One Year


One year. Sometimes, so much can happen in a year and then sometimes it seems like nothing changes. 2012 unfortunately was a year of change for us. It was a year to get used to the idea of a world without our Christina. It was a year of a new reality, of anger, of so much sadness and too many memories. Some days we ask ourselves, “How are we surviving this?” And yet, here we are at the end of the year and we are still standing.

The winter was hard. Tears were present almost every day and the hole in our hearts felt huge. Seattle is so bleak during those months anyway, and it seemed to mirror how we were feeling.  But then the spring and finally summer came, and it started to feel like it could be a year of coming closer together and adjusting together. Of finding ways to keep her spirit amongst us despite her absence. Christina’s birthday in July was celebrated by going to dinner at Green Leaf, one of her faves, and a toast to her on the bluff at Discovery Park. Some of us went camping at Table Mountain, a special place that Christina used to camp.  It felt like the edge of the world and was so unbelievably beautiful that we could feel her there with us. We scattered some of her ashes there, at the edge of the mountain, and it was one more step in accepting that she really was not coming back but she could still be around us.  Fall was strange, not seeing her at the farmers market, not having someone at Thanksgiving to cook the turkey and order us around in the kitchen.

And now, Christmas time. After such a bleak and awful Christmas season last year, it was almost refreshing to  enjoy some of the normal things again this year. Decorating for the season, getting out to see the lights, making Christmas cookies, seeing the kids get excited for the big day. At first, it seemed like we shouldn’t be enjoying it- like, how could we find joy in this season without her here? But then I think we all realized that she wouldn’t have wanted us to be like that. That she would have been saying “come on you guys, we still have to have Christmas!”.  Christina loved Christmas, she loved finding unique and original gifts for everyone. She always tried to hand make as much as she could or use as much local products as possible. Mom tried to honor that this year, and gave us all handmade things. She  was on all of our minds during our celebrations this year and we tried keep those memories of her positive spirit with us.

And now we made it to December 28th, the end of the year and the end of the first year without her. We will spend the day together as a family doing something she would have wanted to do, going to the mountains to play in the snow,  and of course having a big meal. This past year, we have leaned on our friends,our spouses, our children, and all of her friends to keep us going and we couldn’t have done it without them. It meant so much that everyone else kept her in their thoughts too, to see her memory kept alive whenever possible. In emails and cards, phone calls, facebook posts, newspaper articles -it became clear that she would never be forgotten. We had grand hopes at the beginning of the year to build tangible memorials to her, like garden plaques or scholarships or of course a cookbook with her recipes. It was just too soon, we really just needed this year to heal and to start to regain strength. Maybe in 2013, it will happen. Maybe not.  For now ,we’ll just hope to keep moving forward and are so grateful to have others around us to keep us going.
Thank you.

  Love,The Choi FamilyChoi Kids Circa 2003




January 4, 2012 – Celebrating Christina


The service began at 11:00 AM at St. Pat’s with over 700 in attendance.  The service was led by Frank Knusel (our uncle) and Victoria Ries.  Victoria gave a beautiful homily and Dennis Counts read a eulogy written by our family.  Matthew Dann read a eulogy written by Christopher.

The service was followed by a reception at one of Christina’s favorite places, the UW Botanical Gardens. Thank you to Matt Dillon and Jeremy Faber for the lovely food, Christina would have approved.

All followed by a party later that night at Sitka and Spruce.

Beautiful, shared love – all for Christina.

Eulogy for Christina, written by her brother Christopher, given January 4th


This eulogy was written by Christopher Choi and delivered by Matthew Dann at the memorial service.


When I was 19, Christina was hired to run a little place called the Olive Branch.  The first person she hired was….not me. It was Noah Oldham. But the second person she hired….was not me too. But I was the third. (And I lasted the longest.) Thus started my run of ten years of riding Christina’s coattails through the Seattle culinary scene, a good run in the end, but man was it a rough start.

