Blog Article

Wish of a Lifetime…Granted!

Sometimes you get a sense of a person after only a couple of stories. Like this one, when Lillian was a kid, she had a tree in her backyard and the next-door neighbor had one too; “So we both climbed up and tied ropes in our trees and swung back and forth across the fence.” Or the time she went camping when she was nine months pregnant. “The ranger wanted to put us in a cabin and I said, no-no, we’re sleeping in a tent out in the woods!” A good chuckle later, she said, “I was never afraid!”

So, it is not too surprising that one thing our American House Livonia resident has always wanted to do was fly in a helicopter. “My uncles were in the army, and I was fascinated by their talk of planes, helicopters and such.” The Detroit Police Department used to host Field Days downtown at Hart Plaza, and Lillian made a point to go for a close-up look at their choppers.

“I always said when I turned 70, I was either going skydiving or on a helicopter ride,” Lillian said. When the time came, her mother just couldn’t let her darling daughter do it. Now at 76, Lillian decided it was time. Through an AARP program called Wish of a Lifetime, she and her Life Enrichment Director, Tee, put in the request. It happened fast. Lillian’s story was submitted in April and the flight took place on July 25 (Christmas in July, coincidentally!).

At 11 a.m., from the site of an old naval station on Grosse Isle, Michigan, the helicopter carrying Lillian took off. Grasping the ring that belonged to her mother, she said, “Mom, I know you didn’t want me on a helicopter, but I’m on one and I’m taking off!” The flight allowed the Detroit native to revisit her hometown from a whole new perspective. Her seat in the Robinson R44 Raven II provided sweeping views of the majestic Grosse Pointe homes along the shoreline, the city of Detroit, sunken boats off a small island, and the Gordie Howe International and Ambassador bridges.

In 2019, after recovering from a stroke and open-heart surgery, Lillian followed up on a great recommendation and moved to American House Livonia. It wasn’t long before Lillian, vibrant and healthy, became a Resident Ambassador. She welcomes new residents, helps out with activities, group outings and hosts bingo. “I keep busy, and I love it here,” said Lillian. She stays active and enjoys her walks. “As long as my doctor keeps giving me the okay, I’m not going to stop.” These days, she’s helping Tee plan a Princess Cruise on the Detroit River. In fact, she’s so busy helping in the community, she tells family and friends, “If you want to see me, come on Saturday.”

As a single mom, Lillian shared her love of adventure with her children. They’d often pile onto the city bus for a day at the Detroit Historical Museum or the DIA or pitch a tent for a weekend of camping. Her career has led her in many directions: a secretary, nurse’s aide, running restaurants and helping out in Detroit public schools. “I’m the type who likes to try different things.”

With her wish for a helicopter ride granted, Lillian is quick to answer the question, what’s next? A hot air balloon ride! “Give me a challenge and I’m going to try it!”

Lillian comes by her youthful exuberance honestly. Her mother lived a vibrant life until the age of 96, maintaining her home, driving and cooking. “If my mom can get on a motorcycle at 90 with her nephew, I can do this!”

We all have a story. A story that taught us something, changed us and helped define who we are. Our seniors have amazing stories that hold a wealth of wisdom. At American House, your next chapter is waiting to be written. We’re here to help you write it. Your way.

Written By

Lori Bender

Bringing over 20 years of writing experience to American House, Lori has worked in every aspect of advertising and produced award-winning websites. She earned a Journalism degree from Central Michigan University.

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