In Their Final Days… Making Dreams Come True

Carmen’s Day by the Ocean

Carmen Toledano knew a lot about dreams—especially one in particular. The 88-year-old widow followed her husband’s dream and traveled with him to the United States from Spain in the 1960s. Leaving friends and family behind, she uneasily settled in Vacaville where her husband had been born (his family had returned to Spain in the 1920s).

Through the years, Mrs. Toledano tried to get used to her new life, a new language and different customs. While she loved her husband and wanted to support his dream, she never adjusted to her new country. Instead, she longed to be back by the ocean in her beloved Southern Spain, watching the waterfront activity and seeing the boats come in.

“When my mother got very ill, we tried to think of something that would bring her peace and joy,” said her youngest daughter, Trini. “She told us she wanted to see the ocean once more before she passed away and joined our father. When we learned about NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program, we hoped we could find a way to make her dream of a day by the ocean come true.”

“We wanted to find a picture-perfect spot for Mrs. Toledano to enjoy her dream,” recalls Veronica Wertz, “Dream of a Lifetime” coordinator for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement. “We immediately thought of Tiburon with its amazing, scenic views and of Guaymas, a restaurant there that serves Mexican and Spanish-style food.”

Driven by limousine to Tiburon with her three daughters and grandchildren, Mrs. Toledano loved the enticing views. It was bright and clear—perfect for seeing the splendor of the dappled light on the waves. She was escorted to an outdoor table and enjoyed a heaping plate of shrimp, good, strong coffee and a bite of dessert—all the things she hoped to eat and drink at the restaurant. Beaming at her family and holding the hand of her only grandson, she told everyone that this was one of the finest days of her life.

After lunch, the family strolled along the waterfront and watched the sailboats and the ferries gliding by. Mrs. Toledano’s interest in people-watching was satisfied as couples, bike riders and energetic children shared the walkway she was traveling on via wheelchair.

When she returned to the modest Vacaville home where she had lived for more than 40 years, Mrs. Toledano went to her late husband’s picture, as was her ritual, to speak to him about her day and to give him a kiss. “She told him what a wonderful time she had and how much she enjoyed seeing the ocean again,” said Trini.

“We were so happy watching Mrs. Toledano savor her dream,” said Wertz. “The love she felt for her family and the enjoyment of the food and the scenery were reflected in her face. We are always so pleased when our plans to make someone’s dream come true results in great memories for all those who are a part of it.”

Son’s Return Fulfills Wishes

Just two days before his death, Dennis Newstead was planning a grand adventure. Newstead, 93, was scheduled to be a recipient of NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program. He was about to go to one of his favorite cities in the world: San Francisco. The former musician and printer wanted to feel the excitement and stimulation of the art and restaurant scene in North Beach.

“San Francisco is a wonderful, ‘come-and-look at-me’ city,” he said, his eyes sparkling with excitement during a conversation at the care home in Vaca-ville where he was staying. “It has everything one would desire: wonderful restaurants, theaters and interesting people. It’s a city that invites you to enjoy it and I enjoy it.”

His dream included a few hours at Vesuvio, long a classic watering hole for artists and musicians. He also wanted to dine at the restaurant called the Stinking Rose. “I hear they season the garlic with garlic there,” the London-born Newstead joked.

Newstead had also hoped his son, Dave, could enjoy the outing, but economically, it simply wasn’t possible. However, thanks to an extra donation at the last minute by “dream maker” Stanley Davis, a Foundation board member, Dave was flown in so he could join his father and Newstead’s beloved wife, Jane, as well as Dennis Newstead’s daughters, Annie and Stacey.

Unfortunately, it was a dream destined not to happen. “It’s strange because now, looking back, there was something distant in his eyes the night before we were to go,” said Stacey. “Then, that evening, he fell, and he died two days later.”

“Mr. Newstead had such an incredible life and this dream was an indication of his adventurous spirit,” said NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement volunteer coordinator, Veronica Wertz, who is in charge of the Dream of a Lifetime program.

Although the San Francisco portion of the dream was not realized, the family said it profoundly shifted shape in a way that was even more meaningful to them. “It was so worth it to have Dave here just before and after dad fell,” said Stacey.

Team Must be Agile to Deliver Wishes in Time

NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program has been granting wishes of terminally ill patients since 2008.

It would be nice to report that all dreams come true, but in truth it’s often a race against the clock, to deliver magic while a patient still has the strength and stamina to enjoy it, admits Hospice & Bereavement Volunteer Coordinator Veronica Wertz. Sometimes a lot of work goes into fulfilling a dream, only to have a patient pass away before it can be realized.

Sometimes, dreams have to evolve, in order to allow a patient to experience a piece of it, as was the case of Dennis Newstead, who was just too ill to travel to his beloved San Francisco (See story, far right). So plans have to be adjusted.

“You learn to be nimble because when bottom line, it’s about giving the family a happy memory of their loved one in their final days,” she says. “We’ve seen some patients hang on by sheer will power to see their dream fulfilled. It’s amazing how once it’s over, they somehow feel free to let go. In almost every case, they’ve died within three days after the dream was fulfilled”

Funded entirely by the good will of donors, it is coordinated by the Dream Team, led by Wertz and several NorthBay Healthcare Foundation board members. To donate funds or provide services, or learn about the guidelines and rules that govern the program, contact Wertz at 646-3575.

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