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Pine River suffers over one family's loss: Community shares in celebration of birth of daughter

Pine River's Riverview Church Pastor Tristand Borland and his wife, Jill, suffered a tumultuous two weeks with the death of one daughter, and the birth of another.

Maria Jillian Borland, 3 of Pine River, died on March 4 and left behind a family and community in mourning. Submitted photo
Maria Jillian Borland, 3 of Pine River, died on March 4 and left behind a family and community in mourning. Submitted photo
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Pine River's Riverview Church Pastor Tristand Borland and his wife, Jill, suffered a tumultuous two weeks with the death of one daughter, and the birth of another.

The family and community mourned 3-year-old Maria Borland at her funeral Tuesday, March 15, at Pine River-Backus High School. The funeral came four days after the birth of the couple's fifth daughter, Lucy Faith Borland, on Friday, March 11.

Maria's eventual death started with what appeared to be a normal illness.

"It wasn't anything too unusual for a kid, and when her fever would start to spike it came back down with over-the-counter children's medicine," Tristan said via email. "She had no other symptoms other than lethargy. Her fever pretty much went away Thursday night (March 3), but she still wasn't feeling great. It seemed pretty typical of a child recovering from a virus. She was still pretty lethargic on Friday (March 4)."

In spite of observation Jill, who is a nurse, and by a doctor friend, what happened March 4 was unexpected.

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"At about 7:30 p.m. she asked me to take her to bed," Tristan wrote of Maria. "I was holding her and getting ready to put her in her bed when she suddenly stopped breathing. I called for Jill. She called 911 and immediately began caring for Maria. I talked to dispatch. The first responders and medics arrived quickly and did all that they could. Her death was so sudden. We were and remain in complete shock."

The cause of Maria's death is still unknown, though the Borland family was told it appeared to be a virus that her body simply couldn't defend itself against. Whatever the cause, her family and community were left with an empty space.

"Maria was our spunkiest child," Tristan wrote. "She marched to the beat of her own drummer. She was the strongest willed of all of our girls and never hesitated telling us exactly what she thought about something. She loved people and always wanted to make new friends. She was brave and wasn't afraid to go up to anyone and talk to them. She had a way of making people feel special."

One of Tristan and Jill's other daughters suffered flu symptoms for a short time after Maria's death, but she recovered. That surviving daughter did test positive for the flu at that time, according to Tristan.

Maria's death came at a very confusing time, as Jill was pregnant and anticipating going into labor at any time.

"It's pretty surreal," Tristan wrote last week. "We've been looking forward to March 12 for nine months as the due date for our fifth daughter. Now we are planning to bury our precious 3-year-old girl on that same day."

Maria's funeral was postponed to March 15 after Jill did, indeed, go into labor.

"The grief and shock have been overwhelming," Tristan wrote. "I wrote to a friend earlier this week, 'We feel stranded between death and life and have no idea how to embrace this new beautiful gift as we prepare to bury our beloved daughter.' We believe that all children are a gift from God. All life is sacred. We know we're going to love our new little girl, and are so grateful for her life. And we're grateful for Maria's life.

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"Our hearts are broken. Maria's death will leave a hole in our family that cannot be filled, but our coming baby reminds us that there is still life. There is still hope. We still have faith. Someday there will be joy again," he wrote.

Lucy was born at 4:52 p.m. March 11 at 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 20 inches long. Both Lucy and her mother are healthy.

"We are relieved and grateful for Lucy's birth this week," Tristan wrote. "Jill and Lucy are both healthy and doing well. Our life is full of contradictions. We are thankful and trying to be joyful as we welcome Lucy into our home. We are also grieving and heartbroken over Maria.

"Lucy is a grace in the midst of our sorrow. We are a family of six again one week after Maria's death. I would have never thought a family of six would seem small, but ours does. We've gained a precious new life that we've been anticipating since summer, but we also have a giant hole that cannot be filled," he wrote.

In the wake of Maria's death, Riverview Church began a memorial fund to assist the Borlands with funeral costs. In only six days the fund raised over $11,000 in a GoFundMe site ( https://www.gofundme.com/smt4byv7 ). Tristan said the fund will be used for some funeral costs, but most will be given in honor of Maria to a charitable cause to be determined later.

Though life has changed a great deal, the Borland family is forging ahead and using their faith to help them move forward.

"Death is awful,' Tristan wrote. "I think we have always known this as a family. We know it more viscerally now. There aren't simple answers to our pain. But we do have hope. We know now more than ever what truly matters: our faith, our family, our loved ones, our community.

"We are also reminded of how easy it is in our day to waste so much time on trivial activities. So much of our society is consumed with distracting themselves from reality; ignoring what really matters. We've never really wanted to be that kind of family. Following Maria's death we know that more than ever," he wrote.

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Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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