When Valarie Watts delivered her stillborn son in July, she was heartbroken. Still grieving, she decided to part with most of the items she’d bought in anticipation of bringing Noah home.
However, she was unwilling to let go of the white crib, and decided to exclude it from the garage sale she held last month. However, when retiree Gerald Kumpula saw it, he asked to buy it.
28-year-old Watts hesitated, but finally relented when she heard that 75-year-old Gerald was a craftsman who made benches from secondhand footboards and headboards.
“I was a little bit at peace with it because he’d be making something nice,” Watts said. She parted with it for $2.
Watts had a conversation with Lorene, Gerald’s wife, and she shared her heartbreaking story after Lorene saw the newborn clothes at the sale and asked Watts how old her son was.
On the way home, Lorene shared Watts’ story with Gerald. The Kumpulas, who have 15 kids and dozens of grandchildren, knew that the crib belonged with Watts. A week later, the couple delivered a bench to Watts made from the crib.
Speaking to TODAY.com, Watts said: “It’s beautiful. I thought, ‘There’s still kind people out there.’”
She placed the bench in her living room, where she can remember Noah.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy that it’s not just sitting somewhere unused,” she said. “Now I can sit in it, hold his bear, think about him if I need to.”
Watts had felt less fetal movement in the final days of her full-term pregnancy, and Noah was delivered on July 22 via cesarean section, just hours Watts and fiancé Jimi Hamblin learned that there was no heartbeat. According to doctors, the umbilical cord became compressed, depriving Noah of oxygen.
The Kumpulas, whose first granddaughter was stillborn, understood Watts’ pain better than most.
“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.”
Watts offered to pay him, but Gerald refused.
“It’s just nice to be able to do something for someone. It’s nice to help people,” he said.
Watts has a 7-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, and will be marrying Hamblin this fall. She stated that the bench – which sits near a corner bookcase that holds Noah’s photos, his handprints, footprints, and ashes – is helping her cope with grief.
“In a way, when I’m sitting in it, I feel comforted by his presence, even though he’s not here,” Watts, a babysitter, said. “It’s like a peaceful, it’s-OK type feeling. When I feel down, I can sit on the bench and I feel OK, everything’s going to be OK.”