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What Are the Odds?

It was 2004, and our oldest daughter, Jessica, had decided she would travel to England and
hitchhike across the countryside. As parents, we objected to the idea. She was barely 18.
We understood her intentions to go back to the country where she was born, but it just didn’t
sound safe. So, we suggested that we could make a family trip out of it. The four of us, mom,
dad, Jessica, and Chelsea.

Our daughters were born in England as my husband, William, was stationed there with the U.S
Air Force. Jessica was born at RAF Mildenhall in the base hospital, but Chelsea was born in
Ipswich in the municipal hospital. The remainder of their childhood was spent in Canada and
Germany before retiring in New Orleans. So, the thought of going back to the country where
they were born seemed pretty exciting.

William planned the trip. He arranged the flights, rental car, and places to visit. We wanted to
visit all the places we had seen while living in England when the girls were too young to
remember. And the first stop was Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Place is a great country house
located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. We
had taken hundreds of pictures throughout the trip, but one of the most memorable were the ones
standing at the courtyard gate with this majestic palace in the background. The trip was ten days
in England and ten days in Germany. Truly the best family vacation we had ever taken after
retiring from the Air Force.

Years have passed. It has been four years since we lost Chelsea in 2016 to an accidental drug
overdose. Words just could not describe the horror of that day…such a beautiful girl filled with
love and zeal for life. She indeed had a passion for fine art, fashion, and fun. And then gone!
William and I manage, but it is not easy. Some days are difficult beyond description. We do
what we can to carry on the way Chelsea would have wanted us to do. And we occasionally get
some signs. The odd penny in a place where you would never expect it to be. The passing by of
a butterfly when it truly touches your heart. Missing her is an everyday event of every minute of
every hour. But then there was that one event where you have to ask yourself, “What are the
odds?”

It was the beginning of Mardi Gras, 2020. William and I and my good friend Leslie decided to
spend the day in the French Quarter in New Orleans just to tour the sights and then watch the
parades that evening. We planned a late lunch in one of those quaint restaurants in the French
Quarter known for its famous BBQ Shrimp dish. There was a line to get in with a 45-minute
wait. But what else did we have to do? The café had less than a dozen tables, most seating only
two or four people each. But there was that “one” table. A large table. It could comfortably seat
eight, and it was the only one.

It was Coop’s Place on Decatur Street. It has that rustic look with a bleached masonry and high
arch-ways above the windows. We entered the doorway, and the hostess asked, “How many in
your party?” “Three,” I said. She sat us at the large table. We sat on one end with room to
spare. The atmosphere was typically New Orleans, rough grouted slate floors, masonry walls,
and the smell of a bar that never closes. It wasn’t known for its quiet atmosphere. It was robust
with life, music playing, people chatting, bartenders, and waitresses calling out orders. It was
definitely the kind of place Chelsea would have loved.

We had only just sat and started to absorb the ambiance of the café. We were still taking in the
sights and sounds when the hostess arrived with a party of four who settled in on the other end of
the only big table in the room. There was plenty of room, and the addition of new patrons to the
table made it more homely. They were two couples, friends, and casually dressed. I kicked off
the conversation, “Are you locals?”

They commenced into their adventure, explaining they were here for the weekend. They were
from Atlanta and decided to visit New Orleans when they had the opportunity of a 99 cent bus
trip from Atlanta. We were all in astonishment and all laughing. One couple boasted, “Yeah, I
offered to pay for the travel as long as he paid the lodging.” Guess you just can’t beat a deal like
that. After the laughter calmed down, I stated, “Oh, what a coincidence, we are going to Atlanta
in July.”

I went on to explain that after the passing of our daughter, Chelsea, we had joined an
organization called The Compassionate Friends (TCF). And that we were going to the National
TCF Conference in Atlanta since my husband and I have become the Chapter Leaders of the
Greater New Orleans Chapter. Maria responded with awe, “Oh, I know that group. I had been
involved with them a few years after I lost my sister to suicide.” We all sat back for a few
seconds with a moment of silence. But it didn’t take long before Maria said, “Just a sec, I have a
picture to show you.”

Maria pulled out her iPhone and started flipping through the photos. “Oh, here it is,” she said as
holding out her phone. My jaw dropped. I looked up and saw William’s wide-open eyes with
that look of astonishment. A picture we knew so well, an image we cherish still today. It was
Chelsea in her winter coat with the fur hood up, standing at the courtyard gate with that majestic
palace in the background, Blenheim Palace. But, how could this be? It was Maria’s phone.
Maria, not knowing what we were experiencing at the time said, “This is my sister in England.”
“I know, isn’t that Blenheim Palace?” She confirmed it was, while I was thumbing through the
photos on my phone. Then I showed Maria. She looked, but there was no reaction. The
bustling and noise continued in the room, but we heard nothing. There was only silence at our
table; we were in a bubble, concealed from the rest of the world. Maria looked up, our eyes met,and tears started flowing down both our cheeks.

What are the odds? This couple had traveled all around the world. We had done the same. Yet,
each of us held in front of us a picture of our loved one. Our loved one who had died too soon.
The photos were the same. Each image showed our loved one in a winter coat, fur-trimmed
hood snuggly wrapped around her head, each standing in front of the same gate of the same
palace in the same country at the same time of the year. The similarity in the photos was
astounding, breathtaking, and almost frightening.

We shared other photos and talked about our travels, but the conversation always came back to
these two photos. What are the odds that we had such similar photos, lived so many miles apart,
but was destined to sit at the same table in the same restaurant at the same time? Then someone
mentioned “Divine Intervention.”

Could it be so? Could these two girls have conspired to bring us together? Was our meeting a
mere chance? It truly makes you wonder. We attribute this event as Chelsea’s most potent sign
to us so far. This could not have happened just by mere chance. So, we look back and say,
“Thank you, Chelsea.”

Millie Hunton

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Comments (3)

  • Dear Millie. Your story has really touched my heart. I don’t believe in many things these days, but this really does seem to have meaning. It cannot be just coincidence. It’s wonderful that you met this other couple and must now have relationship with them. I live in the England and am so glad you and your family enjoyed your time here in my country. I have visited New Orleans on several occasions and, in fact, it was the last trip we took with our daughter before her illness was diagnosed. We drove from New York to Chicago, then to Memphis and San Antonio, ending up in New Orleans. We had a wonderful time with our lovely girl, Laura, and have wonderful memories of your country and the friendly people we have met on our many travels in the US. Wishing you love and peace. Kathy Jones.

  • Wow, just wow! That has to be the ultimate sign. Signs from our daughter give us so much peace, hope this helps your grief journey.

  • Millie, what a beautiful tribute to Chelsea. Memories are the glue that holds our lives together. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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