TRAVERSE CITY — Two infant girls' small headstones at Oakwood Cemetery brought together their families in more ways than they could ever imagine.
“This whole story is absolutely bizarre when you look at how we met through a cemetery and now we live a quarter-mile from each other,” said Dru O’Connor, of Traverse City. “We’re just together all the time. It’s weird. It’s a very strange connection, but it was meant to be because our girls brought us together, no doubt about it.”
The story began in 2001, when two families separately grieved over their stillborn daughters. The latest chapter opens on Saturday with a 5K race/walk event called "Lauren & Theresa's Run" that honors the baby girls and all families who have suffered losses.
Proceeds will benefit Munson Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“We really want to help save babies' lives and that's what they do every day,” said Diane Frechette.
Frechette said she and her husband, Darren, learned 33 weeks into her pregnancy that their baby had trisomy 18, a genetic defect, and wasn’t going to make it. She carried the baby for three weeks longer before going into labor.
“Just before I delivered, there was no heartbeat,” she said.
She and Darren buried baby Theresa at Oakwood Cemetery, which had created a special section for infants. They noticed another infant's grave and wondered about the family.
That fall, the Frechettes took part in a Munson-sponsored memorial walk, where Diane introduced herself to Dru O’Connor, the mother of infant Lauren, who died three weeks after Theresa.
“A year later we had boys three weeks apart. And 18 months later, we had boys three weeks apart again,” said Frechette, who also has a daughter. “Our paths kept crossing and then our boys were in (a kindergarten program) together. That’s when our friendship started.”