My Oh-So-Slow Recovery

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In the grand scheme of tragedy, suffering, and even death, it seems trivial to update you on my recovery, but many of you have asked, so here it is.

My body hurts. It’s been nearly six weeks since the accident and I’m frustrated by my slow progress. I’m still spending most of the day in a recliner in our family room. Friends are still bringing meals and cleaning my house. I’m still unable to drive.

The pain in my hip is understandable. There is a fracture in the right side of my sacrum and significant soft tissue damage on my hip. It is healing, but wow, it’s been something.

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.

Our Tribute to Dimples


This is the text of our family’s tribute to Kalkidan at her memorial service. We all stood together lending our strength and love to Russ who spoke beautifully.  You can watch the video on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page.

Thank you to each one of you for being with us today, celebrating and remembering our amazing daughter, Kalkidan. Your presence means more than you’ll ever know.

On Valentine’s Day 2006, Lisa got a phone call that would change our lives. Our friend Emily called to tell her that they were adopting two little boys from Ethiopia.  Something happened during that phone call – a door opened just a crack and she glimpsed a possibility for our future.

Even in the Valley He is Faithful

Sovereign Over Us, Aaron Keyes

Verse 1
There is strength within the sorrow, There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning, With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting, Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding, You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

Verse 2
You are wisdom unimagined, Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens, Reaching down in endless grace
Youʼre the Lifter of the lowly, Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me, Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good, You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
Youʼre working for our good, Youʼre working for our good and for your glory

Kalkidan’s Obituary


Kalkidan Ella Qualls was born Oct. 29, 2001, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She became part of our family eight years ago, and it was our great joy and honor to love her. On the morning of Dec. 27, she and our parents were driving to Montana for a holiday visit with friends when they were involved in an automobile accident. Kalkidan passed away instantly in the collision. She was 13 years old.

Kalkidan believed that spice was the spice of life. She loved cooking, and often made dishes so hot that the rest of the family’s eyes would water from the spicy fumes in the kitchen. She especially loved Sriracha sauce and the Ethiopian spice berbere, which she went through so quickly that we stocked it in mason jars. It was her dream to one day open a restaurant called Kalkidan’s Your-Mouth-On-Fire Cuisine.

Kalkidan was incredibly competitive, but worked hard at both winning and losing graciously. She took great pride in besting her older brother at her favorite board game on Christmas Day. She loved playing sports and often talked about becoming a college basketball player. She bemoaned her height, but anticipated becoming the first WNBA player under 5 feet tall.

At school and in sports, she was often one of the first to befriend new students. She could tell when someone felt like an outsider and reached out with no hesitation. She brought enthusiasm and energy to everything she did.

In the multitude of emails, cards and messages we have received from friends and family who mourn with us, the same words to describe her keep appearing: vivacious, determined, inspiring, high-spirited, beautiful, stubborn, spunky, athletic, sweet. These words can’t describe the richness of her soul, but they give a glimpse of who she was, and who she was growing to become.

Jesus Christ is the firm foundation of our family. Kalkidan loved him, and we take comfort that one moment she was on a road trip with her mom and dad and the next she was in the arms of Jesus. We believe that God writes a beautiful story, and it was our privilege that God chose to entwine her life story with ours. We grieve that her life was so short, but we are blessed she became our daughter and sister.

Kalkidan was preceded in death by her Ethiopian mother and father.

She is survived by her parents, Russell and Lisa Qualls; and her siblings, Hannah, Mary Kate, Noah (Katie), Samuel, Isaiah, Annarose, Beza, Claire, Ebenezer and Wogauyu; and her Ethiopian sister, Fikirte. She will also be remembered by her four grandparents and her aunts, uncles, cousins and countless dear friends, as well as the thousands of people who were influenced by her story.

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Moscow Church of the Nazarene. All are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to REACH Ministries via the Kalkidan Memorial Fund at