Fourteen months ago, Vanessa Mitchell-Delmotte appealed to a local Facebook group, Coronado Happenings, for suggestions of bucket list adventures she could take with her dad. He had terminal cancer, and she wanted to share some meaningful time with him.
The mother of three young kids was taking a month off from her job as a diamond setter at the S.D. Jewelers Exchange downtown for together time that she nicknamed, “December with Dad.”
Her father, Patrick Mitchell, was a former Chula Vista High School administrator and retired head of Francis Parker Upper School.
Her simple, heart-felt Facebook appeal triggered a deluge of encouraging words, trip ideas, gift offers, shared stories from strangers — and an article last year in The Washington Post.
Given her dad’s declining health, the duo was only able to follow through on a few adventures but appreciated the generous response from strangers as much as the experiences themselves.
They were offered private surfing lessons, a painting session, a hotel staycation, tickets to “The Nutcracker,” a family photo shoot, and much more.
A violinist stopped by and gave a private performance, playing Patrick’s favorite songs. A local couple hosted a hangar tour of the Navy helicopters at North Island.
And they went to Las Vegas, where former Coronado resident Vickie Quinn arranged for them to see an Ultimate Fighting Championship match.
Patrick Mitchell passed away Jan. 11, 2021. Now Mitchell-Delmotte, 39, a singer/songwriter by avocation, is giving back in an unusual way — by releasing an album.
When she was in her early 20s, she had recorded a 13-song album, “Nice to Meet You,” gotten songwriting out of her system and went on to build her career of designing diamond engagement rings.
“I grew my business, had my kids and didn’t have anything more to say,” she explains of her music.
But that changed when her dad was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer a year before his death.
“I just started to write and record my songs in the car” — sometimes in building parking garages and in her driveway at home before entering the house to see her kids.
Some of those songs were inspired by her relationship with her father, his presence during the milestones and everyday moments of her life and his medical journey. But others were written for the folks who befriended them through the bucket list experience and others who shared their own grief on Facebook chat group sites.
“I’ve connected with all these people on a deep level,” she says. “I felt what I was saying might have an impact on someone else besides me.”
One of them was Vicki Quinn. “Vicki had given me this beautiful time with my dad that I will never forget,” Mitchell-Delmotte says. “And I gave her a song” — “One Day at a Time.”
Quinn, who lost her husband, shared with Mitchell-Delmotte that she had received 500 flowers, 700 casseroles, many invitations, lots of books on grief and hundreds of cards, letters and messages.
“Never did I receive a song that not only is beautiful but encompasses exactly how I feel … silent grief. Thank you will never be enough,” Quinn noted.
Another song, “Mark My Words,” was written with Mark Head, of Rochester, N.Y., in mind. Despite his own pancreatic cancer, he continued sending uplifting messages to Mitchell-Delmotte.
“I felt very honored and humbled by it,” Head, 68, says of the song. “One of the hidden blessings when you’re hit with a curse is that good things come along with it.”
He is a psychotherapist and writes weekly blogs for a Facebook group of cancer patients and another for their supporters. He met Mitchell-Delmotte in a group chat, and she told him his writings reminded her of her father and helped them cope.
“It’s a beautiful song,” says Head, who recognizes his words in the lyrics. “She’s just one of those beautiful people in life who is full of joy, giving and service to others.”
Another song, “Promise Me This,” is for her mom, Susan Mitchell. It was the love letter she imagined her father would have written to his wife.
Although it wasn’t planned, Mitchell-Delmotte realized her songs reflected the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
She wrote lyrics and melodies, then hired a musician to add instrumentation.
Thus, the album, “Love Will Remain,” was born — a total of 13 songs bearing such titles as “I Believe,” “Taking a Walk With You,” “I’ve Got You,” “Tonight I Grieve,” “Empty Chair” and “Unbroken.” Near the end is “Thank You,” evoking the final stage of acceptance, and “Best Life Ever.”
“It was how I was feeling — me just pouring out my heart.” She shared the songs in her online grief groups as a way to connect and express feelings.
The album was released on Spotify, YouTube and other streaming sites Jan. 11, the one-year anniversary of her father’s passing.
She doesn’t have an agent. She isn’t performing or touring locally. Fame and fortune are not her goals. In fact, Mitchell-Delmotte plans to donate any profits from song sales to the local Make -A-Wish Foundation.
“I believe the songs will have an impact where they are meant to,” she says. And that is enough for her.
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