The baby of the Michigan mom who refused cancer treatment in order to give birth will be buried with her mother after the pair died less than two weeks apart, PEOPLE confirms.
Life Lynn DeKlyen passed away on Wednesday at the University of Michigan Hospital, just 11 days after her mother, Carrie DeKlyen, died of cancer following her difficult decision to sacrifice chemotherapy treatment in order to safely give birth to the little girl.
“We knew that the cards were stacked against her — she was born at 24 weeks,” the baby’s aunt, Sonya Nelson, tells PEOPLE of the infant’s death. “We knew she had an uphill battle but we remained hopeful. We thought she was going to pull through.”
Life was born via cesarean section on Sept. 6, just three days before her mother passed away at age 37. Nelson says that baby Life’s health had been “up and down” in the days before her death but, on Tuesday evening, things “took a turn for the worse.”
Life died from respiratory issues as a result of being born prematurely, Nelson says. Now, the infant will be buried with Carrie on Friday.
“I’m not sure if they’re going to put her at the feet of Carrie or at the head of Carrie. But we are burying her with Carrie,” Nelson says.
Nelson says that Life’s father, Nick DeKylen, was with the baby when she died.
“Nick was the only one with her when she passed. He said it happened really fast. He’s doing as best as he possibly can, but it’s very difficult.” Nelson tells PEOPLE. “He was nervous to go home to be by himself, to go home to an empty house without his wife or his other children — how he was going to handle it emotionally.”
The couple’s kids — Elijah, 18, Isaiah, 16, Nevaeh, 11, Leila, 4, and Jez, 2 — have been staying with relatives in recent weeks as the family handled the ordeal. The children and Nick will return to their Wyoming, Michigan, home this weekend.
In April, Carrie was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, rapidly growing malignant tumor that can affect the brain and spinal cord. Doctors told her during a clinical trial that she would need to “terminate her pregnancy” in order to receive cancer treatment, Nelson previously told PEOPLE.
Carrie chose to forgo cancer treatment so that she could give birth to the little girl. After delivering Life, Carrie was taken off of life support.
“We’ve had a very hard six months,” Nelson says, adding that the family is “completely heartbroken” and that the deaths have been “extremely hard” on the kids.
“The little one, Leila, who lives with me, I told her yesterday morning that Life had passed away,” she tells PEOPLE of the children. “She had said, ‘Why did she have to go with Jesus too?’ She understands it, she knows mommy’s not coming home. She felt sad that Life had to go too.”
As the family mourns, Nelson says Nick’s top priority is to be “mom and dad” to his five other children.
“He said, ‘I’m going to start by grocery shopping for the very first time tomorrow,’ ” Nelson recalls. “Because Carrie always took care of all that.”
She adds: “It’s been unbearable at times. It’s unimaginable at times, but there’s other kids. Nick has five other kids and our job right now is to take care of them, to take care of Nick and to be there as a family. We have to move forward. Carrie would want us to do that.”