A day after she passed away at a Wichita hospital, Rebekah Bouma’s family gathered at their home near Clearwater on Tuesday to remember the young woman they knew as “Bekah.”
During a sit-down interview filled with tears and laughter, John and Rachel Bouma and their four surviving children remembered the 19-year-old newlywed, who suffered what turned out to be fatal injuries in a one-vehicle crash on Saturday.
Rebekah had been a passenger in a truck being driven by South Africa native Austin Wesson, who had been her husband for a little more than 24 hours. Wesson was pronounced dead at the scene – just a short walk from the Boumas’ home – after the truck went off a dirt road and slammed into a tree.
After clinging to life for about a day, Rebekah was pronounced dead early Monday at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.
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“The last words from both of them to me (on Saturday) were ‘I love you,’” Rachel Bouma said. “I said ‘I love you’ back. Those were our last words.”
The last words from both of them to me were ‘I love you.’
Rachel Bouma on her late daughter and son-in-law
Having met in February while both were doing mission work in South Africa, Rebekah and Austin, also 19, had convinced friends and family their teenage love affair was the real thing.
Even Rebekah’s older brother, Tim Bouma, a service member in the U.S. Navy, was convinced the two were great for each other.
“It’s rare to meet people like them,” Tim Bouma said. “If you get a chance to meet people like that, you want to hold them as close as you can. I always tried to look out for my sister, so I was maybe the toughest to accept somebody, but Austin had me right off the bat.”
“Austin became my brother as soon as I found out they were engaged.”
Earlier this summer, Rachel captured on video a seemingly unknowing Rebekah and Austin dancing in the kitchen while preparing a meal. In the video, the couple appear completely oblivious to anything around them – so much so that Rebekah eventually stopped dancing to see if the food had burned on the stove.
“She was my soul mate,” Jaclyn Bouma, 17, said of her sister. “One day, we’ll see them and dance with them again. That’s our joy and our hope – that’s everything.”
On Monday, Jaclyn walked the several hundred yards from her home to the crash site, where she wrote a Bible verse from the book of Revelation on the tree. Flowers had also been placed near the tree.
If you get a chance to meet people like that, you want to hold them as close as you can.
Tim Bouma, brother of Rebekah Bouma
Though storms were present in the Clearwater area – the crash happened about 2 miles east of town – Saturday evening, Sedgwick County sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning said investigators don’t believe weather was a factor.
“We are looking at speed as a possible factor in the crash,” Dehning said on Tuesday.
The couple was married on Friday – partially to help speed Wesson’s immigration process – at the Sedgwick County Courthouse. A larger ceremony and celebration was planned for late September in Clearwater.
Following the celebration, the pair had plans to move to Grand Rapids, Mich., to attend school before eventually going on more mission trips.
“I haven’t gotten past it,” Rachel Bouma said. “This morning, I told Kaitlyn (Rebekah’s older sister) that I needed to find something to wear to the wedding.”