Hearts for Valentine’s Day, ducks and bunnies for Easter, angels and trees for Christmas and pumpkins and cats for Halloween. Each holiday, Cheryl Brown and her friend Chelsea would make sugar cookies for family members. Chelsea cut out and baked the cookies with her mom and asked Brown to decorate the first one. Then Chelsea did the rest.
But on Saturday, it was bouquets of pink, red and purple flowers arranged at the front of a room full of mourners and a doll perched on the rim of a small casket.
Chelsea Renee Carrier of Hallsville died Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004, at University Hospital. She was 10.
Chelsea was born Feb. 27, 1994, in Columbia to Rodney and Cheryl Carrier. She attended Hallsville Elementary School where she had completed third grade.
Brown, who had known Chelsea since she was a year old, said Chelsea had a long history of health problems. Chelsea and her twin sister, Lindsay, have suffered health problems for years because of a neurological disorder of unknown origin. As reported in the Missourian on Monday, the family is receiving financial assistance from Boone County Group Homes and Family Support to build an addition to their house so they could more easily care for their disabled twins. “We basically don’t know what (the twins’ disease) is,” Chelsea’s mother said in the article.
Brown, a registered nurse who worked with Chelsea, said autopsy reports were not available. Kathy Doisy, a doctor who has worked with the girls at University Hospital since she was an intern, said it was likely a viral infection that caused Chelsea’s heart to give out. She said it was a sudden infection.
Brown said Chelsea was a sweet girl who could be silly. She would have wheelchair races with her sister and loved to go to school. Tom Andert, a licensed practical nurse who has worked with both girls for a year and a half, said Chelsea’s favorite subject was math. He said she loved counting.
“It clicked,” he said. “She got it.”
Andert said she also played Uno, which she loved to win, but she was a good sport when she lost.
“She was an Uno fiend,” he said. “She’d play it sun up to sun down.”
Andert said he will most remember Chelsea’s crooked, chip-toothed grin.
“Her smile was contagious,” he said.
Brown said Chelsea had a good attitude and was pleasant, even through her illness.
“That little girl worked so hard for everything she had,” Brown said.
Like the cookie-making for holidays. Brown said Chelsea’s fingers didn’t work well, so she had to concentrate on every cookie. They would make shapes and different colors of frosting, then decorate each cookie with frosting and colored sugar.
“They all had to be just right,” Brown said. “The cookies were always perfect.”
Survivors include her parents; her twin sister; her grandparents, Mary Melvin of Lancaster, Donald and Virginia Carrier of Columbia and a great-grandfather, Lynn Carrier of Ottumwa, Iowa.Her grandfather, Wayne Dean Melvin, died earlier.
Services, conducted by Robert Beeler, were held Saturday afternoon at the Norman Funeral Home in Lancaster.
Chelsea’s mother grew up in Lancaster, and both girls spent their first years there. More than 100 people attended the funeral and their names, each in scrawling cursive, lined page after page of the sign-in book.
Andert spoke during the service, and said that Chelsea was up in Heaven, probably testing God’s patience with 100 games of Uno.
“I’m sure she’ll have all the wild cards in her hand,” he said.
The burial followed in Fabius Cemetery, a few miles away, near a church that Brown said Chelsea’s mother attended. Brown said much of Chelsea’s extended family is also buried there. The cemetery is hidden away amidst rolling green hills, and as the sun shone down and the birds chirped, Beeler asked mourners to come close so they could hear. His quiet words consoled as the flies buzzed and some mourners cried, huddled around the grave site.
Michele Rose came from her home in Macon to attend the services. She was with the Bureau of Special Health Care Needs, part of the Department of Health, when she first met Chelsea and Lindsay. She said that at about 19 months, the girls were having trouble walking, and the local heath department had called her. She convinced the family that the girls needed to be seen in Columbia.
A few years later, Rose said, the Carriers moved to Columbia to be closer to the hospital. She said the girls “have been on a roller coaster of emotions for so long.” She said she was in a way happy for Chelsea, because “she’s in Heaven, and she’s not sick.”
“Because of Chelsea’s passing, some good will come,” Rose said. She said this might help make the public more aware of families with disabled children and create more help and support for these families.
“A lot of families could not survive this,” she said. “But (the Carriers) have.”
Memorials may be sent to the Chelsea Carrier Memorial Fund at First National Bank, 801 E. Broadway, Columbia, Mo., 65201.