Letters to Stella Li


It is silent in the house. 
But I still hear you. I hear your voice. I hear you move. I hear you cry. I hear you laugh. But the house is silent. 

Your toys are piled neatly in the corner instead of scattered across the floor. I don’t have to watch where I step because I no longer worry about stepping on a Lego. The baby gate is gone and the furniture has been rearranged but the house still carries echos of you. Your tiny figure is still everywhere to me. Each moment captured and imprinted in my mind, what you accomplished in that very spot by the stairs, how you smiled and flashed your dimple at me from the couch, the way you were ever so pleased with yourself when you got what you wanted…..Oh how I miss you.

Each day is vastly different. Some days are so hard and some days are less hard and some days I even smile. Today is a hard day. The silence in the house clashes with the memories of you in my head. 

Today, my sweet Stella, is Cady’s funeral. She was fighter like you. She was a princess just like you. Another sweet child gone to Heaven, just like you. How unfair it seems at times…Thinking of how many more days we must survive till we see you again. 

At times I think I don’t know how I will do it, but I know I have to. In those moments when the sadness crashes over me like wave upon crushing wave, I think of you. I think of how nothing could stop you. My stubborn daughter. There was no “can’t” for you. You would yell and screech, using every ounce of your energy to lift yourself to your feet. Then you would yell and shout till you lifted yourself into the couch. The physical therapy shoes that were so uncomfortable didn’t stop you from standing. The lack of protein in your diet didn’t stop you from climbing on the stairs or the couch. Your low muscle tone did not stop you from climbing to your feet to stick your hand in the fridge. You did it all with your cheeky grin, sticking your tongue out in concentration.

When I looked up Propionic Acidemia for the first time, in bold letters I read the words “failure to thrive”, and I was shaken to my core. But you threw the book at them. You thrived. You showed them they were wrong. You were growing. That statement does not apply to you. Everyday you showed me your strength.  Nothing stopped you until you left us. You fought till the very end. I saw it with my own eyes. I watched you as you lay in your hospital bed. My fighter. My daughter. My hero. 

I will strive to be more like you Stella. I will never give up. I will not let the word “can’t” stop me. I will yell and screech as I climb to my feet. Just like you, I will struggle and sway, and pant and become so sweaty, but I will do it. Just like you.

Stella Li. There was no stopping you. I know there is no stopping you still. I miss you. I miss you. I love you. I love you Stella Li, you are my melody and my mantra. I am so proud of you.

I love you Stella Li. Always and forever. 



A Heavy Heart

Dearest daughter…

Mommy is beyond sad again today. Sad always because you are not by my side, sad because I wake up to an empty house, and perpetually sad at all the future memories that were meant to be created. A lifetime of experience and a lifetime love, just a life together…..

But today I am more sad, my daughter. My heart is as heavy as it can possibly be, because like the day you left us, today once again my world came to a standstill. 

Stella, I know your friend Isaac is in heaven with you now. Like you, he was beautiful. Like you, he was strong. Just like you he was loved and is loved and forever will be loved. You’ve been in heaven for 2 months now and I’m sure you are showing Isaac the best hide and seek spots and the two of you are running in fields of gold, tubeless and free. 

We, as parents stuck on this earth feel the magnitude of your absence. We feel the weight of the choices we made because of your diagnosis. We chose what we hoped would better your lives. We rolled the dice and the dice and the medical world came up short. It isn’t fair.

My sweet daughter..I miss you. I miss Isaac. The two of you are a stunning pair up there I’m sure. We love you, our sweet children. Always and forever and until forever ends. 


Another week

My sweet sweet Stella Li!!!
Oh how I miss you. Oh how I miss you as I sit in the dark waiting again for the sound of you stirring in the early morning, a sound that I will never hear again until I see you in heaven. I know you are doing well. I know that you are loved beyond belief and you are happy up there and that is the thought I cling to.

Yesterday was a big day for your grandpa Stella Li. Your grandfather officially became an Elder at our church. We bought him flowers to celebrate, and it was one of the first times I’ve seen my dad truly smile since you left. I wish you could have been here with us, but I think you and grandma would have been watching that moment and I picture you clapping for joy. I think you were proud of your grandpa, just as he was always and will forever be proud of you. 

