Laurie Lee Lewis is a self-described “whirlwind” of a woman. Besides being a farmer, songwriter, musician, author and philanthropist, she has also been the primary caregiver for both of her parents the past four years. This year, Laurie is celebrating her birthday and honoring her father with a celebration on her farm for The Longest Day on June 21.
Her parents, Jack and Darlene Little, met in high school in Deming, Washington and were married for 63 years. Laurie’s dad was a hardworking laborer and farmer; her mom, an avid gardener and stay-at-home parent to Laurie and her two older brothers. Her parents were also musicians, each in their own bands.
“Mom and Loretta Lynn were friends and played in clubs in the same towns, back when Loretta was in the Northwest before her career,” said Laurie. “I grew up with country music, jam sessions, harmonizing with my mom. Starting at age five, I would stand on a wood crate to sing in a mic at their gigs!”
Laurie’s love of music was inspired by her parents, as was her decision to start a farm. She’s the owner of Heart to Heart Farm in the South Fork Valley of Whatcom County, where she grows food for people in need. Laurie said, “I have had a long journey to heal from 10 years with multiple concussions. Somehow, tilling, seeding, harvesting and delivering food to hungry people is medicine to me.”
Caregiving for her parents has been challenging for Laurie. Her dad had a stroke in 2014, followed by several concussions and a frontal lobe tumor. According to Laurie, her dad’s health conditions left him in rough shape. “Dad’s stroke took his music away for over a year, much like my concussions did to me. We were unable to play guitar or sing, but both of us got it back. His was minimal, but he still loved to play music with me,” Laurie said.
His dementia progressed until he passed away in August 2018. Laurie made the difficult decision to put her dad in a nursing home for the last few weeks of his life. He had become aggressive and she felt she could no longer take the best care of him. “I was so sick with this journey. I fought for him, but there was nothing I could do,” said Laurie.
Before Laurie’s father moved out of her care and into a nursing home, she built a mini chapel for him on her farm. “As dad was fading, I did something for him to help prepare his heart. I built a little chapel on my farm made of pallet boards, all covered with moss. He and I would go in together, holding hands, singing old gospel songs the best he could. I also built him a bridge that crosses over a little stream from their house to mine. We called it the cross over bridge to the chapel. He said it was getting him right with God, so he could go home!”
Laurie recently published her own book called When the Fog Lifts about her journey after suffering multiple concussions—something that connected her more deeply to her father. “My dad knew my fog and I knew his head, better than anyone,” said Laurie. “His sadness to be so lost in his dementia fog was brutal to watch, but he knew me. Our connection was so incredibly deep.”
Laurie is currently providing full-time care for her mother, who’s living with severe osteoarthritis. The event she’s planning for The Longest Day pays tribute to both her parents. It also happens to fall on June 21, which is her birthday.
To celebrate, she’s hosting a private gathering at her farm, featuring a potluck and evening jam session. Laurie said she’ll use the event to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia, while gathering donations for the Alzheimer’s Association. She’s also planning on placing donation cans across Whatcom County to raise additional funds for The Longest Day.
Laurie found out about The Longest Day by chance and was instantly drawn to it. “I had no idea about the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual, global event. I merely typed into Google: ‘Special things to do on the Summer Solstice.’ Up came purple, my favorite color! Then I read about the event and my heart skipped a beat. I knew without a doubt that what I wanted to do for my birthday was give and in that, I would receive,” she said.\
Laurie created a video to help promote her fundraiser for The Longest Day, watch it by clicking here!
The Longest Day is a “day of action” for the Alzheimer’s Association during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month®. On The Longest Day, thousands of participants from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice – biking, hiking, playing bridge, swimming, knitting and more. You can make a donation to Laurie’s The Longest Day fundraiser by clicking here.
To register for your own The Longest Day fundraiser or to learn more about it, visit alz.org/thelongestday The day with the most light is the day we fight.