Young mom Valarie Watts, of Cokato, Minnesota, lived through every parent’s most feared tragedy. With just a few days to go before her due date, Valarie learned that she was carrying a stillborn baby.
“All week, I knew,” Watts reflected, speaking to KMSP. “He wasn’t moving as much. I was very nervous.” Despite developing beautifully for almost 9 months, baby Noah’s umbilical cord became compressed and he was deprived of oxygen. Valarie lost her baby; she was just 27 years old at the time.
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Unbearable grief ensued, but a difficult decision remained in its wake: what to do with Noah’s nursery. The room had been so carefully prepared but was now such a devastating reminder of Valarie’s loss. Valarie eventually decided to hold a yard sale, but never expected the healing gift that would come of it.
Local furniture craftsman Gerald Kumpula attended Valarie’s yard sale with his wife. Gerald’s post-retirement repurposing projects had included building a quad-cycle from PVC piping, and turning headboards, footboards, and old wooden furniture into beautiful benches. He spied Noah’s crib and earmarked the wooden item for his latest venture.
“She was kind of hesitant,” Gerald recalled. “I knew that maybe she didn’t want to sell it, but yet, she did.”
So sad. Yet, so heartwarming. Baby Noah was delivered stillborn. His death devastating to his mom. It was hard…
Today revealed that Valarie had not intended to part with Noah’s crib, but took a liking to Gerald and eventually sold it for just $2. “I was a little bit at peace with it,” Valarie recalled, explaining her decision, “because he’d be making something nice.”
Gerald registered Valarie’s reticence but had no idea how the crib had ended up on her lawn; he assumed her little boy was all grown up. His wife, Lorene, however, had enquired. “His wife was there looking through my garage sale,” Valarie shared. “[She] asked how old my son was, since I don’t use the crib anymore, and I told her that he had passed in July.”
The Kumpulas chatted on their way home from Valarie’s sale, and the revelation touched Gerald deeply. Learning that the young woman had lost her baby, Gerald decided that there was only one thing to be done. The crib that he had purchased would have to be given back. Transformed.
One week later, Gerald returned to Valarie’s home to return the crib, lovingly repurposed into a beautiful memorial bench dedicated to the memory of Noah. Valarie was overwhelmed. “I started crying instantly,” she said.
According to Today, The Kumpulas’ decision was not only a gesture of love, but a gesture of empathy; their first granddaughter was also stillborn, and Valarie’s heartbreak was a pain they deeply understood.
“An unused crib is a sad reminder,” Gerald said. “A bench is more of a memorial.”
Noah’s bench now sits beside a bookcase holding photos of Noah, impressions of his handprints and footprints, and his ashes. “I’m overwhelmed with joy that it’s not just sitting somewhere unused,” a grateful Valarie shared. “Now I can sit in it, hold his bear, think about him if I need to.”
“There’s good people out there,” she added. “There’s proof.”