Dolphins can't spoil Byfield cancer patient's day at Gillette

Courtesy PhotoByfield's Joan McLynch, center, poses with her family in front of the limo set to take her to see the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in their regular season finale on Dec. 29. Pictured left to right, daughter Kristine Calderwood; granddaughter Sydney Calderwood; Joan McLynch; son-in-law Tod Calderwood and grandson Connor Calderwood.

BYFIELD — The final score was admittedly a disappointment. Needing only a win to clinch a first round playoff bye, the New England Patriots were beaten at home by the lowly Miami Dolphins on the last weekend of the season, allowing the go-ahead touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game.

But while most fans left Gillette Stadium with a bad taste in their mouths, for one lifelong Patriots fan, being at that Dec. 29 game was a dream come true.

Joan McLynch has supported the Patriots since the very beginning. A lifelong football fan, the Byfield resident gravitated to the club when it was first founded as the Boston Patriots in 1960. She stuck with the team throughout its lean early years and was eventually rewarded as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady elevated the franchise from afterthought to dynasty.

Yet throughout all of her years, she had never gotten to see the Patriots in person. So when the 76-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia last year, she didn’t have to think hard about what she’d like to do before her health took a turn for the worse.

“She’s talking to me and my husband telling me about things she’d like to do, things on her bucket list you’d say, and she said she’d love to go to a Patriots game,” said Kristine Calderwood, McLynch’s daughter. “So I was telling my husband and we talked about it, and we decided we’d go ahead and get her the tickets and surprise her with them.”

The tickets were just the beginning. McLynch’s hospice care providers at Care Dimensions got in on the action, setting the family up with a stretch limo to and from Foxborough as well as a nice family dinner at Davio’s at Patriot Place. The Patriots themselves stepped up as well, granting the family pre-game access to the field, where they’d get to watch both teams warm up.

McLynch was overjoyed.

“I didn’t sleep much the night before, I was so excited,” she said. “I was looking forward to going, my family went with me and it was just one excitement after another.”

Sporting her new Julian Edelman jersey, McLynch said the experience was everything she could have hoped for. The weather was nice, the crowd was good, and the actual result of the game aside, it was incredible getting to see Tom Brady, Edelman and the rest play in person after watching on TV for so long.

“Oh it was amazing, it really was,” she said. “Just being there was amazing. We had great seats, everybody was nice and kind and we had a great experience.”

Though it would have been better if the Patriots had won, McLynch kept the whole experience in perspective. Sure, they lost, but they’ve also won a whole bunch more over the last 20 years or so. She’ll never forget the celebration that came after the team won its first Super Bowl title in 2001, and things have only gotten better in the years since.

“It’s been really a great trip with them, year after year,” she said. “It doesn’t happen every year but you don’t want to be too spoiled.”

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