One day Siena Hayden Ly was a Franklin Elementary School student who loved arts and crafts and storytelling. The next day she was in the hospital, clinging to life.

“She was a healthy child,” said her mother, Hue Ma. “That’s part of the shock of everything. She was completely healthy.”

It’s been about three months since Siena went into septic shock, and her family members — Ma, her father Anthony Ly, and her twin 2-year-old sisters — are trying to find peace as they come to terms with her passing.

“You live your life for your kid, and when your kid’s taken away you lose your purpose and your desire to live,” her mother said. “We’re devastated that she won’t be able to experience the things we had planned for her. We’re sad that her younger sisters won’t get a chance to become her best friend.”

The Franklin community, too, has been reeling from Siena’s unexpected death. During an assembly last month the school dedicated its outdoor art area to the 7-year-old, posting a plaque in her memory on a wall near the table where students work on crafts projects.

Siena always looked forward to Franklin’s art parties, which are held at lunchtime each Wednesday.

“We think Siena would be very happy to see a part of her school dedicated to her,” her mother said. “We’ve always been proud of Siena, but we think that this would make Siena proud of herself. We know that Siena is in heaven. We don’t know if she can see anything that happens in this world, but we asked God for her to see the tribute. We like to believe that she did and that belief makes us smile, which doesn’t happen much since she left us.”

Siena’s family has fond memories of her — of her stories and jokes, her creative imagination and her sweet personality. They recall her compassion and empathy, her loyalty to friends and her “heart of gold.”

Siena was a skilled runner — she was one of the fastest kids in her class — and she enjoyed listening to stories and thinking up tales of her own. She would sometimes pretend she was a female Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, her mother said.

Art projects were Siena’s specialty. When she was just 3 years old, she made a model bicycle out of cardboard.

By the time she was 6 she said she wanted to be a contestant on “The Voice,” even writing a letter to Adam Levine about her dream. When Ma told her that making it as a singer is difficult, Siena replied that she would support herself as a fashion designer with an online store.

“She started drawing outfits and priced them and asked her father to buy them from her,” Ma said.

Siena’s parents were often awed by their daughter’s quick wit. This past March, right around the time of the LA Marathon, Ma was picking up Siena from a birthday party and told another child’s mother that running a previous edition of the marathon was one of her proudest achievements.

“Siena overheard and quickly said, ‘No, Mama, having us three girls is your biggest accomplishment,'” Ma recalled. “And she is absolutely right. That was just her timing. She was wise beyond her years.”

Siena’s life was not without challenges. Around Thanksgiving of last year, she began having panic attacks. Her separation anxiety worsened. She started having trouble in school.

“We would pick her up and she’d be swollen in the eyes from crying so much,” Ma said.

Siena’s family tweaked its routines in attempts to help her. Her parents made sure to spend more time with her and talked her through her struggles. This phase, they hoped, would pass.

On a particularly difficult day at school for Siena, her parents received a call from Franklin to retrieve their daughter.

“Instead of us comforting her, she gave us a hug and just told us how much she appreciated us and what great parents we were,” Ma said. “She understood the sacrifices we had made to make things better for her. She was really appreciative of what we had done. What little child does this? It’s an example of how great of a little girl she really was.”

When Siena contracted sepsis, members of the Franklin community — already coping with the loss of student Jeffrey Hughes, who died of a rare form of cancer late last year — came together to support her and her family. They called, wrote cards and sent emails. They left groceries at the family’s doorstep and offered to run errands. They also donated money to help the family pay for medical and funeral costs.

“The school and the community have been so wonderful to us,” Ma said. “They showed us a tremendous amount of compassion. They’ve humbled us.”

Ma said she and her husband stayed with family in Porter Ranch for the month after Siena passed — the thought of going home without her was too painful. They even considered selling their house and moving away from Santa Monica for good.

“Then we thought about the future of her sisters, and we couldn’t do it,” Ma said. “(Our neighbors and community members) loved Siena so much, and they have shown us so much compassion and support that we thought, ‘Well, when her sisters grow up, who better to take care of them than the people who loved Siena?’ They will take better care of her than some new community. So for that, we came home. Our goal is to have her sisters go to Franklin so that they can be proud of their older sister. The community has made us want to try.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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