Dan and Talia Sandys have two children. One on earth, another in heaven.
The Sandys' daughter, Gracie, was born with a chromosomal abnormality called Trisomy 18. Talia gave birth to her on June 24, 2016, knowing she would soon die.
"When they found out it was a genetic issue, then she was going to be incompatible with life, as they [the doctors] termed it," Talia said.
"Incompatible with life" would mean birthdays wouldn't be measured in years, but days. Gracie had five.
"We celebrated every night at 8:53 [p.m.], because that's when she was born," said Talia, "We took pictures and kind of celebrated, because you have to celebrate everything when you're in the hospital. Every little thing that you take for granted those first few days in the hospital was all we had. So you cherish everything."
During that time, a nurse caring for Gracie and her family came up with an idea.
"It just got the wheels turning [about] what I could do for her and try to help in any way, to comfort [them] in any way," said Ferechil Specht, one of the Sandys' nurses at Fairview Range in Hibbing.
Specht bought a teddy bear. During one of her night shifts, she cut it open and put Poly-Fil beads inside. On the baby scale next to her, Specht weighed the bear. She continued the process until the bear reached the weight she wanted: four pounds, 11 ounces. Gracie's weight.
"Exactly what Gracie was," said Talia, while holding the bear, named "Gracie Bear," in their Side Lake home, "It's so bittersweet, having something weigh exactly what your daughter did, because you see the stats, you know she was four [pounds], eleven [ounces], but to actually be able to hold something, and a couple months later, be able to go back and hold it again, is just like I said. It's bittersweet. It's so nice to have something like that and you look back and she was just so small and so sweet."
Specht said she got the idea from a similar program in the Twin Cities.
"Nothing could ever take away the loss of a child at all, but I thought just to feel that [the weight] in your arms, and just to bring some comfort to her [Talia] somehow," Specht said, "So she could imagine her [Gracie]. Close her eyes and imagine her daughter."
Specht's idea turned into a program, named after Gracie.
"She [Specht] had kind of approached us, saying she wanted to make an actual program and she wanted to name it after Gracie," said Talia.
Specht has since left Fairview Range, but the program she started, Gracie's Bears, now has about 40 bears, all weighted, and in storage at Fairview, waiting for families who hope to never need them.
The Sandys are expecting their third child: a girl.
"[It's] been extremely emotional to be honest," Talia said.
As they expand their family, memories of Gracie are by their side, and they appreciate every ounce.
"It brings you back to just how tiny she was, how small and so sweet."
Fairview Range says, for now, they're not making any more bears, because they have so many in stock.
They also say they currently have enough donations for the Gracie's Bears program. If you'd like to help in other ways, you can contact their Volunteer Services Coordinator at 218-362-6112.