Like most soon-to-be mamas in their final term of pregnancy, Valerie Watts was beyond eager to meet her son, Noah.
After carrying this precious baby boy beneath her heart for nine months, his grand entrance was much-anticipated.
But in the final days of her full-term pregnancy, Valerie had begun feeling less fetal movement. She and her fiance, Jimi Hamblin, rushed to the hospital where doctors confirmed that there was no heartbeat. They believe the umbilical cord became compressed and deprived the stillborn baby of oxygen.
Noah was delivered by C-section on July 22, 2013.
Not a day goes by that Valerie doesn’t long for her son. It took a lot of courage, but just nine months after losing him, Valerie held a garage sale to part with most of Noah’s items—clothing, toys and things she’d bought for his nursery.
The one thing she had not planned on selling was Noah’s crib. Something in her just couldn’t get rid of the one thing that reminded her most of the son she’d lost.
So when an elderly gentleman named Gerald Kampala came by her garage sale and asked to buy the crib, Valerie hesitated. The 75-year-old explained that he was a craftsman who makes benches from secondhand headboards and footboards.
With a little bit more persuasion, Gerald had talked Valerie into selling Noah’s crib. She collected only $2 for it, and said something about knowing he’d be creating something “nice” with it brought her a sense of “peace.”
In the meantime, having noticed all of the baby items for sale, Gerald’s wife, Lorene, asked Valerie how old her son was.
The three talked a while longer as Valerie shared her story with the older couple, before they headed on their way.
The Kumpulas, who have FIFTEEN children of their own, and dozens of grandchildren, knew after leaving Valerie’s garage sale that the crib had to be returned to her. But not in the form of a crib.
After experiencing her same heartbreak many years ago when they held their first granddaughter—who was also a stillborn—the Kumpulas were moved to give Valerie something special.
To her surprise, the couple returned to Valerie’s home just a week later. They’d transformed the unassembled pieces of Noah’s white crib into a beautiful bench, especially for the Minnesota mom.
“An unused crib is a sad reminder,” Gerald said. “A bench is more of a memorial. It’s part of that sad happening, yet it’s not a reminder like a crib would be, an empty crib.”
Valerie started crying instantly. To say she was grateful for the couple’s gesture is an understatement.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy that it’s not just sitting somewhere unused,” Valerie said. “Now I can sit in it, hold his bear, think about him if I need to.”
Gerald’s beautiful gesture reminded Valerie that there ARE good people in the world.
She says the bench has helped her in grieving the loss of Noah. It sits in a corner near a bookshelf with the baby’s photos and footprints, in honor of the son she can’t wait to meet again someday.