The Olive Branch was a challenge to begin with, and Christina was new at running things herself. That’s probably why she trusted me with a set of keys.  But she also trusted me to step up, giving me responsibilities far exceeding my experience.  And I wanted to step up, for her. All these people would come in and rave about the food and coo over my sister and it made me proud. Being there was the first time I really got to see how much people loved Christina’s food, and really just how much people loved Christina, like Jeremy (Faber) and her friends. Jeremy didn’t technically work there, but he was around, a lot, helping out with whatever needed to be done.  Complaining about it, but still doing it.  I didn’t really know Jeremy then, and I guess you could say I didn’t really know Christina that well either, but working at the Olive Branch was sort of the beginning of this change in our relationship, where she wasn’t just my older sister but my friend as well.  Hanging out with her and her friends always made me feel so cool and mature and I thought they were the coolest.  And it was like a social associative property, where just because everyone loved Christina so much I got automatic approval because I was “Christina’s little brother” – so I had to be pretty cool, or at least alright.  Going camping with them, usually for Christina’s birthday but sometimes not, are some of my absolute favorite memories.

The Olive Branch experience was unfortunately short-lived but working in restaurants, our lives remained intertwined.  Whether it be doing caterings together or giving me odd jobs with Foraged and Found, Christina was always looking out for me.
When I moved into the family apartments, just across the hallway from Christina,  we only grew more close, and she often had to hear me vent about my jobs.  I remember during one of these many bouts of discontent with the restaurant industry she had gotten me a trial run at replacing her friend Jodi at Lake Union Mail.  After a few shifts and finding it not for me, I told Christina I didn’t want to do it.  While explaining to me why I should do it and how it was a perfect job for me, she began to cry, frustrated by my inability to grasp an opportunity that she believed would lead me to happiness.  This is the first time I realized how much she loved me.
Living together in the apartments had kind of made us a subfamily unit, and my mom sometimes referred to us as “the kids”, more of a reflection on what restaurant work does to your maturity more than our age I think.  So when she decided to open a restaurant, there was no question if I would work there.  We never even discussed it.  She told me she was opening a restaurant and then we just began talking about it.  This time I got to be the first hire.
From the beginning, Nettletown was a reflection of Christina and her magnetic personality.  It was born out of the efforts of not only herself, but also that of family and friends pitching in to make her dream a reality.  Christina had a friend for every occasion, and I don’t say that in a crass way.  She just had so many damn friends that the odds that she knew someone who knew how to do this or get that were real high.  So from the support and opportunity from matt, the beautiful, intricate mural from maiija, the carpentry from jason, the wiring from jc, the floor from teddy and matt, painting help from Theresa, and the love and support from the rest of her family and friends, all directed and harnessed by Christina, Nettletown was born.
And it was fun working with Christina again.  We made deals so that we wouldn’t have to do the jobs we each hated, gossiped about the other tenants in the strip mall, argued about where things should go, how much salt things needed, if our other employees were insane, ate lots of noodles and drank lots of FRS, and made lots of good food.  Christina would often bring back dim sum and other treats on her frequent trips to Chinatown for the restaurant.  My shumai consumption went up drastically.  It was always just little things she brought back, but it showed that she cared and was thinking of you in her day to day dealings.  A lot of it was crazy Vietnamese desserts from than bros. but still, its the thought that counts.
The best part, though, was that almost everyday a friend or family member would come in.  So many people would wander in and out of our kitchen to say hi it was crazy.  I never knew if they were delivering something or just a friend.  Of course, in true Christina fashion, the delivery people all became friends as well, if they weren’t already, usually staying to chat and picking up some soup before they hit the road.  And although it annoyed me often at the time, Christina would try to spend time with all her friends when they would come in, squeezing next to them on the bench to talk for a minute. Or five.

The most regular visitors though were our family.  We usually have dinner together once a week, but now I was seeing my family two-three times a week each.  Teddy and Katie would grab takeout, Matt and Ami were a given on Friday nights, Liz and Theresa with their kids every Tuesday and sometimes again on Fridays , and Mom was good for at least one real lunch and one drop in soup raid a week. And our nephews loved it.  Donovan would help me wash dishes after eating his special bacon sandwich,  or special noodles , one day coming in extra prepared with goggles to keep the spray out of his face.  And Matty would just sit in your arms or on the counter watching everything happen in the kitchen, never losing interest or fussing, entranced by what was going on around him.  It didn’t hurt if you gave him a rosemary shortbread cookie to munch on too.

