Throughout his adult life, Patrick Mitchell had only one goal in mind: to live to be over 100 years old.
He knew it was ambitious, but he took steps that could help him achieve it: daily exercise, vitamins, healthy foods.
About a year ago, at the age of 72, his hope of becoming a centenarian was shattered when he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, a devastating discovery.
His health began to decline rapidly at the end of last year. His daughter, Vanessa Mitchell-Delmotte, knew he wanted to bring more life to his final months, so she posted in a Facebook group to ask about to-do list ideas in the Coronado, Calif., area. , where his parents live, near San Diego. .
“My dad loves adventure,” she said earlier this week, explaining that she wanted to help him have as much of it as he could enjoy.
In November, she wrote in Coronado Happenings: “My dear dad has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I’m taking December off to enjoy some activities with him. Anyone have any ideas?
Mitchell-Delmotte, 38, who runs a jewelry business, wrote that her family is from the area, so tourist activities weren’t as appealing. Instead, she was looking for “behind the scenes” experiences, she wrote.
“I liked the idea of doing something that wasn’t touristy; that you couldn’t Google,” Mitchell-Delmotte said in a phone interview, adding that her dad loved meeting people and saying, “You’ll never believe what I just did!
Within minutes, suggestions from strangers began pouring in from the group, which has 26,000 members. But what amazed Mitchell-Delmotte most, she said, were the comments from people offering to personally take her father on an unforgettable experience.
One offered tickets to a special screening of “The Nutcracker,” while another offered a horse therapy session at a ranch. Others offered private surf lessons, a family photo shoot, piano lessons, a painting session at an art gallery, and a stay at a local hotel, all for free.
“It blew our minds,” she said. “I was just scrolling and scrolling. I was so overwhelmed by the generosity of people.
Julie Wright, 45, was one of the generous strangers. She and her husband, Justin Wright, who is a search and rescue swimmer, offered to give them a private tour of a US Navy helicopter squadron.
“Dad’s dad was in the Navy, and I knew he had an affinity for anything Navy-related,” Mitchell-Delmotte said.
On December 9, Mitchell-Delmotte and her father ventured nearby Naval Air Station North Island, where they were treated to a private tour of the helicopter hangar, as well as an in-depth introduction to the extensive fleet of helicopters. planes parked there.
“My husband and Patrick sat in the cockpit and had their own conversations, while Vanessa and I sat in the back,” recalls Wright, a certified medical technician at the naval base.
While in the back of the helicopter, the two women bonded over their shared experience of dealing with a sick relative.
“I just went through cancer and almost lost my own mother last year, I had a little idea what Vanessa might be going through,” Wright said. “It’s never the same story, but I felt it. It took me to the guts. »
Reading Mitchell-Delmotte’s Facebook post, she and her husband were compelled to help.
“If you have an abundance of love to give, you should give it,” Wright said.
While the experience was primarily for Mitchell-Delmotte and her father, it was equally memorable — and moving — for Wright and her husband.
Seeing father and daughter enjoying the day together “was such a beautiful thing,” she said. Sharing the experience with them “did more for my husband and me than we could have imagined.”
Others who offered adventures felt the same, including Vickie Quinn.
Quinn, 62, and her family owned a home in Coronado for 25 years, and although she no longer lives there, she is still a member of the Coronado Happenings Facebook group. When she came across Mitchell-Delmotte’s message, she replied, “If you bring it to Las Vegas, I can arrange a UFC fight,” abbreviated Ultimate Fighting Championship.
She said she gave because she felt compelled to give back.
“So much has been given to our family – especially my son – by people in the Coronado community,” Quinn said, explaining that her 33-year-old son, Stephen Quinn, is a quadriplegic and neighbors in the area have always watched. for him. “I thought it was the least we could do.”
Quinn’s son is now an executive at Ultimate Fighting Championship, and it was his idea to gift the tickets, she said.
Mitchell-Delmotte said her dad was excited to attend a game. Luckily, at the time, he was still feeling well enough to catch a short flight, so the two headed to Las Vegas on Dec. 11 to see a game and spend the night.
Mitchell had hoped to visit Paris again, and although it was not possible given the distance, father and daughter stayed at Paris Las Vegas, a local hotel, for the night, to “tick both boxes”, Mitchell-Delmotte said.
“I’m so grateful for this trip,” she continued, adding that their hotel room had a perfect view of a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and they were able to witness one of the greatest upheavals in the history of mixed martial arts. “We both left as mega fans.”
Ever since the game, Mitchell-Delmotte and Quinn, whose husband died last year, have been talking to each other every day.
“She pours out her heart to me and I pour out mine to her,” Quinn said. “I don’t know her, but I love her. We’re like sisters now.
Indeed, an unexpected result of Mitchell-Delmotte’s initial Facebook appeal was the many new friends she made online who provided her with constant comfort and support.
“That’s been the light in all of this,” she said.
Mitchell-Delmotte said her father was also extremely touched. He felt too weak to take part in a phone interview this week and instead provided a voice recording, in which he said the offers he had received from strangers showed “the spirit of humanity”.
Throughout the past month, Mitchell – a father-of-two and grandfather-of-three, who has spent 40 years working in education – has been able to experience a few more adventures with his daughter, which she has shared about her Facebook page.
“He’s such a guiding force in my life,” Mitchell-Delmotte said of her father. “Doing this together and having these memories has been very important to me and to my healing process as well.”
Mainly, she added, “I really just wanted to watch it in action. These complete strangers have been so connected to him.
Together they also toured the USS Makin Island and attended a custom violin concert in their backyard. During each experience, Mitchell listened carefully to strangers’ stories and shared her own.
While they wanted to accept everyone on their offers, Mitchell-Delmotte said, the timing didn’t always align and her father grew more and more weary as the December days passed. Yet the offers themselves meant more to them than the experiences.
“It was the first contact. That’s what mattered,” Mitchell said. “Especially from people who don’t know me.”
Jeremy Cooke, a local teacher and violinist, was one such person. When he saw Mitchell-Delmotte’s message, he offered to do a private performance. He made it a point to learn some of Mitchell’s favorite music – including classics from the Beatles, Van Morrison and the Beach Boys – to serenade him in his backyard.
“I was hoping to give him and his family a break and a boost,” Cooke, 44, said. “I was happy to be part of it.”
Mitchell died peacefully on January 11. Although he hadn’t reached the age of 100, his daughter said, he felt fulfilled – and honored to be a part of such kindness and humanity.
“Dad recently said, ‘We are what we leave behind,'” Mitchell-Delmotte recalls. “And he leaves behind a very strong legacy.”