The singer-songwriter and TikTok star lost her grandmother, Shirley Liira, to COVID in April 2020
No one knew what was wrong with Emilee Moore's grandmother.
“She was not feeling well on the day that we found out that she had COVID-19,” remembers Moore, 29, during an interview with PEOPLE. “That was all.”
And in that moment, Moore and her family joined countless others who found themselves dropping their loved ones off at an emergency room door during the beginnings of the pandemic, only to never see them ever again.
“None of us really understood what COVID-19 was at that time,” says the L.A.-based singer/songwriter and TikTok star about her grandmother spending two weeks in the hospital battling the mysterious ailment. “It was so early into the pandemic. I think we had only been grappling with it for a few weeks. No one even really believed it. It couldn’t be real.”
But it was — Shirley Liira died on April 6, 2020, at the age of 79.
“The hardest thing about this for me was that I didn't get to say goodbye,” Moore says quietly. “It just happened so fast. There was no way of talking to her. I wish she really, really knew that I loved her. I wish I could have said that one last time and look in her eyes and just tell her that.”
Moore draws in a deep breath.
“I know she knows that, but it's hard to grapple with that when you didn't get to have that last moment together. That's been really hard for me.”
And while Liira will now forever be known as one of the first people in North America to lose her life to COVID-19, Moore says that there are so many more things that this woman should be ultimately remembered for. It’s these memories of her grandmother that have gone and sheltered Moore from some of the pain of the last few years.
“She was an incredible woman,” Moore remembers of her late grandmother. “She had a very bubbly personality and she loved to talk to everyone. She also made the best fudge and made even better chicken noodle soup! She was very much a character and so, it was a great loss to lose her.”
Moore’s grandmother also served as the ultimate supporter of her granddaughter’s music career. In fact, it was she who inspired Moore to learn how to play the piano as a child.
“It's very special to be able to make a song like this for her,” says Moore of “Up in the Sky,” a song she wrote back in 2021, creating lyrics to the song "Married Life" from the Disney-Pixar movie Up. “I think writing this song and seeing everything that's come along with it has been my way of grappling with the fact that I wasn’t able to say goodbye. It’s allowed me to tell the world that I love her. I hope she hears me.”
Certainly, the world heard Moore last year, as “Up in the Sky” quickly went viral, accumulating 2.5 million views and more than 20 million additional views through the use of the sound by other creators.
“I do believe that she's in heaven, and I do believe that there is a heaven somewhere out there,” reflects Moore. “Even for people who don't necessarily believe in that, I think they still do believe that somewhere in the universe, that person exists. That feeling can be universal and resonate with people no matter what you believe.”
Now, it’s the music video that is making the biggest impression, as it features Moore performing in an actual hot air balloon in Temecula, California, in September 2022. The touching music video also projects the pictures of others who ultimately lost their lives to COVID-19.
“The reaction to the song and this video speaks to the beauty of being human,” Moore concludes. “This is the beauty of music. What a joy it is to create something that brings people together and makes people feel less alone. I feel honored to be able to even be a part of this.”
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