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Friends rally behind Minneapolis family after sudden death of new mother

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The sudden and unexplained death of a 32-year-old Minneapolis woman 17 days after she gave birth has friends coming to the aid of the family.

According to her obituary, Molly Malone Chottepanda was a physician's assistant at North Memorial Medical Center.

"She was gorgeous," her husband Kushal Chottepanda, told FOX 9. "She had a face that could light up a room."

She was a third-generation graduate of Southwest High School in Minneapolis, which released a statement about her death on its blog. Her husband graduated from Southwest in 1998, two years before Molly. But the two didn't meet until they connected at a mutual friend's wedding when they were in their 20s, FOX 9 says.

Kushal Chottepanda told the news station that while he was playing softball, his mother-in-law was looking after their infant daughter, Mara, while Molly took a bath. She never got out of the tub.

"Every time I close my eyes at night, I see her," Kushal Cottepanda told FOX 9. "Every time I see [Mara] – that's [Molly's] mouth; that's her nose."

The cause of her death was not immediately clear – a blood clot and brain aneurysm have been ruled out, FOX 9 says.

Friends established a support fund to raise money for funeral expenses and for Mara's education. The fund has a goal of $75,000 and was approaching $60,000 on Wednesday evening, less than a week after Molly's death.

Supporters also began collecting memories of Molly Chottepanda on a Facebook page so they could be shared with her husband and eventually her daughter.

FOX 9 says friends and family are also in the early stages of organizing the Molly Malone Chottepanda Walk, which will be held annually on May 29 – the day of her death. The walk will help fund a scholarship at Southwest High School.

In 2008 Matt Logelin, who became a widower the day after his daughter was born, started the Liz Logelin Foundation. He says the foundation works to ease the pain of widows and widowers with young children.

The foundation has a list of additional resources here.

Does an infant who is only a couple of weeks old mourn the loss of her mother?

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition insists babies do. In an article titled "Helping Infants and Toddlers When Someone They Love Dies," Wolfelt writes that even though infants are too young to understand the concept of death, they react to the loss of a primary caregiver.

The National Center for Grieving Children and Families says the traits that very young children miss in the loss of a caregiver include their smell, voice, and rhythm.

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