Across the world, there are countless people who come from very large families. As a result, they’re able to rely on their siblings during the good and bad times in their lives. The children of Darin and Emily Hammond could certainly attest to that, as they suffered two terrible tragedies over the course of just a few months.
During Emily and Darin’s time together, they welcomed four kids into the world in the space of around seven years. The married couple named their offspring Gavin, Eva, Symphony and Halle. However, in November 2017 their lives were turned upside down following a devastating incident.
At that time, Darin took his own life, leaving Emily and the children without a husband and father. And unfortunately for Halle, Eva, Gavin and Symphony, that didn’t signal the end of this heart-breaking period. Indeed, in the spring of 2018 the four siblings suffered another devastating loss that shattered their family unit.
Tragically, Emily committed suicide at that point, just a few months on from Darin’s passing. Before long, though, the children were taken in by their aunt and uncle in Idaho, who already had five kids of their own. Then, in December 2018 the family of 11 received an unexpected surprise ahead of Christmas.
For many of us, there are few things more important in our lives than family. That particular mindset could stem from our childhoods, with moms and dads ingraining the idea into our respective psyches. But in other cases, though, we might not feel that way until we’re much older.
Indeed, for some people, those feelings could finally bubble to the surface when they start a family of their own. And once they’ve reached that stage, the individuals in question might decide to grow their clans even further. Emily and Darin were one such couple, and they expanded their household in a relatively short space of time.
Following the birth of Darin and Emily’s oldest daughter, they had their son Gavin some three years later. From there, the mom and dad then waited another three years before welcoming their third child into the world. To round things off, their youngest girl was born around 12 months after that.
However, Gavin, Eva, Halle and Symphony’s lives at home were somewhat different to those of other children their age. For you see, Emily and Darin both suffered with mental health issues, meaning more responsibility was placed on the kids’ shoulders than is typical. But in the winter of 2017, everything changed for the family.
That November, Darin committed suicide, leaving his wife and children devastated. Then, a little under half a year later, Emily took her own life as well, which put Eva, Symphony, Halle and Gavin in an unimaginable situation. Thankfully for the quartet, though, they received some much needed help after their mother’s death in April 2018.
Darin’s sister Lana Weber wasted no time in welcoming her nieces and nephew to her house in Idaho. A resident of Rexburg, she was enrolled at Northwest Nazarene University during that period, as she attempted to earn a Master of Social Work degree. Away from that, Lana also had a large family of her own.
After Lana tied the knot with her husband Dan Weber more than a quarter of a century ago, they went on to have five kids together. The couple named them Samantha, Mason, Emma, Landan and Dalan. So with that in mind, they already had plenty of experience looking after a number of children under one roof.
But despite all that, there were still some logistical issues that came with bringing in an additional four people to the house. As Lana explained during an interview with Today in December 2018, one problem in particular continued to crop up throughout the week. And it was something that couldn’t really be avoided.
“It takes some finesse to work the bathroom situation,” Lana admitted. “Nine people with two showers, that’s not a lot.” While that might pose a problem in the mornings, though, the Rexburg resident wouldn’t have it any other way, as she’d quickly sprung into action after the tragedy.
“[Darin and Emily’s] deaths were a surprise,” Lana continued. “There really wasn’t any hesitation [in bringing the four kids home]. We knew they were coming here. With us, they would have access to their school and friends and support system. We also knew that that’s what their mom would want.”
Lana also talked about Symphony, Gavin, Halle and Eva’s behavior around the house. Due to their previous living situation with Emily and Darin, they needed to alter their attitudes in their new home. The aunt was very sympathetic of that, which eventually led to an interesting idea.
“They had parents who had been mentally ill, and they were used to taking care of themselves quite a bit,” Lana told Today. “They were used to banding together and looking out for one another. We are talking together [now], so we are not singling people out, and that seems to be the most effective way [of solving issues].”
In keeping with that, Emily and Darin’s children were receiving some additional help from various medical experts as well. Despite Dan and Lana’s best efforts, the deaths of the kids’ parents had inevitably still had a traumatic effect on them and left a significant void in their lives. So on that note, the latter made sure she was there when they needed comforting.
“We are trying to be very in tune to what their needs are and respond accordingly,” Lana explained. “When they are ready to open [up] and talk about it, we try to be there.” However, Gavin, Eva, Halle and Symphony weren’t the only ones who required a bit of help in dealing with their heartache.
Unsurprisingly, Lana was harboring plenty of sadness after the passing of her brother and his wife. In addition, the mom of five also had her college studies to deal with during that period, which added to the mental strain. And as she admitted, that could sometimes be too much to cope with.
“There are just days where I don’t know if I can do it,” Lana admitted. “I haven’t always coped that well. It has been really, really hard, because I loved my brother and sister-in-law dearly.” But although the Idaho resident had her personal struggles, she and Dan nonetheless made things work at home.
