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Generosity Emerges from Grief
June 5, 2017
Haase family found a life-affirming way to cope with tragedy
On Feb. 15, 2013, Melissa and Aaron Haase got exciting news: They were expecting twins. The Stillwater, Minnesota, couple and their three-year-old son, Jackson, revealed the babies’ genders to friends and family — a boy and a girl. It was a joyous occasion.
Thirty-three weeks into her pregnancy, however, Melissa was put on bedrest. “I was having pre-term contractions,” she recalls. “My body found it hard to tolerate the summer heat.”
To help her pass the time, a friend brought her pink and blue yarn, so Melissa started knitting hats for the babies.
Just before 2 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2013, babies Audrey and Nicholas came into the world via C-section. In a heartbreaking chain of events, the couple went home with just baby Audrey in tow. Nicholas didn’t survive.
An emotional rollercoaster ride
Melissa found herself on an emotional rollercoaster ride. “I was caring for one baby and mourning the loss of another; buying diapers and picking out an urn at the same time,” she recalls.
“We’re grateful to be members of Thrivent Financial,” she adds. “The week of Nicholas’ memorial service, we received a $5,000 grant from Thrivent called the Newborn Death Benefit, thanks to our friend and Thrivent representative, Dana Erickson. That helped us pay for Nicholas’ memorial service and for some medical expenses.”
On one of her last days of maternity leave, while Melissa was holding Audrey, she realized she needed to do something. “I wanted to find a way to keep Nicholas’ legacy alive and create something wonderful from something so horrible,” she says.
An avid knitter, Melissa created Knitting for Nicholas, which she helped kick-start with a Thrivent Action Team event on the first anniversary of Nicholas’ memorial service. The group – which includes people from across the U.S. and several countries around the world – creates and donates hats, toys, mittens and other baby items to local hospitals and Halos of the St. Croix Valley, a Minnesota/Wisconsin nonprofit that provides emotional and financial support for families grieving child loss. “I even received a large box of hats, blankets and toys from a high school friend, which were knit by a community of Jewish women who are Holocaust survivors,” Melissa says.
She didn’t stop there, however. Melissa led another Thrivent Action Team that hosted a barbeque to raise money for Halos of the St. Croix Valley’s annual 5K walk/run. “In 2014, we set a fundraising goal of $500,” she says. “We met that goal in the first 24 hours, and wound up raising more than $4,500. We also got into a friendly competition with another team and tied for first place, raising $9,000 together.”
In 2015 and 2016, Melissa led two more Thrivent Action Teams that benefitted Halos through its annual 5K, raising $4,020 and $4,468 respectively. Funds raised by one of the Thrivent Action Teams were used to purchase a Cuddle Cot for the Hudson (Wis.) Hospital. (Cuddle Cots are cooling systems inside bassinets that preserve infants lost at birth so parents can spend more time with them in their rooms.)
Generosity is often contagious. For example, Melissa’s mother-in-law, who’s also a Thrivent member, led a Thrivent Action Team that created “angel gowns” – infant burial gowns made out of wedding dresses, which they donated to Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota in St. Paul.
The Haases find many special days during the year to honor Nicholas, including International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Pregnancy and Infant loss Remembrance Day on October 15. “We’ve made Nicholas a part of our family, along with Jackson and Audrey,” she says. “We have an angel watching over us.”
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