Families keep children’s memories alive
“To this day, one year later, I still get cards and letters,” said April Davis, who is Chase Underhill’s mother.
It was Dec. 29, 2012, when Kacie Chamberlin and Chase Underhill were killed in a vehicle crash in Northern Orange County. The families continue to grieve and heal.
Remarkably, from the early hours and the subsequent days and weeks after the loss of their children, hope and connection and love for each other, grew and sustained these families.
“Our family continues to be devastated by this tragedy and yet we are continuing to do everything possible to keep her memory alive,” said Kacie’s mother, Angie Hurdle.
The family’s have sustained the memory of these two teenagers, and it has been an effort of love and purpose. They have done fundraising, established a scholarship and a foundation, and held acts of celebration that have given the families unexpected strength and purpose. “We established a scholarship and it has grown and we look forward to using the love and kindness of the community to directly benefiting students in the way that Kacie would have been proud,” Hurdle said.
Chase and Kacie were the best of friends and their bond was obvious in how they related to each other, their families said. “He loved her so much,” Davis said.
For Davis, the continuance of Chase’s memory has inspired the establishment of Choices-for-Chase foundation, which will begin in early 2014.
“The idea will be that we take a message to area youth that the choices they make, from texting, to driving fast, to bullying, does have an impact,” Davis said. “We just want to carry the message forward that life is too precious and unpredictable and we need our youth to think about their actions before choosing an action that is not wise.”
Since the deaths of Kacie and Chase, both families have continued to draw strength from the efforts of the community and an outpouring of support. “People still cry. It hurts that much,” Davis said.
For Hurdle, dealing with Kacie’s death has been a shared experience that continues to display just how important Kacie was in the life of others. “We’ve done everything from softball tournaments to gymnastic meets to even holding a celebratory day in Caldwell, where we just shared in memory and good support. I cannot begin to express just how much total strangers and neighbors-forever have been so instrumental in helping us through this process while at the same time, us helping them mourn, too,” Hurdle said.
Certainly, no parent is prepared for the reality of death for a child. And while both families experienced and continue to experience the process of mourning, differently, there is an agreement that there are good days and days they just cannot help but cry.
Kevin Underhill, Chase’s father, expressed that: “You just never know when you are going to be ambushed by a memory, those are the moments you cannot ever be prepared for.”
Underhill is an EMS director in Durham and he attributes the close bond between public safety members and those in the medical field as a network of support that continues to nurture and lift, during this past year. “I never knew just how many people in the emergency services and hospital system, have experienced similar loss and trauma, until Chase was killed,” Underhill said.
In the weeks following Chase’s death, Underhill questioned his ability to return to work and respond to similar scenes that had taken the life of his own son.
“When I began to hear from people, in my own line of work, that had also lost someone to a trauma, it helped me to see their strength and to know that I needed to return to work and continue my career, too,” Underhill said.
Each family describes leaning on their faith and leaning on each other during and after the incident as a way to cope and make sense of what occurred. Most enduring for them all is the continued presence and peace of mind that while Kacie and Chase are gone, their spirit lives on through the good-intent and wellness of others.
“They planted trees at Orange High School and in the border around the trees, there are personal signatures and ways those kids expressed their love for Kacie and Chase,” Davis said. “It’s just the little things that keep reminding us that these two lives touched the lives of so many.”
According to Hurdle, the fundraising held for Kacie’s memorial scholarship has already affected area youth in such a way that her death is supporting the life of others. “We are where we are because the community embraced our tragedy, and our way of giving back is to do so in memory of her,” Hurdle said.
Kevin Underhill speaks about the loss and subsequent community support as being part of the grieving process and one that will likely never go away. “When you grieve there is no timetable and no manner of how you should grieve. In grief, you address it every day and you know some days are better than others.”
As the families continue to work through their grief, they hope their children’s legacy will have an impact and that the memory of Kacie and Chase will prosper through scholarship and a foundation that serves to remind our youth that there are consequences for reckless choices. “From this, if we can save one life through our foundation, then our work and the work of Chase and Kacie, will forever be served,” Davis said.
Kacie Chamberlain Memorial Scholarship Fund 7616 NC Highway 157, Rougemont, NC 27572.