Matt Sooter, of Rogers, Arkansas, is looking forward to welcoming his third child in February. But the devoted dad says he’s heartbroken that the newest addition to their family will never get to meet their big sister, Adalynn Joy Sooter.
“Grief seems to come in waves, triggered by places, people, things, songs, even smells,” Matt tells PEOPLE of the months since he’s lost his 4-year-old daughter. “We’ve tried to stay busy to help keep from dwelling on it full time.”
Adalynn died on June 3, nearly 19 months after she was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DPIG) in November 2016. Her tragic death came after her parents’ desperate search for cancer treatment, in an ordeal that captured the nation’s attention.
Now, three months after the death of their daughter, Matt and his wife Chandra are expecting their third child.
“We are excited, but it’s also difficult to know that this child will never know Addy except by the photos, videos an stories we share,” Matt, 30, tells PEOPLE of the pregnancy. “We already had hope that we will get to see Addy again when we get to heaven, but this baby has brought in a breath of fresh air for our family.”
Matt shared the news in a Facebook post on Tuesday, writing, “Big news from the Sooter family! Baby Sooter will be arriving late February 2019!”
The photo included three pair’s of children’s shoes, Adalynn’s, her older brother’s, and the new baby’s. A sonogram was placed in front of the smallest pair. In her final moments, Adalynn’s older brother, Jackson, was at her side, stroking his little sister’s hair as she lay in her hospital bed.
“Jackson is excited about the baby,” Matt says, noting that the little boy has been working to cope with his sister’s death. “He’s resilient, but we’ve kept him on the go. He’s also had to make a big adjustment to not having his constant play buddy with him.”
Matt says he’s sure Adalynn would have been great with the new baby.
“She would have been the best big sister!” he gushes. “She was so caring and such a big helper any time she around anyone with a baby. It would have been her baby.”
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For nearly a year, they took her to Monterrey for treatment and Matt says a single trip can last up to 12 days. Travel and medical expenses have cost the family more than $200,000. Before her death, Matt called Adalynn’s survival “purely incredible.” But, he added, that he knew her health was continuing to decline.
“We miss her terribly, but we’re also at peace knowing we did everything we could to try to help her and that she isn’t in pain anymore,” the grieving father previously told PEOPLE. “It was only, ‘See you later.’ We’ll see her again some day.”