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Walk to Remember: In memory of Joshua

Dana Blade of Bemidji discusses the tiny baby bracelets she is crafting for families grieving the death of a child. Dana's 10-week-old son, Joshua David Horn, died in June from sudden infant death syndrome. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

"I've actually found a lot of strength through this," said Dana Blade, holding one of the tiny bracelets she has crafted in recent weeks. The bracelets are each bound for a family grieving the death of a child.

The families' loss is something Dana understands: Her youngest son, 10-week-old Joshua David Horn, died June 24 from sudden infant death syndrome.

"Nothing has helped me more than being able to reach out to people," said Dana, 31. "I can't say it's brought me comfort - it hasn't - but if I wasn't able to reach out to people, my depression level would be so much deeper than it is."

Following Joshua's death, Dana received in the mail a box, the contents of which included a tiny baby bracelet.

It gave her an idea. She never before had made beaded jewelry, but found herself wanting to do something for others grieving their children.

"I just want them to have something, something for them to know they're not alone," Dana said.

So one day a few weeks ago, she made a bracelet and liked the results. She soon began making pink, blue and neutral bracelets for families living with immeasurable loss. She also includes a card, printed courtesy of Arrow Printing, that tells recipients they are not alone.

"I, too, have been where you are," the card reads. "On June 24th, 2009, I lost my sweet Joshua to SIDS. These small lives have no less purpose than our own. They are meant to learn from, share with and seek truth through."

Joshua, the son of Dana and Craig Horn, had a typical morning that day. He woke up to eat at 1:30 a.m. Dana brought him out of his crib, brought the infant into his parents' bed and handed him to Craig. She fell asleep rubbing Joshua's head.

Joshua woke up again at 6 a.m. Dana fed him, cuddled with him and happily listened as he cooed. She placed him on his back next to his father as they both slept. Dana went to get ready for work.

Dana returned to say good-bye to the boys. Craig sat up and wished her well. But as they both turned to Joshua, Dana knew something was wrong. His legs looked different.

"(Craig) became my hero at that moment," Dana recalled.

Craig told Dana to call 911 as he lifted Joshua onto a table to begin CPR. She remembers placing a finger in his mouth to ensure his tongue was not blocking his air passage. Joshua was still warm.

Later, after Dana had called 911, she left the house to get help. She remembers running back to the house, praying that the CPR worked, that Joshua would be fine.

Even later, while following the ambulance to the hospital, Dana seeing the ambulance whip along with its lights and sirens flashing, she believed then rescue personnel had managed to revive Joshua, that he was OK. He wasn't.

"We called him our 'little Joshua tree;' he was our source of strength, the tie that bound us," Dana said.

The Joshua tree is shadowed on the card given to bracelet recipients.

Also imprinted on the card is Dana's e-mail address, which has helped her connect with others in similar circumstances.

There also is a virtual memorial to Joshua on the Internet that has become an online support group, Dana said. Through the Web site, she has been able to connect with grieving mothers and connect mothers to one another going through similar circumstances.

"We all understand what this feels like, but we're all in different situations, different circumstances, different plights," she said.

As they heal more, Dana said she and Craig also would like to create a nonprofit organization, to be called Joshua's Tree, to help fund portions of funerals or headstones for families grieving for their children. The organization also would help cover the costs of the bracelets, which she and Craig have funded themselves.

She plans to distribute bracelets during the Walk to Remember Saturday at North Country Regional Hospital. The second annual Walk to Remember is done in remembrance of all babies lost to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, newborn death and SIDS.

She asks only that those who take the bracelets have suffered the loss of a child.

"Every single one of these bracelets has a name on it," she said. "Each and every one of them means a lot to me."

All of them have a piece of Joshua in them.

Joshua was a fighter from the day he was born, Dana said. Born one month early, at 4.5 pounds, medical personnel tried three times to attach oxygen to him. But each time, Joshua pulled it out. And the nurses finally kept it out. He was released from the hospital, along with his mother, at five days old.

Five days before he died, Joshua offered his first smile.

"I just miss him so much," Dana said. "I can still feel his cheek on my face."

Dana and Craig were both comforted to finally learn the results of Joshua's autopsy, which stated that he had died from SIDS. His heart had just stopped.

Dana remembers the weeks that followed his death, before a cause was determined. Wondering what she could have done differently, whether he was ill and she hadn't known it, whether she didn't burp him enough after he ate.

"There is so much guilt," she said, "so much guilt."

Joshua's headstone is en route from China. The family - along with Joshua's brothers, Caleb, 10, Jakob, 6, and Thoren, 5 - will have another memorial at his grave to say good-bye.

"There are no words for it," she said. "Just feelings that words can't touch."

If you go:

The second annual Walk to Remember, a remembrance walk in honor of all babies lost to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, newborn death and SIDS, will be Saturday at North Country Regional Hospital.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. with the walk beginning, rain or shine, at 10 a.m. A memorial service will follow the walk.