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by Nancy Thomas, publisher
A week ago, Rhode Island lost Olivia Chacon. Olivia was a caregiver. Not only in her chosen profession at a local nursing home, but in life. She cared for our spirit, she educated us about grace and strength. We even learned about love as she and her mi amor, Michael, traveled their lives together. She fought a valiant battle with cancer .
Last year we wrote a story about Olivia as she received the Spirit of Mercy Award. We republish it here – and extend our deepest sympathies to her family, and to all who were lucky enough to have her in their lives.
Privileged to feel her spirit…
It’s called the Spirit of Mercy Award. That’s what Olivia Chacon will receive in October from her employer, Mount St. Rita. I’ve never met Olivia, but I have followed her for years on Facebook. Her fiancé, Mike Rossi, is a classmate of mine from high school days, and the magic of social media has brought us into contact once again.
How delighted I was to see Mike find his Olivia, and for Olivia to find her “mi amor”. Photogenic doesn’t begin to describe how the camera loves Olivia, and soon I was using her image as she and Mike went on weekend dating excursions. I loved how they found nature’s hidden parts of our beautiful state, and soon, almost every weekend I would post an Olivia photo – thick black hair framing her beauty with a caption, “Where’s Olivia?” on my “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island” page, the sister page to RINewsToday.com. And I’d watch the guesses pop up.
After about a year, Olivia and Mike were posting photos much closer to home, at local restaurants, on the deck, at their dining table. I sensed something wasn’t quite right. Maybe there was trouble in their paradise?
And then the photo came – Olivia going for a test, at a hospital, then with a hat on…eyes down, and the inevitable emoji on comment posts -. What was challenging this beautiful woman? It was confusing because there was still the photo of Olivia at work, side by side at Mount St. Rita, with her Mike. Nurses, one relieving the other from shift to shift.
For a few years now, we’ve all watched Olivia’s path. Her hair is short and punky. Her hair gets longer; shorter. Her head is shaved. Scarves and hats delight. Her natural beauty shining even brighter! Never a full smile, because that’s not Olivia – her smile is connected to her eyes, and seen as one – it’s an expression, a funny secret, a silly moment, a sad pondering, a tired, yet always hopeful playfulness, a look of love…
Her fiancé’s words in response to my request to do this story:
“As the award states, despite her illness, she rarely misses a shift and she leaves that part of her life at the door. When anyone – families, staff, and patients – come to her unit it’s quite evident that this is her unit. She is able to run the unit comprehensively with a steadfast gentleness. It’s her turf and she is able to establish remarkable relationships with the residents and families. They love her. Objectively she is details oriented and that is indicated by among other things, a perfect state survey on her unit. Many times she’ll clock out and come back up to finish paperwork or meet with a family member. In my 23 years, she’s the best bedside nurse I’ve ever work with. I’m her relief at 3 pm. A couple of families refer to us as the dream team. But trust me, it’s her. I just follow her lead. Her ethics and dedication rub off on other staff. She knows her patients better than anyone. Obviously it’s her therapy as well.
She shows up every day, and only occasionally takes time off for treatment and appointments, but actually works through the side effects. She will try to schedule her own appointments so she can miss as little of work as possible. She’ll work all weekend. Her work is the quality of life she’s achieved and asked for. She measures her successes and failures in terms related to her ability to be with her patients. I run a close second though – .”
On October 23rd, people will gather to “Celebrate Olivia” with the 2019 Spirit of Mercy Award. But beyond that event at Mount St. Rita, will be those of us who see her beguiling smile, and follow “Olivia and Michael” on their weekend jaunts to simple places, and even when they fly off to sunny climates. Every picture is the epitome of hope, of love, and of the power of living a good life. And we are privileged to feel her spirit in our own lives.
Olivia Chacon, 49, of Cumberland, passed away peacefully with her family by her side, Thursday, July 23, 2020. Olivia was a Licensed Practical Nurse for many years before retiring. She was the loving mother of Michael Chacon and longtime companion of Michael Rossi. Born in Zacapa, Guatemala, Olivia was the daughter of Mina (Chacon) Seidenari. Her close knit family was her biggest treasure and was lucky to call her siblings her bestfriends. Olivia was the sister to Elmer Chacon and his wife Ena, Maria Conley and her husband James, and Carla Grajeda. She held her nieces and nephews as her own including Melissa Grajeda, Marhya Grajeda, Jimmy Conley, Ashley Conley, Edwardo Chacon, Christopher Chacon, and Cindy Chacon. In addition to her immediate family, she had many loving cousins from Guatemala to the States.
Immigrating to the United States in 1977, Olivia grew up in Brighton, Massachusetts, where she pursued the American dream with ferocity. After graduating from high school, Olivia realized her desire to start a career in the medical field of nursing, and made great strides towards obtaining her degree, while also raising her son Michael. Soon after completing her program, Olivia worked for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections where she showed her true compassion for all. Olivia continued to grow as a nurse when she then accepted a position at a group home, applying the discipline of mental health, and providing her residents with the highest quality of care. In 2013, Olivia found a new passion as an LPN at Mount Saint Rita Health Care Center. Olivia was able to practice at a high clinical level and at the same time, establish deep relationships with her patients and their families. In 2019, she was awarded the prestigious Spirit Award, an accolade given to those who show a true commitment to their practice.
Besides her tremendous work ethic, Olivia could not hide her Boston roots. Olivia was an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. She was known for her fondness of crafts, travel, and fashion. In spite of illness, she continued to show a passion for all the things that brought her so much joy, and in turn brought immense joy to those around her. She loved spending time with her friends and family, especially with her son Michael, the love of her life, who she traveled the world with. Olivia will be remembered for her style, her grace, and her dignity. She brought joy and comfort, not just to her patients, but to her colleagues and her loved ones.
The funeral and burial will be private. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Olivia’s name, to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02115, would be greatly appreciated.