Aunt Michele’s Tribute to Kalkidan

michele and girls

Over the years I’ve written many times about my very dear friend, Michele, whom my kids affectionately call Aunt Michele. There is so much I want to say, but I’m struggling for words today. I’ll let Michele’s tribute from the memorial service speak for itself.

I would first like to thank Russ and Lisa and the rest of the Qualls family for inviting me to speak and offer this remembrance of Kalkidan. It is a distinct honor and privilege and I am very grateful. I would also like to take a moment and thank Russ and Lisa and the rest of their family for the tremendous sacrifices which they have made over the last years to provide for Kalkidan. God has seen all you have done and I am confident that He is pleased.

As I have been thinking about what I would like to say, my mind kept composing a letter to Kalkidan, so that is what I would like to share with you now.

Dear Kalkidan,

Well, here we are – most of your favorite people, all gathered in one place to celebrate your life and remember you. I am sure that that makes you happy. And if you were not in a wholly better place right now I am sure you would like to be here with us. You have always loved parties and celebrations, and just being with people. It is one of your many endearing qualities.

One of my favorite and early memories of you actually happened a few months after you came home to your family from Ethiopia. I want to read you something from Pastor Douglas Wilson’s blog — he said it better than I can retell it. This is from Sunday December 23, 2007, the day when you were dedicated to the Lord. (Before I read it I want to mention that Beza had not yet joined the Qualls family, and I have asked my husband, Greg, to read this part.)

“A family in our church — the Russ and Lisa Qualls — recently adopted three children from Ethiopia. Two of them were baptized a month or so ago, but the oldest, a girl named Kalkidan, was dedicated today. She was dedicated because she had already been baptized. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October of 2001. Her uncle was an Orthodox priest, and she was baptized in the Orthodox Church on the eightieth day after her birth which is their tradition for girls. The Qualls adopted her this last January, and she joined her new family in May. Tomorrow on Christmas Eve, Kalkidan, and her two siblings from Ethiopia, Ebenezer and Wogayu, will all be granted American citizenship.

Just recently Lisa Qualls was reading the children the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and how only one of them returned to thank Him. She asked the kids some questions about the incident and then asked, “Is there something that Jesus has done for you that you want to thank him for?” Kalkidan said, “Yes”. When Lisa asked her what it was, she put her head down and said, “Jesus come and give me family.”

Kalkidan, I don’t know if you know this, but you almost made Pastor Wilson cry.

Wrapping around Dimples

I know that you were thankful for the family that Jesus gave you, but it was not always easy for you to live in your family. Do you remember the first day the two of us spent together? It was mid morning on a Monday, and I got a call from your mom. Would I be able to come pick you up? You were having a hard time at home and she thought it would help you to get out and do something different. So I came and got you and took you to do errands with me. We went to Norm’s Glass, Winco and Walmart. And everywhere we went you charmed the people we encountered, making my mundane errands a fun adventure. And really, Kalkidan, Norm’s Glass, Winco, and Walmart are not normally very exciting places to go. But with you, the ordinary was made extra-ordinary.

It was around that time that you started to spend regular time with our family and you added a spark that brought joy to our lives. There were usually a couple of days a week that I would pick you up after school and bring you home. We would make your favorite fried potatoes for snack and I would never cease to be amazed at how much food you could fit in your petite little body. You would usually convince me to cook 10 potatoes, and you would eat the equivalent of about 6 of those and the other three of us would eat the remainder. Of course we had to take our portions out first because you would add so much berbere and hot sauce that none of us could eat it. Then you and Eden would sit at the counter and I would do your spelling words with you. It was one of those afternoons when we had a conversation about skin color. Do you remember this? You said that someone had told you that you were black and Eden was white. But the two of you had figured out that you were brown and Eden was pink. As second graders, you and Eden figured that a lot of people didn’t really know their colors.

michele and K cookies

I was also thinking about your entrepreneurial spirit and the summer when you and Eden and Claire and Beza had a lemonade stand. I had to be in agreement with this idea because it isn’t something you could do from your house, given that your house is located on a highway and is not conducive to children setting up shop by the side of the road. You and Eden found a sweet spot that was just a block from our house, but on a busy enough street (F Street) that you could probably do pretty well. The spot was on the way to the pool and it was a hot day so you figured there was money to be made.

I wanted to make you do this independently but you convinced me to drive you down with your pitchers of lemonade, a TV tray to set things on, a box for your cash and your homemade sign. Half the lemonade spilled in the car, and you were worried that there wouldn’t be enough, but you all made the best of it and came home with $34 in spite of the spilled lemonade. I am pretty sure the cuteness factor had a lot more to do with the money you made than the particular quality of the lemonade. You marveled that no one wanted change. The next spring you were ready to go out and start the business again and could not understand why I didn’t think it was a good idea. The fact that it was 50 degrees and raining didn’t seem to deter you.

