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Gayle Kennedy To Meet Fallen Firefighter's Family After Receiving His Cornea

8:06 PM, Jul 26, 2013   |    comments
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Stoneville, NC -- There's something remarkable about to happen in Rockingham County Friday night and it's because of Mark Anthony Chandler.

Chandler was a volunteer firefighter who died last year in Stoneville.

He was throwing a party for his girlfriend's birthday when an unwanted guest got into a fight with him and stabbed Mark, according to Mark's family.

Mark's mother, Sarah Changdler, has tried everything to hold on to his memory: there's a memorial in the yard, Mark's picture and name on the car and tags, photos everywhere in the home and several tattoos of her son mark Sarah's body.

But it hasn't been enough.

Friday, the Chandler family will literally get a chance to embrace a part of him and find closure.

At 22-years-old, Mark was an organ donor.

And months after his death, his family prepares to meet the recipient of part of his eyes.

"I'm almost speechless, we never dreamed that this would happen," Sarah Chandler, Mark's mother, said.

What makes this even more special is this week would have been Mark's 23rd birthday.

Gayle Kennedy, the organ recipient lives in Texas.

Texas Woman's 22 Hour Drive To Meet Firefighter's Family

She had a hereditary eye disease and doctors used Mark's cornea to correct her vision.

"It's kind of like I know him already. He was such a caring guy...I thought what a remarkable person." Gayle said on the phone while driving towards North Carolina with her sister.

"She's driving all the way to North Carolina. That's so emotional, so strong. I know Mark is just shinning down on us and he'll be with us when we embrace," Sarah said through tears.

Sarah and Gayle have been in touch for months and talk several times a day on the phone.

Sarah says they've become friends even though they barely know each other.

When the two finally meet, the grieving mother says it'll be bittersweet.

"It's just knowing that I'm going to be able to embrace a part of mark, and hold a part of Mark, blesses my heart," Sarah cried. "I think Mark kind of smiled with his eyes. I think Mark had a lot to say to people with his eyes."

The Chandler family says Mark's eyes weren't the only gift he left. Other parts of his body were donated and are helping burn victims around the country.

Gayle plans to visit with the family until Sunday.

"I know no one can replace her son but hopefully I'll give her some closure," Gayle said.

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