But you cant blame him, most people would have been entranced in that kitchen too because sometimes magic was happening.  We would start a lot of mornings with a bunch of random stuff and no daily soup. By 11, we’d have some daily soup that Hala or Davin would be devouring, telling Christina how tasty it was.  Same with the daily salad or anything really not printed on the menu. Christina would ask me for ideas, and sometimes we’d collaborate but mostly she’d just order some stuff that sounded good to her and then figure out what to do with it.  Or she’d take simple things like seaweed or seeds and turn them into addictive snacks that people would crave and keep coming back for.  With Christina, it was never about the technique, it was always about the vision.

To sum up Christina’s life and what she meant to us in words and memories is a futile task though, for every anecdote recalls more, each emotion felt just triggers more.  So I’ll just say Christina was my best friend, I love her so much and I’ll miss her everyday.

Eulogy for Christina, given January 4th at her memorial service


This eulogy was read to a crowd of over 600 people at St.Patrick’s Church on January 4th, 2012. It was written by us, her family and delivered by family friend Dennis Counts.


On the day of Christina’s birth, July 20th, 1977, Theresa and Elizabeth waited anxiously at our paternal grandmother’s house for the call from Dad to let them know the new baby had been born.  When the call came that it was yet another girl they exclaimed, “but we wanted a baby brother!”.

Mom and Dad took that request quite seriously, and over the next nine years the three Choi girls gained three little brothers – Teddy, Christopher, and Matthew. Together the 6 of us always have been and always will be known as the “Choi Kids”.

Christina was number 3 – just about in the middle of the 6 – which would seem a daunting spot, but she never seemed to mind. She was a silly, happy-go-lucky child from the start.  Early on Christina could be found playing with her numerous dolls, singing silly songs, or running around outside with her brothers and the rest of the neighborhood kids.

She could drive her sister’s crazy, but was such a beautiful child  that they would still make her pretend to be the model in their made up TV shows and commercials. She was also famous in our family for having spectacular, lengthy tantrums where she would either cry and hold her breath, or lay on the floor wailing things over and over.  Thankfully, this phase didn’t last long!

In her adolescence, Christina started to show her unique style. Her clothes and accessories were an extension of her personality.  As a student at Seattle Prep, she stood out from the other students by wearing her dad’s army coat, batman converse, vintage hats, and carrying her army canvas bag. Soon after high school came her orange “period” : screaming orange hair, orange shoes, orange clothes – orange whatever she could find. Her best friend Emily had complementary electric blue hair [and accessories] – they were inseparable. Together with their close-knit group of friends, they would hang out all over Seattle – in coffee shops, parks, or concert venues.  Liz and Theresa remember more than once walking into a music show and finding Christina and her friends sitting on the ground, just hanging out.

Inspired by our food focused family, Christina realized she wanted to go to cooking school and entered the Seattle Central Community College culinary program. Most of the family attended her “Chef of the Day” at school when she ran the kitchen as part of her final project. We were so proud of her then, not realizing this was only the beginning of her amazing career.
From Bandoleone to Nettletown, she put her time in at many Seattle restaurants, befriending fellow food obsessed cooks and friends who remained close for the rest of her life.

Her first endeavor into the business world was opening Foraged and Found edibles with Jeremy Faber, selling mushrooms and other wild goods. For a large part of her twenties, she was either covered in mushroom dirt, or cooking, or both.

Next to food, traveling was Christina’s other passion. Europe, the Bahamas, and Thailand were a few of the places she traveled. Traveling for Christina was an opportunity for her to experience local food cultures first hand and meet new people. In 2005, Theresa, JC, Liz, and Teddy met up with Christina in Italy – in every town and city we visited, Christina had an exhausting, but unforgettable, food agenda.  The highlight of all her travels was the 6 months she spent in Vietnam in 2008, visiting her friend Mike and seeing the countryside with her significant other Jason.  She immersed herself in the culture, the food, and volunteered at a few different organizations.

When she finally opened Nettletown in 2010, it felt like her food was so good because of all of her life experiences – because she let herself truly explore those things that made her happy. Her food and restaurant reflected her personality and her soul: adventurous, care-free, cheerful, friendly, modest, unique, optimistic, spiritual, empathetic, compassionate, giving, funny, and inviting.

