The North Carolina mom heard an unexpected knock on the front door early one morning in spring 2017. It turned out to be the knock that every parent dreads. Two state troopers asked if they could come in and the mom’s spring days grew darker from then on. When she was told about her daughters’ fatal accident her world instantly collapsed.
Sisters Karli, 20, and Kelsey, 18, had been totally inseparable. They had been like that since they were little girls growing up in the town of Mooresville, NC. Although they went away to two different colleges, the pair still loved to spend as much time together as possible. But, in April 2017, something tragic happened that left everyone who knew them completely heartbroken.
Elder sister Karli was due to graduate from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, in late April. But younger sibling Kelsey was studying at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, and was going to be unable to make the graduation ceremony. Not willing to miss out entirely, Kelsey boarded a flight to see Karli a couple of weeks before the big day. This way the sisters could enjoy a spring break together to make up for Kelsey missing out on Karli’s presentation.
The two of them spent a couple of days hanging out in Phoenix, before they hatched a plan to do something extra special for the Easter weekend. They called their mom, Cathy Hocking, to tell her that they wanted to go and see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon the next day, the morning of Good Friday.
? At first, Hocking was a little skeptical, and expressed her safety concerns about the trip. Her main fear was that her daughters might take unnecessary risks in order to take spectacular pictures and fall off the canyon’s edge. The worried mom had heard about unfortunate people doing similar in the past.
? But her kids lightly dismissed her fears and made preparations that Thursday evening to leave for the attraction in the early hours to get there in good time for sunrise. Little did Hocking know that it would be the car journey to the Grand Canyon that she should have been most worried about.
At about 2:00 a.m. on Good Friday morning, a car traveling the wrong way up Interstate 17 smashed into the sisters’ car. They were still in Phoenix. The collision was so bad that Karli, Kelsey, and the 21-year-old driver of the other vehicle all perished in the tragic accident.
Police officers arrived at Hocking’s Mooresville home to give her the devastating news that Karli and Kelsey had been killed. When the mom first saw the troopers on the doorstep, her first thought was that she was being arrested for something. But the real reason they had come to see Hocking was far, far worse.
? Everyone that knew Karli and Kelsey was completely heartbroken by the news. But many, including Hocking, found a glimmer of comfort in the fact that they had died together. The sisters had spent so much of their lives glued to each other’s sides, it somehow it felt appropriate that they had passed on together.
?“If Karli had lived, she would never have been able to live down that Kelsey was gone, and vice versa,” Hocking told her local newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, later in April 2017. She went on to explain that not only did the sisters have a very special relationship, but both girls were also very close with their mom?.?
“We talked about everything. They shared things with me. Kelsey would text me eight, nine times a day. Karli would call me three or four times a week,” Hocking said. And although the girls are now physically gone, their mom believes that her daughters still live on.
“We move on because we know they’re alive,” she told The Charlotte Observer, underlining her faith in the hereafter. “Karli and Kelsey did not live once. They are living forever. They just beat their mom to it,” she continued. And that is exactly why their mom did what she did next.
Not wanting to forget her beautiful daughters and their wonderful achievements in this life, Hocking decided that there was something she needed to do. Karli had died just 12 days before her graduation ceremony in Phoenix, where she would have received a B.A. degree in communications.
But her grieving mom didn’t want her daughter’s accomplishment to be swept under the rug, simply because she had passed on. So Hocking headed to Grand Canyon University to finish off what her daughter started. Wednesday, April 26, 2017, was graduation day and she had a degree certificate to collect.
Karli’s mom was the first to walk onto the stage that day. Not only did Hocking accept the bachelor’s degree, but she also accepted the warm acclaim of the crowd. She even had the courage to say a few words in front of the hundreds of people congregated. “Today I am here to represent Karli,” she began.
“She worked so incredibly hard for this. I’m excited. I’m sad,” she continued. Hocking told the audience that Karli would have been jumping around on stage, celebrating her fantastic achievement. She also told them that the following year it would have been Kelsey’s turn to do the same.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking and poignant detail about the presentation was that the bereaved mom was wearing her daughter’s graduation cap and gown as she accepted the award. Speaking to Fox 8 News, Hocking said that she was “overwhelmed with pride” during the graduation ceremony.
Hocking had many reasons to be proud of her daughters – they both had a strong faith, they were both prom queens and they both had bright futures ahead of them. “They were a team that couldn’t be beat,” their mom said.
And Karli and Kelsey were clearly adored by everyone else that knew them too. That was made clear by the Mooresville community’s reaction. They pulled together and did their best to support the family in their time of need. The funeral reception venue didn’t charge, the funeral home gave a discount worth thousands, and family friends donated a burial plot.
Karli and Kelsey’s mom has lived through every parent’s worst nightmare, and she still has a long way to go. But Hocking told Fox 8 News that there is one thing that gives her a little comfort. The fact that people are “learning and being inspired by the girls’ faith.”