In fact, Dan and Lana focused their attention on one particular period of the day that brought everyone together. Dinner time proved to be a very welcome activity for the family, despite the logistical challenges that came with it. While they tucked into their dishes, the group could then enjoy proper conversations with each other around the table.
“Honestly, a lot of meal times, it is hard to just put something on the table,” Lana said. “But, you get to hear how everyone’s day is and it is fun having everyone there and connecting.” Moreover, as the family continued to adjust in the latter part of 2018, they went on to receive quite a surprise.
For many people across the world, Christmas is one of the most special times of the year. Over the course of a few days, families come together to celebrate the holiday season, indulging in various traditions and activities. Whether it’s the turkey dinner or opening gifts, each individual has their favorite moment.
And when it comes to passing out gifts, some people sometimes employ another long-held tradition known as Secret Santa. In this activity, each participant is given the name of another individual in the group at random, for whom they must then buy a present. After that, they don’t divulge which person they drew before the respective items have been received.
In the case of Dan and Lana’s family, though, they were the recipients of a very special Secret Santa in December 2018. They’d been selected by the East Idaho News team to receive a gift in light of everything that had happened with Emily and Darin. And to further explain what was going on, reporter Nate Eaton set the stage.
Standing in front of a camera with three different colleagues, Eaton is captured wearing a Christmas hat as he dives into the story. “We are in Rexburg tonight,” he says. “It feels like a Christmas night, there’s snow falling a little bit and it’s time for the 2018 Secret Santa giveaway.”
At this point, Eaton touches upon the process itself. “Secret Santa is giving away a quarter of a million dollars this year, the biggest amount ever, and we’re going to help them do that,” the reporter continues. “And I want to tell you about Dan and Lana Weber, they are our first family.”
Following this introduction, the team then discuss Lana and Dan’s situation at home. A couple of photographs of the family pop up on the screen as well, showing them all together. From here, Eaton reveals how much they will be receiving from the 2018 Secret Santa fund.
“The Webers are doing all they can to just love these kids as their own,” Eaton says. “So Secret Santa wants to give them $10,000.” At this point, the video cuts to a shot of the reporter and his team outside the family’s house, knocking on their front door. And before long, one of the children opens up.
Then, Eaton greets Dan as he approaches the door. The latter is naturally somewhat surprised by the presence of the camera crew. As it turns out, though, Lana isn’t at home. “We have a gift for you guys,” the former goes on to explain. “But it’d be great if she was here with you.”
Off the back of this exchange, Dan invites the team inside the house, as they wait for Lana to come home. The video then cuts to a shot of the stair banisters, which are adorned with 11 Christmas stockings and various lights. At this point, the dad calls his wife for an update before talking with Eaton.
Dan is subsequently asked about his family, which puts a big smile on his face. “Well our family, it’s an interesting family I should say,” he states. “Lana and I have been married for 26 years now. Our oldest son is 22. We have a daughter that is 20, she’s on an LDS mission in Rochester, New York.”
“We have our nieces and nephew that live with us, so we have a niece that’s 19. We then have a son who is 18, he’s a senior at Sugar Salem,” Dan continues. “And then we have a nephew that is 16 and he’s a sophomore at Madison.” After this, Dan touches upon the other children and their various schools.
Eaton then asks Dan how the family have adjusted since Emily and Darin’s children moved in. “It’s been good,” the dad reveals. “[They’re] great kids and they’ve been through a lot. We’ve all kind of been through a lot. You have the ups and downs, but they’re great kids and it’s going well.”
Following this conversation, Lana eventually returns home – and she looks as surprised as her husband had done when she sees the camera. The mom asks if Dan knows what this is about, but much like her he’s in the dark. As Lana walks into the living room, Eaton brings up the trials and tribulations of the previous 12 months.
“It’s been a good year,” Lana responds. “But it’s been hard. We’ve had a lot of loss this past year. We’ve had a good year with bringing the families together, and we’ve really, really enjoyed having our nieces and our nephew in our home with us. And that they’ve been such a joy and a blessing to our family.”
Lana’s emotional words don’t end there, though, as she then talks about what she’s learned during this testing period. The Rexburg resident continues, “[I’ve learned] to enjoy every minute, and to love your family and hold them close. More than anything, live in the moment.” Following this, Eaton finally reveals why he’s there.
Eaton then grabs a small box from off camera and hands it over to Lana, informing her that it’s an “early Christmas gift.” A few moments later, the mom of five opens the present and discovers a $10,000 check, which leaves her and Dan stunned. “Merry Christmas,” the reporter says, before offering them both a hug.
On that note, the video comes to an end. And since being shared on YouTube via East Idaho News’ official channel, the post has earned more than 435,000 views and over 5,000 likes. In addition to that, it’s also generated close to 300 comments, with many users hailing Lana and Dan.
As for Lana, she had one last thing to say on the matter while talking to Today in December 2018. “There is a lot of growing yet to do,” she added. “We are going to make it through this. And the kids will be raised and Dan and I can breathe again. And we are going to remember what it felt like.”