PHOENIX – A man dealing with the devastating news that he was about to lose his only sister to cancer asked a plane full of passengers to give her the ‘last flight’ she never had for herself. She had to suddenly give up her job as a flight attendant, which she loved, because of the diagnosis.
Rex Ridenoure posted the touching story to Facebook in the form of a letter to his sister. The letter and accompanying photo album quickly went viral.
Rex’s family has had more than their fair share of brushes with cancer. Rex and his siblings, Ross and LouAnn, lost both their parents to pancreatic cancer.
His sister, LouAnn had already beat breast cancer once. But recently, the Southwest Airlines flight attendant went to the doctor for sudden back pain.
“That growing back pain you experienced in early February was not from lifting carry-on luggage into the overhead bins or carrying tray after tray of drinks to passengers; it was caused by that absolutely nasty pancreatic cancer that claimed Mom and Dad,” wrote Rex.
LouAnn is currently in hospice care at her Arizona home.
In March, Rex was boarding a flight in Baltimore heading for Los Angeles on March 12. At the time, he was reflecting on how his sister had taken care of the details surrounding her diagnosis, including the details of her own funeral.
But there was one detail she had no control over.
“…I realized that there was one loose end that you couldn’t have anticipated: ending your flying career on your own terms, which I’m sure you would have wanted to do. This was abruptly yanked away from you by the Big C,” wrote Rex.
He decided he would make his own flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles special.
“I decided to try my best to make my BWI-to-LAX flight YOUR last, and to have you go out in style,” wrote Rex.
He asked a flight attendant, who was also waiting to board, if she had any of “those little plastic Southwest Airlines wings.”
Turns out, the flight attended, named Jamie, knew LouAnn personally. She knew LouAnn was sick, but didn’t realize just how sick.
“Once I filled Jamie in on your condition, she started to cry,” wrote Rex.
Jamie made sure Rex got a seat near the front of the plane, and while on board, the pilot allowed him to make a special announcement.
Rex stood in the aisle, and fought back tears as he explained to dozens of passengers that his cancer-stricken sister, who loved to fly, never got to take a ‘final flight.’
“I want to make this her final flight,” said Rex..
He passed out a stack of napkins, and asked the passengers to write a message to his dying sister. But the passengers did so much more.
A photo album posted to Facebook shows all 94 messages from passengers.
Some drew pictures, some wrote messages, others spent hours crafting the perfect portrait.
The wife of a pastor wrote down her phone number, in case LouAnn ever needed someone to talk to.
Another woman made her a rainbow-colored head warmer.
At the end of the flight, Rex thanked all the passengers at the gate, hugging strangers and the flight crew.
He posted all the photos he took on the flight into a photo album titled “Leaving LUV for LouAnn.” Southwest Airlines’ stock ticker symbol is LUV.
“I hope the readers will appreciate the life you have lived, the service you have shown and the love you have earned,” wrote Rex.