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A Dying Wish to See Rembrandt Paintings, Fulfilled

A terminally-ill woman views a painting by Rijksmuseum as her last wish (courtesy Stichting Ambulance Wens)
A terminally ill woman views a painting by Rijksmuseum as her last wish. (all images courtesy Stichting Ambulance Wens)

After hours this week at the Rijksmuseum’s Late Rembrandt exhibition, which focuses on the artist’s final years, three terminally ill patients viewed the paintings in solitude. The visit was a dying wish fulfilled by Stichting Ambulance Wens Nederland, a Dutch organization of over 200 medical volunteers.

A man views the Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum (courtesy Stichting Ambulance Wens) (click to enlarge)
A man views the Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijksmuseum. (click to enlarge)

The images shared on the organization’s Twitter account this Wednesday were propelled by Reddit and sites like Neatorama across the internet. The international attention is well-deserved for Stichting Ambulance Wens Nederland, or Ambulance Wish Foundation Netherlands. Started in 2007, the group provides mobility with its fleet of ambulances for people who have lost it, offering them a glimpse of a favorite museum one last time, or just a return trip home, as with one man who visited his garden and saw his family gathered in his house a last time.

Volunteer ambulances outsider the Rijksmuseum (courtesy Stichting Ambulance Wens)
Volunteer ambulances outsider the Rijksmuseum

Some patients have requested visits to an airplane museum or the grotto at Lourdes. In one especially moving story, a former zoo worker with a brain tumor returned to his employer and got a kiss from a giraffe. Others have also spent some twilight hours amid the beauty of the Rijksmuseum: a 59-year-old woman in hospice had a private viewing of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” in 2014, and in 2013 a seriously ill man had a last beer in the museum galleries, followed by a burger and fries alongside the Amsterdam canals.

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