The small baby girl was carefully layered in blankets and placed in a location where she would be found quickly. Her arrival at the orphanage was recorded by the local news station, whose cameras watched the orphanage workers peel off every layer of warmth to reveal a tiny, blue, sickly infant.
After about a year, the orphanage director appealed to Love Without Boundaries to provide the cardiac surgery that this baby so desperately needed. In late 2012, many of us were introduced to “Elizabeth.” In January 2013, our family committed to Elizabeth after much consideration. Our youngest daughter had only been home from Russia for eight months, and we were still in the thick of adjustment and bonding challenges. However, when we saw Elizabeth’s face, we were immediately tied to her, no matter what the cost.
Kind and generous donors raised money for Elizabeth’s palliative cardiac surgery in January 2013. After this surgery, and a few months of complications, little Elizabeth flourished at Heartbridge Healing Home. She was known as a shy but naughty little one, who grew and learned and delighted all who met her.
When we visited Heartbridge, her nannies were still heartbroken that she had been taken back to her orphanage, but relieved that she was headed to a forever family.
Elizabeth experienced love and affection so deeply while at Heartbridge — and learned to love watermelon. When we first held her in our arms in December 2013, she immediately lived up to her spicy yet introverted self. The same paparazzi that met her at the orphanage were there at the government office, recording every minute. She wanted nothing to do with us, but after a few days, she warmed up. She never looked back.
Love Without Boundaries nicknamed this little one “Elizabeth,” which is meaningful to our family in this and past generations. But…before we learned about this nickname, our oldest daughter named the little girl in the referral photo “BJ”: B for “bella,” meaning “pretty” in Spanish, and J for “Julie,” one of our dearest friends. We prayed for “BJ” for a year before we brought her home. When she came home, we named her Rebekah (after her Tia, Rebecca~one dear friend) Julie (after the same friend mentioned above). With the nickname Bekah, she could still be “BJ!” What a heritage to be named after these two amazing women!
Despite her history of complex congenital heart defects (CHD), she jumped into our active family immediately: camping, swimming, playing on the trampoline, and home schooling. She was home three weeks when she memorized the definition of an adverb and promptly named her baby doll “Adverb.” Anyone who met her was drawn by her smile, her endearing (and ear-splitting!) voice, and her silliness. We, as her family, were amazed at her resiliency and her ability to understand and reciprocate love. We were also shocked at how much watermelon she could eat! “Oh, honk you, man!” she would say in thanks.
It only took a week for our entire family to feel like this tiny seventh member had been with us “forever.” She fit right in, and didn’t bother to heed any of the warnings we received in adoption training regarding bonding issues. Bekah learned English faster than any of our other children when they were two, cracking jokes and playing tricks on us within a month.
Every day, multiple times a day, we would tell her that she “is our girl… forever, and ever, and ever…” “And EVER!!!” she’d respond with a shriek and a cuddle. We are convinced she believed that with all of her spirit.
She believed it on August 14, 2014 the day we said, “Night-night, have a good sleepin’!” as we kissed her in the operating room.
Bekah never woke up again.
Over the next three weeks, her once strong and resilient body failed, one system at a time. After a few days, it was clear that she had sustained a severe neurological injury, rendering her unconscious with little hope of recovery. Before surgery, she had been completely normal developmentally. Suddenly we found ourselves planning a fun run (the inaugural one benefited Love Without Boundaries) that would allow wheelchairs, like the one she sat in as we celebrated her watermelon-themed third birthday.
It was not to be — Bekah coming home in a wheelchair, that is. On September 6, 2014, just two days after Bekah’s third birthday, we said, “See you later” to our beautiful treasure.
We were able to hold her for the last few peaceful hours of her earthly life and tell her over and over that she “is our girl… forever, and ever, and ever.”
The impact of this one little girl on the world has been unbelievable. Love Without Boundaries has received an astounding amount of support and appreciation from all who met, and many who never got the pleasure of meeting, Bekah. So far two children have made life-changing decisions after contemplating Bekah’s death. As for us, we are even more committed to the work of Love Without Boundaries and Hand In Hand International Adoptions, without whom we would have never met our little firecracker.
So if you’re in the Denver area this summer, consider celebrating Bekah and all the other “little Bekah’s” cared for by Love Without Boundaries by joining us for Bekah’s Watermelon Run+Walk+Roll. Bring your strollers. Bring your wheelchairs. Bring your strong, healthy legs. We’d love to have you.
~Erin (Bekah’s mom)
Erin can be reached here.