Dream of a Lifetime
Dream of a Lifetime is one of only a handful of programs in the United States that grant wishes for terminally ill adults. Those who wish to become “dream makers” can find out more by calling the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation
at (707) 646-3132.
NorthBay’s Special Program Arranges Multi-Family Flights
Ida Pennington could no longer speak, but the walls of her tidy Vacaville home did the talking for her. They told stories about a life well-lived and a family well-loved.
A handmade family tree in the living room depicted the fruit on the branches—children and spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A portion of her dining room held dozens of framed photographs. Many featured Ida’s youngest grandchildren: Rebecca, Jessica and Angela.
Thanks to NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program, the three young women were flown home to be with Ida one last time in June, just days before she died.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the help of Hospice,” said Rebecca, who flew in from Illinois. “I was looking at a thousand different options to make it here. The best was a four-day bus trip with an infant on my lap.”
Jessica from Texas agreed. “It never would have happened for me if NorthBay hadn’t helped.” The youngest of the girls, Angela (also from Texas), wiped away tears and nodded. She too, could not have made the trip without help.
Veronica Wertz, coordinator for the Dream of a Lifetime program, worked fast to make the reunion possible. “I asked Ida if she would like us to arrange a visit and she squeezed my hand. At that point, I knew we had to make it happen.”
Ida Pennington was born in Oklahoma in 1926 and is remembered as an energetic woman with many talents and an appetite for adventure. Married at 16 to her childhood sweetheart, Omer, Ida traveled the world as a military wife, living in Puerto Rico, Germany, Panama and Turkey. They had three children, Gene, Patricia and Don.
“She made the best of wherever we went,” explained Ida’s daughter, Patricia Pits. “I know every daughter thinks their mom is special, but she was really amazing.”
Together after not seeing each other for a few years, Ida’s granddaughters laughed and cried as they poured over her family albums. They pointed out pictures of their grandmother and of themselves as children and recalled fun road trips, panning for gold and eating at McDonald’s whenever they asked.
The memories are sweet. “She could cook,” emphasized Jessica, now a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She pointed to Ida’s metal filing cabinets, filled with hundreds of recipes. “She was also a soda jerk in World War II and later became a hair stylist.”
Diagnosed with multiple brain tumors in March, Ida spent a short time in a convalescent hospital. She was later brought back home where Patricia and NorthBay’s Hospice team could care for her.
“All my mother’s other grandchildren live in California,” Patricia explained. “We wanted to make sure everyone got the chance to say goodbye to her.”
“Some final wishes are complex and some are simple,” said Chris Root, director of NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement. “In this case, just having that one last goodbye from family members is what was needed. We are so pleased we were able to assist in providing that meaningful time for the Pennington family.”
NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement provides support to patients and families dealing with end-of-life and quality-of-life issues for the terminally ill. With a network that provides knowledge and resources for loved ones at home, Hospice has an array of services that combine physical, emotional and spiritual care.
Since Dream of a Lifetime began this spring, several families have benefited from its service.