Monday, April 15, 2019

Celebrating Chelsea's Life with Gifts from the Heart

At age 24, Chelsea had a bright future ahead. She’d graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in fisheries and wildlife and was working in Atlanta for Kimberly Clark Corporation, working to advance environmentally sound business practices. She spoke fluent Chinese, loved boxing, working out and spending time with her family and friends.

But illness interrupted Chelsea’s life when she was diagnosed with collecting duct renal papillary carcinoma, an aggressive form of kidney cancer. Her close-knit circle of friends formed a group called “Chelsea’s Army,” and together, they completed a half marathon, raising money to support other people who were fighting cancer. Even in the middle of her own struggles, Chelsea was passionate about giving back and helping those in need.

As her cancer progressed, Chelsea enrolled in Hope Palliative Care to help manage her pain and symptoms. When the focus of her care shifted to comfort, she entered hospice care and was admitted to the Hope Care Center at HealthPark, where she passed away. She was only 26 years old.

Chelsea’s mother, Patti, was by her side throughout the ordeal. To this day, she remembers the nurses, doctors, social workers, and others who helped the entire family through the end of life journey, including Chelsea’s young sisters Taylor and Delaney.

After witnessing the loving, supportive care that Hope Hospice provided, Patti was inspired to pursue her Master’s degree in social work, so that she could someday join the team herself, to give back to the organization that provided comfort and compassion during the most difficult weeks of her life.

In December 2018, Patti got engaged to Iain, her partner of eight years, who had been a second dad to Chelsea. As they planned their wedding, they knew that Chelsea would be at the heart of their celebration. Every detail was infused with her spirit. The wedding date was set for March 2, 2019, which would have been her 31st birthday. Patti visited her dedication stone in Hope’s Tribute Garden, and Chelsea’s best friend Hillary recited her favorite poem during the ceremony.

Patti and Iain also asked their guests to make a donation to Hope in Chelsea’s memory, in lieu of wedding gifts. Hope’s development department designed a custom webpage, which included Chelsea’s photo and a special donation form. Patti was alerted as soon as anyone made a gift, and she and Iain sent personal messages of gratitude.

Chelsea’s life was filled with love, friendship, laughter, and a spirit of generosity that knew no bounds. By celebrating her life, Patti and Iain’s friends, family, and loved ones were able to give back in a way that Chelsea herself would have loved. The circle of giving was made complete, and the life of a beautiful young woman would never be forgotten by the hundreds of people who loved her most.

Chelsea’s family and loved ones gave back to Hope after a loss that was more difficult than most of us could imagine. By sharing this intimate portrait of their love and loss, they hope to inspire others to give back in a similar way. Whether the milestone celebration is a birthday, anniversary, family reunion, or cherished holiday, it can also be a time to honor the memories of those who are closest to our hearts. A gift to Hope offers unparalleled comfort and support - when it’s needed most. To set up a custom donation page for your own event or occasion, contact Hope Hospice at 239-985-7730 or email@HopeHCS.org.

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