Smiles, giggles and happy chatter filled the lunchroom at the Antioch Senior Center last week when Betty Lozano, 88, had her wish granted from the Elderly Wish Foundation. Suffering from Stage 4 bone cancer, Lozano wanted to do one last thing before she passes, and that is to see her younger sister, Pauline Mann, again.
Because both sisters are in poor health, the Elderly Wish Foundation needed to be a little creative in bringing together the sisters, who live on opposite coasts. The answer to the wish was to take advantage of the new technology and host a face-to-face meeting through computers using Skype.
This could have been a little difficult because neither sister owned nor even used a computer, but with the help of the local senior centers in Antioch and Sunrise, Fla., where Mann lives, the sisters got their first peek at each other in 12 years.
The last time Lozano and Mann had seen each other was the year after Lozano had married her third husband, Leo, and the couple traveled to Florida. Since then, the sisters have had to make do with telephone calls to share their news.
"This is so exciting," Lozano said upon seeing and hearing her sister on the laptop computer in front of her.
At first, the computers experienced a few technical difficulties, but moving to another room gave each sister a bird's-eye view.
"Oh, she's got white hair just like me," Lozano said upon first seeing her sister. "Ah, she's beautiful."
The sisters shared news of their day-to-day lives, with Mann's husband, Izzy, watching in the background. Lozano's husband died three years ago.
"Life's good," Lozano said repeatedly, while her sister said she couldn't believe how much the two looked alike now.
Using Skype, the sisters were able to see a full-face screen of one another and then a little box in the corner of themselves or the view the other was seeing. Looking at those two screens, Mann repeated a few times that as children the two women didn't look that much alike but now they looked much more like sisters.
Lozano was diagnosed with bone cancer last December after being treated for pneumonia. Her caretaker, Sandi Reed, was encouraged to contact the Elderly Wish Foundation to help fulfill Lozano's wish.
"She is such a sweet lady, and I know she is just going to be so excited to see her sister's face," Reed said before the meeting.
Mary Chapman of the Elderly Wish Foundation contacted the Antioch Senior Center, which Lozano visits regularly and where she is an avid participant in its twice-weekly bingo games, to see whether it would be able to set up a computer and the Skype program. Chapman then called a senior center in Sunrise, Fla., and asked whether it was willing to do the same.
Lozano was born and raised in New York and moved to California with her second husband. She has three sons, none of whom married. Her eldest son, Stuart Kline, is from her first marriage and lives in Boston. Her two younger sons, Larry and Jeff Herman, are from her second marriage and live in Redondo Beach. Her third marriage to Leo lasted nine years before he died.
Lozano was a homemaker after she married. Now she spends her time at the Antioch Senior Center, going to bingo games, playing lottery scratchers and the lotto and doing crossword puzzles.
"A miracle happened in Antioch," Lozano said after finishing her Skype connection with her sister.