When Vanessa Mitchell-Delmotte found out that her dad, Patrick Mitchell, was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she was devastated. But she was also determined to fill his final days with love and adventure.
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To make that happen, she first decided to take the month of December off of work. After that, she had to figure out how that time would be spent, something much easier said than done. Instead of figuring it out alone, she reached out for ideas in a local Facebook group.
“I liked the idea of doing something that wasn’t touristy; that you couldn’t Google,” Vanessa said.
Within minutes, her post was flooded with suggestions of all kinds, many of which were being offered to them totally free of charge.
“It blew our minds,” she said. “I was just scrolling and scrolling. I was so overwhelmed by people’s generosity.”
One of the offers, a private tour of a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron, couldn’t have been more perfect for Patrick, who loved “all things Navy-related.” In addition to checking out a helicopter hangar, they got an in-depth showing of their fleet of aircrafts.
While they were visiting, Vanessa met a certified medical technician named Julie Wright. Having almost lost her mom to cancer last year, Julie bonded with Vanessa instantly, something that would soon become a trend during Vanessa and Patrick’s adventures.
Not all of their adventures were local. Although Vickie Quinn no longer lives in the Coronado, California, area, she was still in the local Facebook group when Vanessa reached out. Seeing her post reminded Vickie of all the times her neighbors offered a helping hand to Vickie and her son, Stephen Quinn, who is quadriplegic.
Now an executive at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Stephen offered them tickets to a show in Las Vegas.
“So much was given to our family – especially to my son – from the people in the Coronado community,” Vickie said. “I thought this was the least we could do.”
Even though Vanessa and Patrick weren’t too familiar with the UFC at the time, both of them were ecstatic about the opportunity. Plus, by the time the match was over, they ended up becoming “mega fans.”
“Neither of us were fans, initially. We didn’t really know much about it, and then, just the bonding experience of being there with the excitement,” she said. “It just felt like that entire arena was filled with so much life.”
They were able to check another big adventure off their list in the meantime: visiting Paris. Or, in this case, the Paris Las Vegas hotel.
Patrick had hoped to visit the city of Paris one more time, but with his ability to travel at a minimum, this was the next best thing. In the end, it turned out to be a great alternative, especially since their room gave them the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower replica.
“I’m so grateful for that trip,” Vanessa said.
Despite all their adventures, Vanessa couldn’t forget the people they met along the way. She and Vickie have spoken every day, connecting over the process of grief and loss, as Vickie’s husband passed away last year.
“She pours her heart out to me, and I pour mine out back to her,” Vickie said. “I don’t know her, but I love her. We’re like sisters now.”
As Patrick grew weaker, their activities became more limited – but that didn’t make them any less meaningful.
For example, a local teacher and violinist named Jeremy Cooke gave them a private performance in Patrick’s backyard. He even made sure to learn Patrick’s favorite music, including the Beatles, Van Morrison, and the Beach Boys.
After 72 years full of adventures, Patrick passed away peacefully on January 11, 2022. Although Vanessa and the rest of his loved ones wanted more time with him, what they had together will never be forgotten.
“Dad recently said, ‘We are what we leave behind,'” Vanessa recalled. “And he is leaving behind a very strong legacy.”
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