Salena and Anthony Cook with Junior

Salena and Anthony Cook with stillborn grandson, Junior.

Leighla Rose is one of the joys of my life. This beautiful, 2½-year-old is sweet and smart and sensitive and attacks life with boundless joy.

Yes, she’s my granddaughter, but it’s all true.

Anthony Cook is executive editor of Consolidated Publishing. Reach him at

For now, she’s my youngest grandchild, but she wasn’t supposed to be. A little over a year ago, we were expecting a little brother for Leighla.

It was not to be.

Darian Jr. (named after his dad, my oldest son) was diagnosed early on with trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome. The disease is caused by an extra chromosome 18 that disrupts a baby’s normal pattern of development in the womb and is usually life-threatening. Most babies don’t make it full term. Those who do usually have a life expectancy of about a year.

According to a website dedicated to the disease, “a Trisomy 18 error occurs in about 1 out of every 2,500 pregnancies in the United States ...”

This extremely rare disease just happened to find our Jr.

Because of the likelihood of Jr. being stillborn, some might wonder whether abortion would have made more sense than continuing the pregnancy. Abortion was never an option for us. We don’t believe in it. Besides, we didn’t know whether God might intervene and give us a healthy baby. So we prayed and held out hope.

For a long time, it seemed like a possibility. Jr.’s growth was expectedly slow, but he was active in the womb. Mommy felt him moving and kicking often. He was a fighter.

But the doctors were right. God was right. Jr. didn’t make it.

On Aug. 20, 2018, the family gathered at RMC and Kelley, Leighla’s mom, delivered Jr. as a stillborn.

We all had the opportunity to see him and hold him, to cradle his little head in our arms. He was perfect. We were heartbroken.

The weight of that day was indescribably heavy — but it’s also a burden that countless families carry every year. 

That’s why an organization called Angel Robes AlabamaTM hosts an annual Angel Wings & Butterflies event for families who have ever experienced infant loss.

“It’s for any family whose baby doesn’t get to go home,” said Debby Rosser, Angel Robes founder and executive director. “These are families who have not had a baby shower and are too distraught.”

At the event, the families receive live butterflies to release in memory of their Angel Babies.

The release is held every first Sunday in October, which is Infant Loss Awareness Month. This year’s release will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Cheaha State Park’s Laurel Pavilion in Delta. The public is invited, especially any Angel Parent.

“Generous sponsors are providing the butterflies so that they will be available to the families at no charge,” a press release reads. “A photographer and videographer will be on site as well.”

Rosser, a Piedmont resident, founded Angel Robes AlabamaTM in 2016. The volunteer group accepts wedding gowns and other formal wear to transform them into miniature bereavement apparel for those babies not going home from the hospital. 

They also provide purple hearts that are hung on hospital room doors to alert caregivers about the unfortunate circumstances inside.

Jr. didn’t get to come home with us, but we know he’s at home with God.

We have his purple heart to remind us.

Anthony Cook is executive editor for Consolidated Publishing.



Editor Anthony Cook: 256-235-3540. On Twitter @AnthonyCook_DH.