. So with this family history in mind and a chance to keep John smiling, Sabin set into motion a plan to get him off the ground and into the air one more time. When initial plans didn’t work out, Sabin reached out to one of Mercy’s former Chaplains, Byron Gingrich, for help. Byron happens to be an experienced aviator as well. He has his own private plane and has been flying since he was 18 years old. Of course, Byron said he’d love to help. He graciously flew in from Salem and took John for the trip. They both seemed at home in the sky and very much enjoyed taking in the stunning view.
John peppered Byron with questions throughout the flight.
“How fast are we going?”
“Normally, when I’m on a plane, I’m the pilot. This time I’m the passenger.”
“I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m so excited!”
John’s family, a neighbor, and Mercy Hospice staff joined John at the Roseburg Airport to cheer him on during this last flight.
This is just one of the beautiful experiences in the life of a hospice chaplain. Sabin describes the role as “Fulfilling….we get to add value to lives, help people walk through their spiritual pain, and provide comfort and encouragement to those who are bravely approaching their final chapter on earth. We like to serve all clients, but people like John are particularly a joy,” says Sabin.
John Blanton has invested time in the community. He worked in the police force for over 20 years, spending some of that time in Roseburg. His late wife Donna, who passed less than a year ago, shared his love for flying. “Part of the reason I wanted to go up is because we used to fly together,” he said.
And that makes us Mercy Proud!