CHARLOTTE, N.C. — "He was the greatest gift and also my greatest challenge."
It was three years ago that Jacqueline's son, Ryan, passed away from heart failure at the age of 37. Mentally, it was like he was 7-years-old, and he wasn't able to live on his own.
"As his mom, you think that he should always live with you. I tried doing that for a number of years," said Jacqueline.
As Ryan got older, Jacqueline found Alternate Family Living (AFL). But it wasn't until Ryan met Marsha and Bruce that he finally felt right at home.
"When I first met Ryan, it was an immediate attachment," said Marsha.
At the doctor's office that day, Marsha was just taking some bloodwork from Ryan. She had no idea he was in search of that perfect caregiver.
Ryan and his mom had no idea for the past five years, Marsha and Bruce had been thinking about being caregivers. She was a little nervous to make that first move.
That is until Ryan spoke up.
"Then he said to his mom, "Mom, can she be my caregiver?" Marsha said.
And with that, strangers became family. Ryan moved in with Marsha and her husband, Bruce, with Bruce being his primary caregiver.
"He became a part of our family, and to be honest, I didn't know how much I loved Ryan until he passed," said Bruce.
They went to movies, and they went fishing. Bruce was responsible for his day-to-day care.
"It was like a friend to him, too, a son that he never had. So I could tell this was a calling for us," said Marsha.
A calling that Jacqueline said she's forever grateful for.
"There is this big world out there of people that truly do care and what to make an impact and want to make a difference and if you find those people don't let go of them," said Jacqueline.
Because of Ryan, Marsha and Bruce have now taken in two more boys to care for.
"So I feel like even though he's gone he still has made an impact," said Jacqueline.