Jerry Larson Posted: October 6, 2015

Jerry's Joy: Widow Remembers Husband's Life and Final Dream

When Jerry Larson realized he wouldn't still be alive by Thanksgiving, he had an idea. There would be one more special party with his family to celebrate the holiday-it would just be a little early. "He decided that we would have a special, early celebration," his widow, Joy said. "He told us what he wanted and he made a detailed menu. Even the day before our feast, he was still working on making notes of all the things that we had to have. We went so far as to create a chart, checking off all the elements to remember. Finally as we sat at the table, he looked up and down and said, "Something's missing." "What's missing?" we asked him. "We have the wine, the turkey and the homemade cranberry sauce and the Jell-O." He paused for a moment or two and finally said "My teeth!" "We all burst into laughter, and of course he did too."

Jerry Larson was a family man, dreamer, creator and beloved husband to his wife of more than 50 years. "Mr. Larson was such a special person," says Veronica Wertz of NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement. "We were lucky to have gotten the chance to know him and his family and because of that, we found out what he most wanted before he passed away. It was a visit from his son, Mike, who lives in Michigan but was not able to afford a ticket for a flight to see his father. We were happy that we could help him through our Dream of a Lifetime program."

Wertz points out that the program is funded by members of the community who support Dream of a Lifetime's promise to help make last dreams come true for those who are unable to afford it themselves. The program is just one of a handful in the country that honors dreams of terminally ill adults.

Mike Larson, who has cerebral palsy, was able to make that trip and spend time with his father and even help provide care as Jerry's condition worsened. "Jerry really enjoyed having Mike around," says Joy. "Thanks to Dream of a Lifetime, Mike's presence provided a breath of fresh air during his final weeks. "And, added to the loving and helpful care he received from our wonderful hospice nurses, we really have to remember that even though we lost him, all was done to give him comfort and dignity with his family always close by."

Jerry Larson died from complications of COPD on November 10. "I remember it so well," says Joy. "It was a day like so many others. I was in the kitchen cooking. Jerry was receiving treatments every couple of hours. I went to go give him his treatment and I knew. He was gone."

Even though she is in a deep stage of grief, Joy doesn't forget the humorous side of the man she was married to for more than half a century. She keeps a number of his beautiful wood carvings of horses, small musician figures and the whimsical creatures he loved to give to people. His favorite gifts to loved ones and friends were tiny mice.

Of course, she has her very own carved mouse. "I never named it," she said thoughtfully when asked what she called the irresistibly cute critter. "Now that you've mentioned it, I think I'll call it Jerry."

For more information about NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement's Dream of a Lifetime, or to donate money, time or services, click here.

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