Granting Last Wishes

Yes, There Are Fairy Godmothers

By Rena Dictor LeBlanc

Granting Last Wishes

When my husband Jerry LeBlanc was dying of lung cancer I didn't realize I was granting one of his most treasured last wishes by doing everything in my power to enable us to continue enjoying our wonderful opera evenings. For many years we would go each weekend to a restaurant called Vitellos in Studio City, California, where our friends sang opera, Broadway, and international songs.

During the last stages of Jerry's illness I would clutch his arm, supporting him as he painstakingly climbed down the forty-two stairs from our front door to our car. I would drive to Vitellos because he no longer could. He had to bring a portable oxygen tank to help him breathe.

Despite all this, we cuddled in the back booth as we always had, treasuring the music and the companionship of the people we had grown so fond of. The last time we were there, in November of 2000, we had no idea he had only weeks to live. Unfortunately, Vitellos no longer has the wonderful entertainment it used to have in the downstairs Green Room where our friends performed. Now the restaurant has live jazz in its upstairs performance room.

Many of us have the power to grant wishes for beloved family members and friends, and we do in a variety of ways. But, it may surprise you to know, as it did me, that strangers grant last wishes as well. Two organizations have taken on the real-life role of "fairy godmothers" to grant last wishes to adults.

The Dream Foundation is the first national wish-granting organization for adults over the age of 18. Now in it's thirteenth year, the organization has granted thousands of dreams to adults who are emotionally, financially, and physically devastated by terminal illness. The mission of the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles based foundation is to enhance the quality of life for people, and their families who are battling life-limiting illness.

The appropriately named Fairygodmother Foundation grants wishes to adults 18 and older with a year or less to live. In the past nine years The Chicago-based charity has granted almost 1000 wishes in all 50 states.

Renew Their Wedding Vows

After 52-year-old Kenneth was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer he regretted never taking Sherri, his wife of eight years, on a honeymoon. The Dream Foundation arranged for the couple to go on a three-day vacation. Kenneth was able to surprise his wife with a romantic beach wedding at sunset to renew their vows.

"He was able to really enjoy himself," Sherri said. "He did tell me while he was there on the island that he was finally at peace with the world."

When Sonny Marrs was diagnosed with cancer he contacted the Fairygodmother Foundation with a last wish to see his daughter who he had not seen in 35 years. They had been separated when she was young, and Sonny had been trying to find her ever since. He finally located her during his illness. He wrote to the Foundation, "If you can find a way to help my daughter and I be together just once before I pass, I shall be eternally thankful."

Best Days Of His Life

The Foundation flew Sonny's daughter from Oregon to Louisiana to meet her father. The reunion was filled with tears of happiness. Sonny said the precious days he spent with his daughter were some of the best in his life.

I've learned that sometimes you may be granting a last wish, and not even know that's what you're doing. Recently I came up with a plan to help my friend Joe once again enjoy a night at Vitellos, as he'd done for so many years.

Joe, a handsome former marine, was one of the wonderful singers there. When Joe fell victim to Alzheimer's disease he was placed in a nursing home. He had no way of returning to his beloved music hangout. Jean, the woman he lived with and loved, was too elderly and frail to care for him.

When Jean had to move from Los Angeles to New York to live with a relative, I knew the parting would break his heart. I wished there was a way to give Joe and Jean at least one last memorable night together. I decided to try to arrange a last dinner Vitellos for the couple and Joe's friends just days before Jean was leaving. I phoned Joe's doctor to get permission from him to take my friend on the outing. The restaurant manage agreed to provide free dinners for Joe and Jean.

My Beloved Friend

I asked our dear friend Mario, a glorious opera singer, to drive Joe to Vitellos. I thought there should be a strong man with him in case a problem arose. The night before the gathering I woke up filled with anxiety. What if something goes wrong? Maybe I was making a big mistake.

About a dozen of Joe's friends welcomed him to the banquet table with hugs and kisses. It lifted my heart to see Joe and Jean enjoying the festive evening together.

Shocking news came just weeks later. Joe died of a heart attack.

Had I granted a last wish for my beloved friend? Perhaps I did. I hope so.

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