Ask anyone who knows us, and they will tell you that the Choi kids are inseparable. We’ve had Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas parties together at the apartment for the last 19 years. We yell at each other, we laugh with each other, and sometimes it feels like we breathe for each other. It’s like we make up a perfect shape, a perfect hexagon, that has individual sides but is a whole. The love and wisdom from Mom and Dad fill the space in the middle.

Christina was our bright orange line, standing out from the rest of us by being vibrant and loving and happy. The departure of our dear sweet Christina leaves a break in our family that will never feel normal.  Our only consolation is that the memories that we hold, and that you have shared with us, will give us strength, holding her spirit in our hearts.

Here are some of those memories, in the words of people who loved her:

Christina was a lifelong best friend to our daughter Emily. In Emily’s words:
“The way it felt to have her smile at you, laugh with you, feed you, love you — that was the feeling of being the luckiest person on earth. To think of her is to see beautiful colors, to hear laughter, and to taste delicious foods. She reminded you of all the most wonderful things about being alive in this world.”

Wherever Christina went she turned friends into family. For the Counts family she felt like a part of us, like a sister and a daughter. She brought joy and laughter and delicious food to any occasion, and the best thing that any of us can do with our lives is to follow her example.

From her brother Matt:
I had brought some friends to a party at the apartment and they couldn’t keep my sisters straight.  My friends asked me what each of my sisters’ names was.  I listed them – Theresa, Elizabeth, and Christina – when I said Christina, they asked me if she was the one who was always laughing.  I smiled and said yes.  From then on she was known as my sister who was always laughing.

Her mother JoAn remembers this story from when Christina  was about 10:
When Christina was in 5th grade she would catch the bus at Montlake School to go over to Seward where she had been attending since kindergarten.  One day a parent called to let me know that every morning, a group of boys teased and harassed Christina as she waited for the bus.  I asked Christina about it.  She said she just ignores it because her teacher had told the class that if someone is bothering you to consider the source and not let it get to you.  I thought at the time, what self-confidence and inner strength she had at such a young age.  And it only continued on through the years.

From her friend Noah, who she met in cooking school:
“You’re so quirky. You were such a weirdo. I cherished that about you. So many people seem to lack a real sense of individuality, but not you. There are of course all the wonderful things about you that everyone is going to miss, like your hilarious guffawing laugh that stopped conversation and turned heads.  Or your crazy habit of slamming your hands on the table and getting everyone’s attention only to say something like “I forgot to call my brother” or something else that didn’t merit the amount of drama you put into it. “

From Mike Klaport, longtime friend:
To my dearest dearest Christina, You have been such a brilliant force in my life. You shined yourself, your love, your creativity, in such an open, honest and non-judging way that it made everyone around you stronger. You were able to love the awkwardness in people in a way that could bring them together when otherwise… they would have not. You have inspired me and so many others to maintain our connections to make the extra effort for understanding, love, and community.

– – – –

All these memories and good thoughts are what will fill the spaces in our hearts, as we set out to live without our sweet Christina.  We’d like to think she’s hanging out with gramma and grampa and Dad at a big party, cooking up a storm, foraging for wild foods…smiling and laughing the whole time.

We love you Christina.

The Days After


The Choi family has been gathered at Mom’s house and has been reading all your messages.  Hearing from all of you, sharing your love for Christina, brings us some comfort.

The memorial service for Christina will be held Wednesday, January 4th, 11 am at St.Patricks’s Catholic Church (2702 Broadway Ave E  Seattle, WA 98102).

Donations in her memory may go to Seattle Tilth (, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98103.

Our last day with Christina


Because you all have been following along with us on this journey, we wanted to share with you her last day.

Yesterday in the morning when we arrived we found out that Christina’s  ICP had continued to increase to even more dangerous levels.  The doctors continued to administer medication in an effort to lower it.

