MISSOULA – MTN News brought you a story last Spring about a Seeley Lake couple whose baby girl died just hours before she was to be born.
When Kendra and Jurian Coombs lost their daughter Huntley, they decided to channel their grief into giving through a Go Fund Me campaign.
They raised more than $3,000 o buy a Cuddle Cot for Saint Patrick Hospital in Missoula, a cooling device that lets families spend a little more time with their baby after they’ve passed.
Kendra and Jurian recently presented the check to the hospital in Huntley’s name, and are on track to donate another Cuddle Cot to Community Medical Center.
The Coombs’ loss of Huntley is a loss many couples share in their journey to become parents. After all, the death of a child is considered one of the most difficult experiences someone will ever have.
But there is a support group in Missoula where moms and dads can share their sadness but also celebrate those babies — Gone Too Soon Missoula.
They may have been here for months or mere minutes, but they were here and they were loved — and the families of babies who died too soon want us to know that it’s okay to talk about it.
Tyler’s family knew he would not live long once he was born and they made every moment count.
“When he was born August 3rd, we had 18 minutes with him before he passed, and it was a really amazing 18 minutes,” recalled Tyler’s mom Leanna Ross. “A really beautiful time, a time when I think that we felt a presence — God’s presence in a way that we had never experienced before.”
“He opened his eyes and looked at me and we were able to share that moment. He grabbed on to my husband’s finger and he passed just very, very peacefully,” Ross added.
Talking about the death of a child is difficult, awkward, maybe even taboo, but some moms recently gathered to share in what they often describe as the complicated collision of joy and pain.
“I had never even, I mean, it’s the 21st century, people don’t lose their babies now. I just had never even heard that there were stillbirths or anything like that,” Heather Hunt said of her daughter Emma. “It was just — it just didn’t register in my mind. And I think that misconception for me kind of sent me into kind of this desperate isolation where I just wasn’t able to express what I was feeling because there was so much shame in it as well.”
“I should have known there was something wrong with my baby, I should have been able to save her some way, somehow and so for me, I just bottled it all up and was unable to express how I was feeling,” Hunt added.
Gone too Soon Missoula was formed around eight years ago and serves as a support group for parents to talk about the babies they’ve lost with those who truly understand that profound loss.
“I needed to be around people who also knew what it was like to miss your children and not be able to talk about them as much as you’d like,” said Elizabeth Wehling said of her daughter Seraca. “It’s just nice to, even if it’s just one night a month, to be able to talk about your little one.”
“As you work through each of those steps, there’s always, you know, a birthday or a holiday or a different milestone that you come upon and always something else you’re processing or working through,” stated Elizabeth Gevock, mother of Hadassah.
“People don’t just even know how to start and maybe don’t really know what to expect as far as the group goes,” Hunt said. “So, I think, I know for myself the first time I went I was like: “What am I getting myself into?” but it ended up being something that was just really beautiful.”
There is joy in their conversations about their children. Elizabeth brings her daughter’s tiny NICU hat with her when she travels.
Rozlynn was only here a month before she passed away but her mom honors her daughter by performing random acts of kindness in her name.
“Something that was gifted to me was little kindness cards that are in memory of Rozlynn and so that I can do random acts of kindness and pass out these cards,” Kassandra Buss said. “The idea is that people will pay it forward and then her legacy will be one of love just spreading throughout the world.”
Tyler’s family also practices random acts of kindness. They call it living forward because even after such a loss, life goes on and no one is alone.
“We really tried to focus on Tyler’s life more than is death and we tried to focus on what meaning his life, you know, could bring to the world,” Ross told MTN News.
“I think it’s a gift anytime somebody brings her up to me or says the name Rozlynn to me and we get to talk about her. It’s just a wonderful gift in my day and I might get teary-eyed,” Buss said. “And people may worry that they made me sad but it’s wonderful to know that somebody else is thinking of her and that she’s still living on in the world.”
You can learn more about the group by going to the Gone Too Soon Missoula Facebook page. And if you come upon a kindness card, don’t forget to pay it forward in honor of those little ones we’ve lost.