I loved seeing you together, you and my dad. I was your favorite because I was Mommy, but there is an undeniable connection between the two of you that was so plain to see. He loves you so and you loved him. I could see it in every gesture and every movement. I could see it on his face as he looked upon you and I saw the same love, equal in strength and depth as you looked back at him with your sweet smile. 

I am so thankful I have so many pictures and videos of you. When I sink to my darkest moments, when the “what ifs” and “why Stella” becomes too heavy, when even prayer does little to ease the pain, I look at these most precious moments. Moments captured forever, you captured forever, smiling your smile and flashing me your dimple. And through the tears and through the heartache, I smile.

I cry today because I miss you Stella. But I will always smile because of you. You still and will always bring me joy. 

I love you dear daughter. I love you Stella Li. Always and forever. 


49 days

Dearest daughter of mine Stella Li~

How are you today my Stella Li? Are you laughing and playing? I miss you my baby. It’s only 7:30 and already the day feels empty without you.

Today is 49 days since you went to heaven Stella. I know you are having a wonderful time up there, but it has been 49 days of sadness for me. I miss you so. I miss your smell. I miss your voice. I miss your touch. I miss your happiness and the look on your face when you saw me. I miss you I miss you I miss you Stella Li.

Stella….Stella…There are so many things I want to say to you, but it is all jumbled up in my head. You still hear me though, right? In those moments of clarity when I speak to you in my mind, scream to you that I love you and miss you, I hope in some way you can hear me. I don’t want you to ever forget how much I love and I miss you. I know that even if you don’t hear me, you know, but me as your earth-bound mom, I just wish you could hear me.

Your Lina Emo told me yesterday about a new baby elephant that was born in the Disney Magic Kingdom. I saw the article too but skipped it when the headlines read that they had named the new baby elephant Stella. It was just too hard for me to see your name written over and over but it not be about you. Imagine my surprise when I found out from Lina Emo that the new baby elephant was named Stella, and mommy elephant’s name is Donna. Just like you and me. I’ve never been jealous of an elephant before, but I am now. That Donna Elephant still has her Baby Elephant Stella to love and live with. Elephant Donna and Elephant Stella are together, but this Donna is alone and her baby Stella is in Heaven.

We will go see you today Stella Li. Daddy and I will go to your ashes today. We miss you Stella Li. We love you ever so much. Give great-grandma a hug for me and tell her I love her and miss her too. I know you two are probably the greatest pair up there. I bet grandma is teaching you how to golf. She loves you so. I miss her so. I miss you both.

I love you. I miss you. Always and Forever.




Good Morning Stella Li, my  love.

It is Sunday, January 8. It is 8:30 AM. You should have been awake and playing with me for an hour by now. I would turn on your Korean Sing-a-longs and you would sit and play with your toys and occasionally stop to listen to the music and bob your head along when you found a song you liked. Your favorite songs were “곰 새마리”, “상어 가족”, “I’m a little teapot” most recently…but there were so many you loved. You always stopped what you were doing at the end of each song and turn to listen and see what song came next. I think you already knew because you would stop and turn a little earlier for the songs you loved. My sweet baby, I thought you would be musical….

I was able to learn the piano and violin all my life. I wanted to share that with you. I couldn’t wait the day that I sat you next to me on the piano and taught you the differences between the ebony and ivory keys. I wanted to teach you the difference between majors and minors. I wanted to crescendo with you, to metronome with you, to turn the pages of the music, and I wanted to watch you experience making music. I couldn’t wait for the day that I would see you at your first recital, with your legs dangling off the bench, too short to reach the pedals of the piano. I wanted to see if you would be like me, nervous always that I’d make a mistake. Or if you would be like your uncle Paul, brazen and confident, knowing even if it wasn’t true that you were fully prepared and you wouldn’t drop a note. I wanted to record it all, you walking out on stage and playing your song, and then standing up and turning to take a bow. I can almost see it in my head. I wanted to record it all. I wanted to experience it all. I wanted you to experience it. I wanted so much for you.

