In Their Final Days… Making Dreams Come True

NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime continues to enchant and comfort our patients and their loved ones. Now in its fourth year, our program has granted the last wishes of 25 people.

From organizing simple family gatherings to helping a reunion of mother and son thousands of miles apart, to simple touches of luxury, our “Dream Makers” have offered magic and closure to the dying and helped create heirloom memories for those who survive them.

Here are some recent “dream-come-true” experiences from the program:

Martha’s Mariachis

Martha Villa (surrounded by her family, above) enjoyed the Mariachi music she loved all her life at a special Dream of
a Lifetime party in Suisun.

Life had never been easy for Vacaville resident Martha Villa. A single mother to five children, she had to make ends meet. Despite many hardships, it was always easy for her to be transported by music. Until she reached her 80s, it was easy to coax her onto the dance floor, particularly if Mariachi music was playing.

Dying at home while surrounded by children and hospice nurses, her family hoped to give her one last meeting with Mariachis.

Dream of a Lifetime organized a large family gathering at a restaurant in Suisun. While Martha, 83, arrived in a wheelchair and was put at the head of the table, a trio of traditionally dressed musicians sang the songs of love and longing she always treasured.

“The joy in her face said it all,” said Dream Coordinator Veronica Wertz. “We were so happy we could make the music happen for her.”

In the weeks before her death, Martha’s memory faded, reported her daughter, Marti. But when shown photos from the concert of Mariachi music, she would smile and nod her head.

Limousine Lady

Hair stylist Christina Rivera jumped at the chance to give Edith Shepherd a fancy fix for her Dream of a Lifetime. Edith’s son Tony (inset) wheeled her in to the studio, and then joined her at Red Hawk Casino in Placerville.

Nobody ever handed anything to Vacaville’s Edith Shepherd, 71. Growing up in the south with impoverished grandparents, having several young children to support on her own and experiencing little joy in her life, she wasn’t surprised when bad luck paid another visit to her in the form of terminal lung cancer.

But last fall she enjoyed a “Queen for a Day” experience because of Dream of a Lifetime. First came a day in the salon with Christina Rivera. “When Dream of a Lifetime asked if I could help, I didn’t even have to think about it,” the Nails and Noggins hairdresser said. “It made me feel great to do something.”

Edith’s son Tony wheeled his mother into the salon, and the transformation began. Then came the big visit to visit Red Hawk Casino in Placerville and Edith arrived in style. With the donation of a limo ride to get to her beloved slot machines, she was able to luxuriate with a sip of champagne (the first time she had ever tried it!) and sumptuous treats to snack on.“I’d never imagined anyone ever treating me this well,” she said. “I felt like a celebrity.”

From Shanghai with Love

Roselia Rafol treasured the opportunity to visit with her son Aron, and to meet her 3-year-old grandson, Franko, who traveled from Shanghai.

When Fairfield’s Roselia Rafol found out she was dying of cancer, she had one strong dream: to see her son and grandson. But she thought it would be impossible. The pair lived in Shanghai, and it would cost a fortune. Also, coordinating his trip could be a logistical nightmare.

The Dream of a Lifetime crew, knowing Roselia, 55, had just a few days left to live, made it happen. Working with Solano County donations, doctors who wrote special requests and even a member of Congress, Roselia’s son Aron arrived with Franko, the 3-year-old grandson she had never seen.

After the family’s reunion, Roselia slipped away. “She was so peaceful,” said Aron. “I know she was happy she got to see us.”

Edith Shepherd, Martha Villa, Roselia Rafol and their families were recent recipients of the NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program that grants wishes of the terminally ill. Begun in 2009, this is one of the few programs nationwide that fulfill the final dreams of adults.

To find out more about this special program and its rules and guidelines, call (707) 646-3575 or e-mail Veronica Wertz at

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