Michelle Huston (MH) and Lauren Magaña (LM)
MH: My grandmother was dying and I went to see her and she was barely speaking but said to me, “be happy”. So I took that and literally changed my life 180 degrees. I went back home, told your dad that I needed a divorce. And I had dropped out of high school at the age of 17, and I went to college. At 40 years old I started an undergraduate program and now I work with the dying. So that’s how it started.
LM: I always tell people when they ask me, “why did you become a social worker?” I tell them, “well my mom was kicking butt all the way through school”, and you humanized people and you taught me how not to be afraid of people, because people have value. It is a privilege to be a part of — even a small part of their life. And then a privilege to help them move on to wherever is beyond death. And you really inspired me to do that.
Narrator: In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Michelle and Lauren spoke to each other once again through StoryCorps connect to reflect on their work today.
MH: It has been tragic in ways that unless you are in this business would be hard to understand. I’ve lost several people over these last couple months that I wasn’t able to say goodbye to, and so that has been really hard.
LM: Yeah, I called you the other day like crying because you’re one of the few people that I know that truly understand, like, how hard our job is. I went to help this man who’s well in his 90s. I’m in a gown and I have two masks on and I am trying to talk to him and he can’t hear. He’s hard of hearing. And he started just openly weeping, sobbing. And then he shakily stands up and he grabs me and hugs me and says into my ear, “I can’t hug my granddaughter, so I’m gonna hug you.” And I, like, started to lose it. And we weren’t supposed to touch, but it was so worth it.
MH: Well, this has definitely been a challenging few months. But I just want you to know that I am extremely proud of you. And it is such a privilege to be in this work with you.
LM: I think that I am really, really blessed to be able to know what I want to do and do it and love it and do it with my mom.