A Dutch zoo employee in his final stages of terminal cancer shared a touching goodbye with a giraffe when the animal “kissed” his face during their last moments together, making the hearts of many melt. It is a story that has pulled on the heartstrings of hundreds of people around the world.
The heart-breaking viral image of the encounter shows the 54-year-old man, known only as Mario, lying in a hospital bed that has been placed next to the giraffe habitat at Rotterdam Zoo on Wednesday, March 19, as per Mario’s dying request.
Mario, who is mentally disabled, has spent the greater part of his adult life working as an employee at the Rotterdam Zoo. Some of his responsibilities included assisting with the feeding of the animals as well as cleaning and maintaining the animal enclosures.
The charity organization, Ambulance Wish Foundation, was determined to grant Mario’s dying wish by helping him bid farewell to the zoo’s furry residents he had grown so fond of over his 25-years of service there.
Though Mario’s brain tumor has paralyzed him and made it difficult to speak, “his face spoke volumes” during his final visit to the zoo. “You could see him totally light up,” said Kees Veldboer, the Ambulance Wish Foundation’s founder and director.
Veldboer said bystanders got “goosebumps” when the giraffe licked Mario’s face.
“Its very special to see that those animals recognize him, and sense that he isn’t doing well,” said Veldboer.
Mario also made it a point to say a special goodbye to his fellow colleagues at the zoo as well. After all, he had made many friends over the course of 25 years – a vast majority of his adult life that had become like a second home to him.
“It was very nice that we were able to work on the last wish of this man,” Veldboer said.
Giraffe “kisses” Dying Man Goodbye As Hearts MeltAll Over the World