I went running this morning on the same route that you and I took the last time you spent the night at our house. I was going to get up early and run 3 miles that day. You told me you had regularly been running one mile and you were pretty sure 3 miles would be no problem. (As an aside, I have always admired your confidence.) So I came in to get you at 6AM, and you were already awake, which will be no surprise to your family. We left the house and about ½ mile in, you got a side ache. We didn’t run three miles that day and decided together that when track season came around you would probably be a sprinter and a jumper. I am quite confident that you would have had great success in both.

michele and K

Do you remember when we went to Seattle to see my cousin play basketball? I told you that she is one of the shortest players in the Women’s NBA, and even though Kristi is 5’7”, I think you figured there isn’t that much difference between her 5’7 and your 4’11”. We met up with her after the game and I know she encouraged you to practice if you wanted to get better. You certainly took that to heart. You could play a mean game of “horse” and were especially proud of the time you beat Forrest. I think he would still debate you on that, but we know that you had a good competition going.

And competition was something that you liked – sometimes a little too much, maybe, but it was something that you were learning to use for good. In fact, the last time we played Yahtzee you were even happy for me when I got a yahtzee before you did. I was so proud of you for that. I am sure that your competitive spirit lives on and that right now you are rejoicing in having run, with endurance, the race that God set before you. You won, Kalkidan! You won the race and when we get to heaven I think you will want to remind us all of that – in a sanctified and wonderful way, of course. You got there first.

And Kalkidan, though we grieve our loss of you, we do not grieve as those who do not have hope. Because Kalkidan you are free – free from sin, free from sorrow, free from fear, free from trauma, free from shame, free from deadly viruses, and free from death. You are FREE! And now, Kalkidan, my dear friend, and sister in Christ, in the words of CS Lewis “Further up and further in!”

We love you, Kalkidan!

Thank you, friends, for reading and sharing this time with us as we remember our precious daughter.



This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. lucylou99
    January 26, 2015

    Lovely… Lisa, you continue to be in our prayers. The tributes and memorials are so lovely. I pray they continue to add comfort to your days as God heals your body and holds you as you grieve. Love, Cindy

  2. Karen A.
    January 26, 2015

    Such sweet words. I'm thankful to be able to get to know Kalkidan better through your posts.

  3. sharimcminn
    January 26, 2015

    Wow, just wow. So touching on many different levels. How blessed you are to have Michele in your life, Lisa, and this letter to treasure of Kalkidan's life.

  4. Carly
    January 26, 2015

    Oh, Lisa and Michele! Oh, how our family has been praying for you all, starting with that unbelievable phone call from Molly. I know how much Kalkidan and you meant to each other, Michele, and we have lifted you in prayer to our Comforter! Thank you, Lisa for sharing this today! I was so sad to not be there in person, but I know you know I was there in Spirit. Love to you and Russ! Michele, I miss you deeply, Hi to Greg!

  5. KEB
    January 26, 2015

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Susan
    January 26, 2015

    A wonderfully touching tribute

  7. Ann Z
    January 26, 2015

    This is so beautiful and full of life and hope. Thank you Michele, and Lisa, for sharing this.

  8. Sadee
    January 26, 2015

    Tears in my eyes….thank you for sharing. I am so, so sorry for your loss of precious Kalkidan. You and your family have been so close to my heart…..and I can see why Kalkidan loved her Aunt Michele so much.

  9. Emily
    January 26, 2015

    Praying for you all, Lisa.

  10. EA Huffman
    January 27, 2015

    Dear Lisa, Thank you so much for posting this. I feel like I am getting to know Kalkidan in new ways as I hear what was shared at her memorial service. What a vivacious spunky little gem! Thank you for running alongside her the race that was marked out for her. Can't wait for the day when you will hug her neck and laugh together and relate as sisters fully alive and healed and whole in Christ. Praying for great grace as you grieve.

  11. Pamela
    January 27, 2015

    What a lovely tribute to Kalkidan. She clearly blessed many people in her too-short time here on earth and was a well-loved young lady. You all continue to be in my thoughts as you grieve your loss and learn to live in this new "normal". I don't know you but I'd give you a big hug if I could.

  12. Wendy
    January 28, 2015

    My heart squeezes and bleeds and stutters with and for you all. Michele, this was beautifully written and expressed. Qualls family, you are not alone in your grief. So much love to all of you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy