Hi. I’m Chelsea. I like hugs, donuts on Sundays after mass, laughing, and telling stories. I’m a social work major, born and raised in WACO Texas, and I’ll be graduating this May. Wait…what? Is this real life? I feel like I was just a freshman. It’s amazing how time passes so quickly and how much can happen in four short years. Because I am 22 years of age and you don’t want to read a narrative of every year of my life, I’ll just tell you a short story about the past few years.
Alright. Rewind a little bit to my senior year of high school. Picture this: pretty average life. Grew up in Waco in a Catholic family. Attended Catholic elementary school and high school. I had a tight-knit group of friends, tried to my best to achieve and make good grades, enjoyed following all the rules. I was pretty comfortable with the way things were and felt confident that I had my future figured out and everything fit neatly into place. Little did I know that my world was about to be turned upside down.
So I kind of have a bad memory, but there’s two days in my life that will always be vivid memories: the day I found out my dad had cancer and the day he died. I was at a district TAPPS academic meet in San Antonio when I found out. My dad had recently gone through major surgery on his back. Several weeks after his surgery, he was losing a lot of weight and wasn’t getting any better. We knew something else had to be wrong. He had a biopsy done and on that day I was nervously awaiting the results. I called my mom and immediately knew something was wrong. She said told me the doctors found a mass on his pancreas. He had pancreatic cancer. Fatal cancer. My world stopped for a moment as I tried to grasp what she just said. My dad had stage four pancreatic cancer. He was dying. Before this moment, death seemed so far away. I took for granted the thought that both of my parents would be around for a long time and they’d be there to share all of my major life events–like graduating, getting married, and having kids. I was reminded of something very important that day: life is so fragile and precious.
Seven short weeks later, on April 4, 2010, he was gone. My dad passed away peacefully in our home on Easter Sunday, surrounded by my mom, my sisters, and myself. The last words he spoke to me that morning were “Happy Easter, I love you.”
The first year after his death was a blur. I graduated high school and plunged into the college life. I was too distracted with my new life in college to recognize or deal with my grief. But it eventually hit me sophomore year. If I’m being honest, I was pretty upset with God for awhile. I couldn’t understand why I had to lose my dad and why he died so early in life. It was during this low point in my sophomore year that I witnessed the face of God through some pretty special people. Up until this point, my relationship with God felt distant. But I began to draw closer to Him as the agonizing pain of grief turned into comfort, hope, and love provided by an uplifting community. As you may or may not have guessed, that community is St. Peter’s. There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re not alone in your journey. I have been surrounded by others who have brought me closer to God by loving me, growing with me, and walking with me as I seek to know Christ more and share Him with others. Since my sophomore year, I have had the blessing of serving with others in different capacities at St. Peter’s. One of the most memorable times was being able to serve on leadership for the Bear Awakening 11 retreat. Working with such incredible Christ-like individuals awakened my faith (hah, get it? Awakening?) and inspired me to seek ways to grow in relationship with Christ. Attending daily mass and going to bible studies have also played a huge part in strengthening my faith.
I am forever grateful to the community who held me as I grieved, helped me find meaning in my loss, and led me to the cross and to Christ where I have found joy.