Family Grateful for Mom’s Dream of a Lifetime

ABOVE: The family of hospice patient Patsy Harpe pose for a photo at her Dream of a Lifetime party, including her daughters, Layce Little and Kelli Harpe (left to right, in white dresses) and their daughters, along with Thrieza Zapanta, who is seated next to Kathleen Diaz, NorthBay Hospice Nurse.

Fulfilling a terminally ill patient’s “Dream of a Lifetime” is not just a gift for the patient. Ask the family of Patsy Harpe.

Patsy was a 70-year-old Fairfield resident with end-stage pancreatic cancer when she and her daughters, Layce Little and Kelli Harpe, connected with NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement last year.

The Dream of a Lifetime program through NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement is one of the few in the nation that make dreams come true for adult patients in hospice. Gifts have ranged from simple dinners to trips to a ballgame.

“We decide each Dream of a Lifetime wish based on a conversation we have with the hospice patient,” explained Thrieza Zapanta, social worker. “Often patients will say things like, ‘I wish I could do this’ or ‘I really would enjoy that,’ and those statements become the basis for the dream we put together for them.”

Making Final Dreams Come True

NorthBay’s Dream of a Lifetime program is one of few adult-wish programs in the country for patients in hospice. Established in 2008, the program’s goal is to offer hospice patients a measure of joy, contentment or a sense of completion near the end of their lives.

The program has provided dozens of dreams and given patients the opportunity to drive a race car, see a college football game, visit with far-flung family members and enjoy a makeover.

For more information or to donate to the Dream of a Lifetime program, call (707) 646-3595.

Patsy’s wish was for a celebration of her life, some kind of party that would bring her whole family together — even those who had strained relationships. It would be her way to say “thank you” and “good bye” to everyone she loved. She had only one nonnegotiable requirement: macaroni salad.

“It was the only thing she insisted on,” said Thrieza, with a laugh.

“My mom made delicious macaroni salad,” explained Layce. “I think having the macaroni salad on the menu made it the kind of meal she would have made for her family.”

Patsy directed her daughters to wear white to the event and picked out a new blue dress for herself.

The event was planned for Nov. 4 by Thrieza and the Hospice Dream Team at NorthBay. Unfortunately, Patsy passed the night before the gathering, surrounded by her family. Her daughters chose to continue with the event, noting that Patsy would have wanted it that way.

The support of NorthBay Hospice throughout her mother’s final weeks was invaluable, Layce said.

“I didn’t know what hospice was until a friend’s mom was passing. She didn’t have NorthBay and what their family experienced was nothing like the extent of care NorthBay provided for me and my family,” said Layce. “I gained a whole new understanding of hospice. No matter when I called, someone would be there within a half an hour. They provided support for the whole family. It touched my heart.”

For NorthBay Chaplain Jennifer Flam, helping families during difficult circumstances is what Hospice & Bereavement is all about.

“Hospice supports and honors their loved one’s legacy and that is a blessing,” she said.

Thrieza agreed. “We often learn at the end of life that what sustains us is relationships and the love we have for each other,” she said. “It can be hard to navigate the end-of-life process. We are there for them every step of the way.”

Layce said she remains amazed.

“The whole Hospice team was awesome,” she said. “It was like I found out one day that my mom was dying and the next I had a team that was there to help us through it.”

And Patsy’s Dream of a Lifetime celebration was perfect, she added.

“Thrieza was incredible. You would think it would have been chaos organizing this thing, but it came together like she was a professional party planner,” she said.

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