Are you playing up there in heaven Stella Li? Are you watching mommy and daddy? You don’t have to if you are. We will be ok. We just miss you so much. I hope you are playing, running around on fresh green grass, barefoot of course because you hated anything on your feet. I hope you are twirling in fields of gold, unrestrained and untethered by the medically fragile body you were born into. Be happy my daughter. That’s all I ever wanted for you. I wanted you to be happy and I wanted you to be loved all the days of your life. I know that you were loved and you are still loved and you will forever be loved. I hope that you were happy while you were with me. I think you were. You made me so happy. Even in my most darkest hours, when I feared the idea of you being taken from us, it was your smile that made it all better and your laugh that gave me the strength to keep on going. As much as it pains me that you are not here, I know that you are happy in heaven. I will see you again my Stella Li.

Stella Li~ Stella Li~ 엄마가 예은이를 사랑합니다~ I sing your song every morning. I know it was a simple tune and simple words that I made up to sing you to sleep, but now It is your song. I will sing it to you all the days of my life. I love you. I love you. I miss you. I miss you. Be happy my sweet Stella Li.  I can’t wait to hold you again. I don’t think I will ever let go.

엄마가 예은이를 사랑합니다~
엄마가 예은이를 사랑합니다~
엄마가 예은이를 사랑합니다~~
사랑해요 사랑해요 사랑합니다~~



I Miss You

Hi baby girl. Hi my Stella Li.

It’s snowing today. Not the ugly snow but the beautiful snow, the first snow that comes in big fat snowflakes that stick to the ground. It’s the kind of snow that makes you stand outside or look out your window and just be mesmerized by the beauty of it. The beauty of how the snow sticks to the branches of trees to make beautiful pieces of art. How is it that beauty is still in this world when the most beautiful thing in my eyes, you Stella Li, are no longer here. How can things still be beautiful?? Somehow there is still beauty and it hurts all the more to see it sometimes.

You were finally old enough that I was going to show you the snow for the first time. I mean REALLY show you. I wanted to take you outside and let you feel the snowflakes land on your face and your eyelashes. I wanted to set you in the snow so you cold play with it however you liked. I have never built a snowman in my life, and I was looking forward to sharing that experience with you, the first time for the both of us. I wanted to see your nose become bright red from the cold and your cheeks become rosy. You are like me with sensitive skin. Hot or Cold and we turn red. I loved seeing parts of myself in you. You were my mini-me. I wish we had more time… would have loved the snow..

Stella…mommy misses you so much. Each day I wake up and walk to your room and I stand in the silence staring at your crib where you should be. Instead, a keepsake of your ashes in a wooden heart sits in your spot. Your clothes remain unfolded on the bed. Your diapers are still under the changing table. We just bought another 3 boxes of diapers….there are so many of them. I remember when we bought those that I wanted to buy more because you went through them so fast. Now they are overflowing in your room, unused. I wish you were here. I miss the struggle of changing your diaper. You were always so eager to get moving that changing your diaper had to be quick or you would get away. It was a challenge, but it was a challenge that I loved and I miss so much.

I am miserable without you Stella. You were my light and my future. I planned and planned, and when things went wrong I re-planned and planned again. Now, there is no plan. There is no joy. There is no light. Everything crashed and burned when your heart stopped beating. I stand in the smoke of the aftermath of the implosion that is my life. I can’t breathe. Everything is a haze and I can’t see. Things around me are familiar and so I manage to function and move but still I am in the fog. I’m in a daze. All I want to do is lay down and curl up, do nothing and think nothing, feel nothing and see nothing. I can’t see, Stella. You were my light and now I can’t see.

I am so afraid. It paralyzes me. Each day that goes by it feels more and more like you were a dream. A dream that was so perfect. You were perfect. You are perfect. You were not a dream but it feels like you were because you are so far away. I hate it. I hate it to my core.  You should be running around so full of life and laughter. Instead you are ashes in a mausoleum surrounded by people who lived full and long lives. You are surrounded by  smiling elderly people who were able to experience so many things. In the center, there you are, looking beautiful and young and perfect. You shouldn’t be there. You shouldn’t be there with all those old people. You should be here with me. I shouldn’t be on this laptop because you should be pushing the buttons and touching the screen. I should be playing with you. I should be feeding you and holding you and kissing you and loving you.

