Everyone has a story and everyone’s story matters. Every person has a purpose, a calling. We all want to make a difference while we are here. Each of us has that one person that’s always in their corner. Most people have a mission that is close to their heart, one that drives them. Many of us have someone in our lives who has expectations that can never be met. Every single person loses someone close to them at some point. Not everyone has these things collide to create their future but I am fortunate to be one of the few. My grandmother always had a plan.
She was my best friend and she was a huge pain. For over three years, I was one of her primary caregivers. She often forgot that I was also a wife, a mom, a student and an overall work in progress. My grandmother believed in tough love doused in high criticism. Yet, when I wasn’t around, she would battle anyone that said that I was anything less than wonderful. She was terrifying and she was magical. She needed, always and a lot. I was mostly happy to meet her needs; to plan her care, to push her around the stores in her wheelchair with her oxygen tanks and play the role of her personal pharmacist. Outside of my husband and children, my grandmother became my purpose.
In February of 2017, she sent me on her bucket list trip to Italy and back to her home, Ireland. She wanted me to see everywhere she had ever been and everywhere she had ever wanted to go. I was nervous about living up to her expectations but ready to take on the challenge. Four days into the trip, I was on a tour of the Vatican and she passed away. In that moment, I had a choice: sink or swim.
I grieved, of course, but I knew what she would want. I know that she was waiting for me to carry the torch and light it brighter. In my mind, I was her legacy and she wanted nothing less than perfection. Ready to fight for myself in her memory, I began my pursuit of greatness and I chased positivity. I sought out people and places to help me on my journey. It took time, however, I look at myself now and can honestly say that I am the me that I was always meant to be.
Then, with her intervention, I found my way to make a bigger impact. I wasn’t looking for work because I was consumed with my job as a mother to my three wonderful children. At the time, I didn't feel ready to add to that. I was afraid that if I took on anything else, I wouldn’t be able to continue to grow. As usual, she made sure to show me that I was wrong. Putting Seniors Helping Seniors® in my path was her way to push me further. She said go and I went, I am so glad that she did. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better career for myself if I tried.
Every day, I get to help families that are going through exactly what we did. These families need someone to make a meal, hold a hand or make a bed a certain way. Listening to and helping to ease their concerns feels significant. I am able to relate to what they are going through when a they say their loved one might need just a little more help. When that elderly family member still wants to do things for themselves, when they are resistant to letting someone in, I can guide them through the delicate balance of wanting to allow independence but keeping their loved one safe.
It is my privilege to meet with seniors who need a purpose, that need a way to stay involved. I get to listen to their stories and help them see the benefit of sharing those things that they have learned with another. Matching a senior caregiver with infinite life experience with a client that needs someone to understand them brings me great joy. I am able to facilitate and build lasting relationships that benefit everyone involved. In a small way, I get to impact people's lives.
With my grandmother in my corner and in my heart, I can not only make a difference, I can live out her love every single day. My name is Lauren McLamb and I am the Director of Operations at Seniors Helping Seniors® Charlotte.
Johanna Murphy Lewis
April 28, 1936 - February 14, 2017