Transforming Tragedy into Triumph: Lorna Harbison’s Journey from Church Pews to Compassionate Caregiver

Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Image by Ryan McGill

Lorna Harbison’s childhood was shaped by accompanying her minister father to various churches he served. When her family relocated to Missouri, she enrolled in Bible Missionary Institute, where she studied music and participated in camp meetings as part of a girl’s singing trio. Returning home, Lorna attended a church function where she met her future husband, Scott.

Following their marriage and relocation to Jasper, Lorna joined First National Bank, now known as Synovus. However, her career took a different turn after the birth of their first child, when she decided to become a stay-at-home mom and work from home. While being a working mom presented its own challenges, stronger obstacles began to arise in Lorna’s life when Scott began experiencing heart issues.

“He had his first stint at 35 and a triple bypass at 37. The same year that happened, the company I worked for went out of business,” Lorna says. “So, I had my husband, who I was worried about, and I started trying to think of what I would do if something happened to him, and I had three kids to raise.”

Encouraging her to pursue a lifelong aspiration, Scott motivated Lorna to become a nurse. On her 39th birthday, he arranged a placement test for her at Bevill State Community College. In 2010, she completed her nursing degree and became a Registered Nurse. Lorna worked in the medical-surgical unit at Princeton for three years but tragically lost her son to myocarditis—a virus that weakens the heart—during that time.

“We just found him gone and didn’t know what caused it. So, we had an autopsy done. It was hard; it vastly affected us,” she recalls.

This heartbreaking event prompted Lorna to leave her demanding night-shift position to prioritize her family. She fervently prayed for an opportunity to work in Jasper and, just five days later, received a call from Southeast Hospice.

“The Administrator said if I wanted the job, I could have it. And at the time, I was just like, ‘hospice? I don’t know if I can do hospice.’ But I prayed for a job, and this is what God opened up. So, I did it.”

In retrospect, Lorna considers her role at Southeast Hospice to be the best thing that could have happened to her. Witnessing others going through loss provided her solace, knowing she wasn’t alone. For seven years, she served as a case manager, making in-house visits, before being promoted to Clinical Manager in December 2019. Subsequently, she took on the role of Administrator.

While continuing her responsibilities as Administrator, Lorna will soon transition into an expanded clinical leadership role serving all Southeast Hospice locations.

“It’s been great. I love my job, and it’s not just a job; we’re like family,” says Lorna. “And I think the good part about this is I just know that I’m helping people.” WL

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