Losing a child at birth is a difficult loss on many levels, especially when it leaves a prepared nursery empty as a reminder -- but one grieving Cokato mother got an emotional surprise when her son's crib was re-purposed.
For most of Valarie Watts' pregnancy, her son, Noah, was developing just fine. That all changed in the final few days.
"All week, I knew," Watts reflected. "He wasn't moving as much. I was very nervous."
His umbilical cord had become pinched in the womb, and Noah was stillborn last July. Even so, she wasn't ready to part with the crib she had prepared for him although keeping it was a reminder of the loss.
"She was kind of hesitant," Gerald Kumpula recalled. "I knew that maybe she didn't want to sell it, but yet, she did."
PHOTOS: Crib turned into memorial benchA few miles away, Kumpula has a workshop in his garage on the outskirts of Cokato. Lately, one of the things he's been doing is converting headboards and footboards into benches. When he spotted the crib at the Watts family garage sale in April, he inquired about it even though it wasn't technically part of the sale.
"When he asked me if I was selling that, that he made benches, I hesitated," Watts admitted.
At the time, Kumpula had no idea how the crib had ended up there.
"His wife was there looking through my garage sale -- at some of the baby clothes -- and asked how old my son was since I don't use the crib anymore, and I told her that he had passed in July," Watts explained.
On the way back home, the Kumpulas decided that the crib they had picked up was bound to go back. So, a week later -- and as a total surprise to Watts -- he returned with the converted crib and gave it to her.
"I started crying instantly," Watts said.
Now, the bench has come to symbolize how a random act of kindness can turn a painfully unused crib into something comforting.
"It's amazing, and there's good people out there," Watts said. "There's proof."
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