After our meeting with the neurosurgeons to discuss Christina’s status, our family was faced with deciding what the next step would be.  One option was to press ahead, using every possible medical intervention to keep her going despite the significant brain damage we were seeing on CT scans.  The scans of her brain showed three quarters of it were blue – blue indicates the areas of stroke.  The damaged areas most likely included her vision, her speech (both receptive and verbal), cognitive understanding, and movement on her right side.  This was a horrible, terrible conversation that no family should ever have to have.

In the end, we knew that we had to think not about our grief but what Christina would have wanted.

You know Christina – she was full of life and was always on the go.  Her lifelong best friend Emily summed it up for us.  She said: “Christina wouldn’t have wanted to be in pain.  She wouldn’t want to be trapped.”

We all knew the answer deep in our hearts, but it took a long and painful time to come to this agreement.  The doctor’s were wonderful, telling us that there was no rush, no timeline.  They just wanted to give us all of the information to help us make the best decision for Christina.

The results from the morning ultrasound by Josh, our favorite tech, helped confirm our decision.  The ultrasound showed new, severe vasospasm in her right middle cerebral artery.  This artery provided blood to the last area of Christina’s brain with healthy tissue.  The vasospasms would result in that area stroking.  An angiogram may have been able to save that last quarter, but to do so would require to position Christina lying down, which would have resulted in fatal ICP levels.  Her ICP continued to rise and the medications to control it were barely working.

We contacted some of her closest friends so they could come and say goodbye.  She laid quietly, surrounded by her tearful friends and family.  We massaged Christina’s hands and legs and recalled our favorite memories of her the whole day.  The staff at the Swedish ICU were wonderfully tolerant and comforting, bringing us trays of water and coffee throughout the day.

Around 7pm, her nurses slowly cut back on all the medical devices, her medicines, and her tubes.  We could see her unobstructed face, and she looked like Christina again.  She was given morphine for pain and her final moments were quick and pain-free.

The amount of crying in the room was unbearable at times as our family held her hand and remembered her beautiful face for the last time.  Some comfort was had in that some of her organs were able to be donated – we love the idea she is giving life and hope to other people even after she is gone.

Christina was the light of our family.  Right now we don’t really know how we are going to survive this, but we know you all will be with us. Thank you thank you for the words of support and love that you continue to send us.

Wednesday, December 28


This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, us.

Christina’s right side showed signs of expanding stroke area last night.  Today the doctors showed us her profusion scan which shows her left brain all blue (no blood flow, stroke) and the posterior portion of her right brain all blue.  Ultrasounds today show more vasospasm in the anterior right brain.  Her ICP has been rising all day and nothing much more can be done to lower it.


Tuesday December 27th


I was hoping to be echoing the posts from yesterday but unfortunately today is once again a downhill on this roller coaster.

Christina’s intracranial pressure increased last night after everyone left. She has a sensor that is in her ventricle which can measure pressure. It seemed to suddenly increase, so the surgeon ordered a CT last night. The CT showed a new area of swelling and a grey area that looks like an evolving stroke in the posterior (rear) part of her left brain. They had opened the PCA artery supplying this area during her angioplasty last week but this artery is supplied by the basilar artery. The ultrasound this morning showed that there is vasospasm in her basilary artery which is probably why this area is now showing problems. The neurosurgeons can’t answer why this is still happening.  This area of her brain controls vision, so she now will likely have the right side of her vision affected.

If the intracranial pressure increases too high for too long, her brain will physically herniate out of the bony structures holding it in which would eventually not be compatible with life.

To keep her intracranial pressure as low as possible, she is back on propofol sedation at much much higher levels than she has been on in the past. This keeps her calm. They are now giving her mannitol, a medicine to reduce the new swelling in her brain. They are trying to keep her sodium level high in her blood which also helps brain swelling. Despite all this, her pressure jumped again this morning. It seems to be under better control now. Because of this erratic pressure, she will not be getting her tracheotomy as had been planned this afternoon.

Also because the pressures are high, they can not consider doing another angioplasty of the basilar artery. The only reason they would do this is to ensure the right side of her brain does not loose blood flow, because the basilar artery also supplies blood to her right side of her brain. So instead, we just have to have another night of praying and hoping that the spasm doesn’t worsen and her right brain stays stroke free.

She will stay on the high sedation at least until tomorrow. We are spending today holding her hand and telling her she can get through this new challenge.