A Fort Polk family is embracing the spirit of giving this holiday season in a somber and emotional way — by offering the gift of a headstone to a grieving family in honor of the loss of their infant son earlier this year.
Candi Brasher and her husband, Sgt. Michael Brasher with the 1st 509th Charlie company, have endured a difficult year.
On Dec. 27, 2018, their family grew by two tiny newborn feet with the birth of their second child, Dakota Lane. Dakota passed away suddenly just 10 days later when he experienced complications from a virus.
Candi Brasher said the experience was traumatizing for her family.
"We were out of town visiting family and getting ready to head home. Dakota had been a little cranky that day and not wanting to eat much, but we had no other idea anything was wrong. Then he began struggling to breath, and we new something was seriously wrong. We rushed him to the hospital," Brasher recounted.
At the emergency room, doctors and nurses worked constantly to save their son, but could not.
For much of this year, the Brasher family has struggled to find their way through their grief. One thing they said they clung to was they were able to lay their son to rest with a funeral and headstone they felt their baby deserved. It was something Candi Brasher said she realized quickly could have been yet another point of heartache.
"On top of losing our baby, we had to face the reality of paying for a funeral and then a headstone. Thankfully, we had life insurance, but I realized that not a lot of families do. It motivated us to want to alleviate that additional stress from other families going through such a time. At a moment like that in your life, the last thing you want to think is that you can't give your baby a headstone," Brasher said.
While the first family to be the recipient of a headstone in Dakota Brasher's memory has already been secretly selected, Brasher said her family hopes to continue their mission each year in honor of their son's birthday.
"I don't think this will necessarily heal our hearts; I don't think anything will, but this will definitely make us feel like his life mattered. We cannot give him a birthday present and see the joy on his face when he gets it, so we want to give a gift to a family and see the joy in their faces when they can finally give their baby the final gift they can," Brasher said.
The family is accepting donations from others who would like to contribute to their mission. Donations can be made through a GOFUNDME account in Dakota Lane's memorial.