2.2 min readPublished On: September 29, 2023

A Mourning Light: Inspiring Others Touched by Unimaginable Grief

Kelli Stewart lives for inspiring others touched by unimaginable grief she knows all too well.

Lying in a hospital bed in October 2019 after just giving birth to her son Graham Travis, Kelli Stewart kisses and hugs her baby, just as any proud mother would. 

But she doesn’t feel excitement and happiness. Instead, she is flooded with sorrow and grief. For Kelli, the three short hours she’ll spend with her son is not only a hello but also goodbye. 

Despite efforts of doctors at UF Health Shands Hospital, Graham was born prematurely at 21 weeks. Kelli suspects that a placental abruption—a serious condition where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus—caused his premature birth. 

Kelli, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at UF Health Shands, was in disbelief. “I had seen other babies born prematurely, but I never really thought it would happen to me,” she says. “My husband, Dillon was there, along with my parents. We took turns holding Graham. For me, one of the saddest moments was going out to the car and leaving without him.”

After the initial shock, Kelli found purpose in the face of tragedy. Several weeks after Graham’s death, she received an anonymous care package containing a candle, an angel bracelet, and a heartfelt note from a mom who lost her child. Kelli thought that was the perfect gift for someone in her situation because it’s a source of long-term comfort.

“I told my co-workers that I should start an organization that sends out care packages for parents who have lost a baby,” says Kelli, a 2009 graduate of South Lake High School.

In October 2020—the one-year anniversary of Graham’s death—Kelli launched a nonprofit organization funded solely through private donations called “Finding Fireflies: Gifts From Graham.”

“I named it that because I wanted to send light during a dark time,” she says.

Kelli lovingly puts together care boxes for parents who have lost an infant due to miscarriage, still birth, or premature birth. Items in her care packages include angel ornaments, an angel ring necklace, a mug, tea, lotion, and bath bombs. She also includes support books for moms, dads, and siblings.

To date, she has created and sent 400 care boxes to 32 states.

For Kelli, the care boxes are a constant reminder that Graham’s short life made a long-lasting impact.

“This has been really healing for me and gives Graham a purpose,” she says. “People still talk about him, and that makes me feel like he is still part of the family.”

About the Author: James Combs

James Combs
Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County's many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

Leave A Comment