A Tribute to Kali

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post. My friends, Kelli and Kendrick, lost their beautiful five year-old daughter, Kali, on Sunday. Although I’m not a parent and can’t even begin to imagine the pain they are experiencing, their loss has left me saddened.

I met Kelli when I began working at The Harem almost two years ago. Kelli is the account manager/bookkeeper for the store and works in the back near my desk. We became friends while working together on our annual fashion show for the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. Kelli and I were in charge of  securing donations for the event so we spent a lot of time together and I discovered a great friend. Because of her business knowledge, I confessed to her that I needed an accountant or business manager to help me get my consignment orders organized. She offered to help and refused any payment. In return, I promised not to let it get out of hand again. I looked forward to seeing her at work and chatting with her about her beautiful daughter, Kali, whose pictures were plastered all over Kelli’s desk. It was no surprise that Kali was the light of her life. She was a bundle of energy and joy who brightened up everyone’s day.

I only met Kali a couple of times, but every time she was in the store she bounced around like she owned the place. She knew no strangers and greeted everyone as if she’d known them for years. I never saw her walk; she seemed to skip and run wherever she went.

Late last summer, Kali developed a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away. Kelli and Kendrick were concerned, but the doctors didn’t seem to think it was any big deal. I remember Kelli and I were modeling in  a fashion show in late September and she was anxious to get home and take care of Kali who was still in a lot of pain. A week later, I was in St. Louis setting up for a show when I received the message that Kali was being taken to Barnes Children’s Hospital. Things were bad but we never knew how bad they were going to get.

It was Leukemia. Burkett’s Leukemia, a rare and aggressive form of cancer but one with a high survival rate. I remember thinking it wasn’t possible for such a seemingly healthy child to have cancer. Sure, I knew it happened all the time, but I just couldn’t believe it. Everyone got on board to start raising money for the family since neither of them could work and were going to Barnes constantly for treatments. The outpouring of support was amazing and I knew Kelli and Kendrick were humbled by all the love. Through it all, we prayed Kali would get better. And she did, for a while.

It was a horrible rollercoaster ride of emotions. One day she’d be improving and the next day she’d plummet. Through it all, I believed she’d get better. Even when we received that terrible phone call that Kali was being sent home from Barnes because they couldn’t do anything else for her, I still thought she’d pull through. Maybe I just never wanted to think the worst.

Sunday morning, as Steve and I were having coffee, the phone rang and it was my boss, Kathi. While a weekend phone call was unusual, it never crossed my mind why she was calling. Kali had passed away at 8 am. She was at peace. I will never fully comprehend what Kelli and Kendrick are experiencing but I know a light has gone out for all of us. Kali was a beautiful, energetic girl who brightened up everyone’s world. Rest in peace, little Kali, and know you are loved by so many.

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