110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Dec 26, 2012 - 8:13:42am
What do you do when death claims a child who should have had a full life ahead of her? How do you get through your grief?
That question has been in the national consciousness since the horrifying school shooting in Newton, Conn., Dec. 14.
For a DeLand family, the question has hit home, and for a father, it’s a matter of faith.
Mike Umont and his former wife, Stephanie, had three children together: one son, Taylor, 17, and two daughters, Savannah, 15, and Madison, 14.
Madison “Maddie” Umont, died suddenly Dec. 15, after a short illness.
“She was just a great kid. Her heart was on fire for the Lord … She was very caring, very compassionate,” and Maddie witnessed her faith to her friends, her father said.
Maddie had not been feeling very well for a few days. Then on Tuesday, Dec. 11, Maddie developed what Mike Umont called “strong flu-like symptoms,” including stomach upset.
Family members took her to the emergency room at Florida Hospital-DeLand, where there was a long wait.
“She was in somewhat good spirits and just wanted to go to bed,” so they left the emergency room that night, Mike Umont said.
Around 4:30 p.m. or so Friday, Dec. 14, his former wife called Mike Umont and asked him to take Maddie to the hospital.
“She had symptoms of dehydration,” and doctors gave her an intravenous drip to restore fluids, he said.
But then, Maddie seemed to go into shock, and her body started shutting down, with a low temperature and a “really low” blood pressure.
Doctors made the decision to have Maddie airlifted to Florida Hospital-Orlando.
Maddie was very involved in her church youth group at First Assembly-DeLand. Her youth pastor, Nathan Buker, came and sat with her and prayed before Maddie was taken to Orlando.
After arriving in Orlando, Maddie’s condition continued to decline, Mike Umont said. Then, for about four hours between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, it looked like Maddie was stabilizing.
Around 5 a.m., Maddie took a turn for the worse. She needed support to breathe.
“She never came back,” Mike Umont said, and at about 8:34 a.m., Maddie was pronounced dead.
Mike Umont sat with his daughter during that time between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., talking to her, praying, and singing praise and worship songs. Maddie’s heart rate would go up in response to his voice, Mike Umont said.
He’s glad now he had that time with her.
The family is still waiting to hear exactly what killed Maddie. There was “no smoking gun,” no obvious reason for Maddie’s sudden death. The results of an autopsy will take weeks to get back, and hopefully there will be some conclusive answers, but there are none now.
Meanwhile, the family is grieving.
Mike Umont said that Maddie’s death has been traumatic for Maddie’s family, for his mother, Gail, his former wife, Stephanie, Maddie’s brother and sister, Taylor and Savannah, Mike’s wife, Melissa, Maddie’s half sister Vanessa, 9, and half brother Brody, 4.
Faith is getting them through it, especially Mike.
“It’s not that I don’t hurt, but there’s a comfort that comes through the spirit that’s indescribable,” he said.
The outpouring of love, prayers, and willingness to help from the community has been powerful, Mike added.
As he spoke Dec. 19, friends were conducting a fundraising carwash at Conglamouration Salon in DeLand, to help pay for Maddie’s final expenses. And, Victoria Square 6 theaters were donating profits from the concession stand that evening to the cause.
A friend of Mike’s, who was away on a hunting trip, heard of Maddie’s death and rushed home so he could attend church with the family the next day.
The youth group at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Orange City hastily put together a candlelight vigil at the church the evening of Dec. 15.
“I’m floored by all the support,” Mike said.
Mike said his son, Taylor, has stepped forward to become “a pillar of strength” through all this.
Mike’s also leaning on his friends and his church, including Pastor Mike Modica.
Modica said he arrived at the Orlando hospital right after Maddie died, and hugged Mike and hugged her.
He’s seen a lot of death and grieving families during his 20 years as a pastor, Modica said, and more than ever, has come to know how much faith helps.
“That gives the family an advantage,” Modica said.
“We’re not like those who have no hope,” but are people who know they will see their loved ones again, he said.
Life on this Earth is “just a vapor” that passes too quickly, whether one is 14 or 84, and grief is a part of it, Modica said.
Relying on friends and family, and allowing them to help is important during times of grief, and Modica said he’s glad the Umont family is able to do that.
Modica quoted the Beatitudes, saying, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” and blessings come from people who have known hurt and reach out to the hurting, he added.
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