I should be with you. You should be with me and Daddy. We should be together as a family.

But we are. This is where we are. This is my life now. A life without you.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I miss you I miss you I miss you. Can you hear me Stella Li? Do you know how much I love you and I miss you? I wish I had told you more how much I love you. I wish those were the only words that had come out of my mouth besides your beautiful name. I wish and I wish and I wish…..

I miss you and I love you. I will say this everyday for the rest of my life. When I see you again Stella Li, I will say these words to you forever. I can’t wait to see you smile at me again. My Light, my love, my beautiful sweet Stella Li. I love you. I love you. I love you.


A Year Without

My sweet sweet Stella Li…

It is Monday, January 2, 2017.

You left my side to go to Heaven 40 days ago. How is this possible?? How is this our new reality??

Everything reminds me of you, even the small things. I’ll straighten my back after sitting in a hunched position and remember how tall you were when you sat up straight. I’ll get into a hot shower and remember how much you loved being in a nice warm bath and how I put so many bath toys in the tub with you, and yet your favorite things to play with were your bottles of baby shampoo, Cerave Baby Shampoo. I’ll open the fridge and remember how you would stick your hand into the cold and I remember grabbing one hand, nudging you to take a step away from the fridge and towards me instead. This memory is one of my favorite memories…you started being able to stand for long periods of time and you were so close to walking. Holding your hand as you stood with determination on your wobbly little legs…watching you take a little step towards me, your laugh and smile at how wobbly you were…these were moments of pure bliss for me. You gave that to me Stella. Happiness.

This new year, this year of 2017, looks bleak beyond belief. A year without Stella Li. A year without your smile and your laugh. A year without you climbing on top of me and pulling the hair at the nape of my neck. A year without you laughing as I hop down the stairs holding you tight, a routine we did every morning. A year without you trying to open the kitchen cabinets. A year without you trying to climb up the stairs. A year without you sitting at the end of the dinner table, an empty hot pink high chair is all that is left of your seat.  A year alone without you. A year without you, my sweet daughter Stella Li. Without you. Without Stella. How will we make it through this year without you Stella?? What’s mommy supposed to do now?

Stella….oh I wish I could call your name and see you turn to look at me. I miss you I miss you. I love you. I love you. Can you hear me Stella? I love you. I love you. Can you hear? Mommy will shout it everyday. I love you Stella. I love you Stella Li. 사랑해 엄마 딸 이예은. 사랑해, 사랑해, 사랑해….


Happy New Year Stella Li

My dearest daughter Stella Li.

Light of my life, my world, my star, my precious, my baby, my sweet daughter, Stella Li.

Oh how I miss you. The pain is so real that I am surprised sometimes that I have not fallen apart. The sharpness of the pain always takes my breath away as I remember again that you are gone from this world and I will never see your smile or hear your laugh again while on this earth. It is both crushingly numbing and terribly painful at the same time. Still, the days go on and I wake and sleep and wake and sleep somehow without you by my side. I miss you so much. I miss your hands, with the fingernails that grew so fast I would need to cut them every 3 days. I miss your feet that were always sticky and moist that you would put on me and on everything. You always loved your feet from the moment you were born. I miss your hair. You always had so much of it. The tips were tinged brown because you had hair while you were inside me growing, natural frosted tips. Baby hair is so silky, and I so miss stroking yours…

This time last year, you fell terribly ill and had your first major metabolic crisis. We entered 2016 on that note, not knowing if we would lose you, but you fought back and we were able to go home. I remember distinctly hoping our family would never spend another holiday in the hospital. This year, we won’t be in the hospital, but I would give anything and everything to be back in a hospital room with you.

I will enter this new year without you by my side, but you will be in my heart as the clock strikes midnight. I will carry you with me into 2017 so the world doesn’t forget the star that you are. My Stella Star. My sweet Stella Li. I will sing your name. Stella Li.

My darling daughter. I love you. I miss you. I’m sorry. Mommy and daddy will work hard to make you proud this year. We love you so so much. Happy new year Stella.screenshot_2016-12-30-09-55-55-1-1

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