For members of the class of 2020, the senior year of high school is very different from classes before them due to COVID-19.
Instead of donning a cap and gown to graduate, schools and families are celebrating this achievement in many alternate ways. As you drive around town you see banners and lawn signs with graduates’ pictures and names, parading cars filled with school administrators and teachers driving by graduates’ houses, and many, many social media posts highlighting this special graduating class..
LIFEPlan member Alex Peters was one of the many seniors preparing to graduate this year. For the past 15 months LIFEPlan Care Manager, Laurie Tiller, worked with Alex as his care manager. Laurie, who has known Alex his whole life, struggled with supporting Alex and his family during this difficult time of pandemic. Social distancing practices meant she had to stay in contact with the family using technology. It was something, but she still felt she wasn’t doing enough.
Then, the unthinkable happened. In mid-April, Alex’s health suddenly turned for the worse. In an unthinkable blink of an eye, Alex passed away one night. There would be no graduation for Alex. But when graduation time rolled around, Laurie Tiller wanted to make sure he was remembered as a classmate and student, and that Alex’s memory was honored.
When Laurie realized that Alex did not have a senior sign in his yard like many of the seniors, she contacted a local sign shop to have one made. Wanting to stay anonymous and regarding social distancing policies, Laurie got up early one morning, with Alex’s sign in tow, drove to his house, jumped out and stuck the sign in the ground before making a quick get away.
“When we noticed the sign, it brought tears to our eyes, ” said Amy Peters, Alex’s mom. The family was ecstatic and Amy quickly shared it on her Facebook page. She also shared her excitement with Laurie, not knowing that Laurie orchestrated the whole thing.
But Laurie was already on to other plans to recognize Alex. She contacted the high school to ask that a diploma be issued for Alex and presented to his family. Laurie felt strongly about a diploma, saying, “Alex worked hard to earn his diploma and his family deserved that piece of Alex’s incredible journey!”
“We are so appreciative of Laurie for all she has done and continues to do for Alex and us,” said Amy. “Laurie’s thoughtful gestures mean the world to us.”
Laurie’s journey to honor Alex doesn’t end there, as she wanted to do something more to help the Peters heal and to celebrate Alex’s life. So, she started combing through Amy’s Facebook page, spending hours looking for the right pictures of Alex to make a memory quilt for the family. Alex’s memory quilt has 13 pictures that keep him close to his family. “It is a beautiful gift, and it fills our hearts” Amy said.
Meghan Rexford, Laurie’s supervisor said, “Laurie found a way to connect with this family at a time when connecting is a challenge. She is very dedicated and creatively goes above and beyond to support her members and families.”
Laurie’s story is a great example of how Care Managers support the whole member and their families. Great work Laurie! LIFEPlan is proud to have you as a member of our team!
PS Thanks to Laurie for agreeing to share this story, as she was initially reluctant to share this story highlighting her acts of kindness.