Brigitte (61) has incurable cancer – her last wish: see a concert of her favorite band, the Kelly Family, again.
Leah ErnstEditor society
Brigitte (61) looks down at the sea of heads. She sits very still on the balcony of the box in a stretcher. Hand over mouth, emotion in eyes. The crowd shudders in anticipation as the first guitar chords of the hit “An Angel” ring through Zurich’s Hallenstadion. Seeing her favorite band live again is Brigitte’s last wish. She is terminally ill.
“Sometimes I wish I was an angel,” sing the Kelly Family in English. Artificial snow trickles into the audience. The six siblings wear red velvet, and a huge Christmas tree shines on the screen behind them. On Saturday evening, what is probably the best-known family of musicians stopped in Zurich on their Christmas tour.
Brigitte’s passion for the Kelly Family also began around Christmas, the Schaffhausen resident remembers. “My husband and I were at her concert at the time.” She didn’t understand much of the English lyrics. “But I just knew: This is my music.” That was over 30 years ago.
Brigitte’s favorite song: «El Camino». Seeing the Kelly Family live again tonight means a lot to her. “Of course I would have other wishes – for example, to spend a few more happy years with my husband.” Her diagnosis: lung and liver cancer. In addition, offshoots on the spine. The doctors gave her until the end of the year. Brigitte says: “But I’m still here!”
More than 400 last wishes
The man who made this evening possible is also in the box: Petar Sabovic (58). He founded the Wunschambulance six years ago. An association that fulfills the last wish of terminally ill people. With his ambulance and four qualified health care volunteers, he picks people up at home and takes them to where they want to be again.
What do you wish for when life comes to an end? “Some people want to go to the zoo again, swim in the lake again or watch their son’s football game,” says Sabovic. He remembers a 23-year-old woman who desperately wanted to be maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding. “It was sad to see that she will never experience all of this herself.” But in general the atmosphere is nice, even exuberant. He and his volunteer team fulfill one or two wishes per week. For free. The association is financed by donations.
Sabovic was inspired by Dutch wish-fulfillers Pendant Ambulance Wens. “I thought: That’s exactly what we need in Switzerland.” Many people who are palliative, i.e. terminally ill, sit at home or in hospital beds for a long time and are no longer mobile. Hiring an ambulance for a trip would be far too expensive. Sabovic says: “That’s where we come in.” Half of it is the sick people or their relatives who ask him. Being able to see one’s own mother or best friend again outside of the hospital bed is very important for many relatives. The other half of the wishes are requested through care institutions.
Sabovic wants to encourage people. Take away the fear of saying something wrong or not daring to ask sick people what they want. “With a little support, almost anything is possible.” By this he also means the donors who support his association via crowdfunding. Nevertheless: Sabovic admits that financially it is anything but easy to survive. He has only received two-thirds of the donations needed for the coming year. The wish ambulance has already fulfilled more than 400 last wishes.
“We rarely think about death”
“This is Jimmy, he cut his hair,” Brigitte knows and points to the Kelly brother, who is now sitting on stage with a guitar. He wants to sing a song for his sister Barby Kelly. She passed away unexpectedly last year. “Maybe you think this is inappropriate tonight,” says Jimmy in German. “Christmas is the answer to death.” A sea of lighters and mobile phone screens illuminates the concert hall.
One of the helpers bends over Brigitte’s stretcher and puts her legs on the bed. Mary Arpagaus (37) has been working as a nursing assistant for over ten years. It’s only been a few months since Sabovic and his team fulfilled their mother’s last wish. Since then she has been a member of the Wunschambulance herself.
To be able to stand on a mountain peak with her mother again was an incredible feeling, says Arpagaus. She was grateful. For giving back to her mother. But also thankful for Sabovic and the request ambulance, which helped her family in this difficult situation.
Being there as a nurse tonight triggers mixed feelings. “Loss remains painful,” says Arpagaus. But: “We rarely think about our own death. It’s a huge gift.” Before making any decision, she asks herself: Would she do the same if she only had ten days to live? After the trip, her mother was happier than she had been for a long time. «She said: Such a wish fulfillment is wonderful. However, every person should try to find happiness in the small things in the course of their lives. »
To the beauty of life
The indoor stadium is shaking. The Kelly Family bring out the electric guitars. Drum rolls and basses pound through every fiber of your body, feet stomp, hands clap. With the thought of death on your mind, a live concert feels twice as alive. “Sure, it’s not easy,” Brigitte said before the concert began. “But that’s why I don’t want to sit in the corner and cry.” She sings along with “El Camino”.
“Here’s to the New Year,” call the members of the Kelly Family from the stage. “Let’s hope it only brings good things.” Brigitte looks down at the crowd. A father hops around with his young son on his shoulders. People jump from their chairs, dance and cheer. A hug, a deep kiss. Heat, rays, laughter. In the surging crowd, many raise their cups and clink glasses. To the beauty of life.