The 19-year-old Kansas couple who died in a car accident just a day after marrying were kindred spirits who were deeply devoted to their faith, friends and family tell PEOPLE.
Rebekah Bouma and Austin Wesson were involved in a crash when their Ford F-150 pickup lost control and slammed into a tree last Saturday evening in Clearwater, Kansas. The wreck killed Austin at the scene, and Rebekah was transported to a local hospital and passed away a day later. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE there is evidence that speed was a factor in the crash, but it’s too early to tell if there was a mechanical issue with the vehicle.
“They were the sweetest couple you’ll ever meet, their love just radiated out of them, and their love of Christ shown through with everything that they did,” Rebekah’s mother, Rachel Bouma, tells PEOPLE. “We’re completely devastated by this loss. It’s grief without words, and yet, we are at peace. There is a joy that is unexplainable knowing that they are together with the Lord.”
Rachel says that Rebekah was deeply involved with their Christian faith, and when she met Austin in February during a missionary trip to South Africa, where Austin lived, it was love at first sight. “It was only a week after they met that she called me and said she was sure she met the man she was going to marry,” Rachel says.
And Rebekah was right.
The couple were engaged in June and married last Friday at a courthouse near Rebekah’s home in Wichita. The next evening, after planning a backyard ceremony for Sept. 30 that both families would be able to attend, Rebekah and Austin left the house so they could cook a celebratory dinner at a friend’s house that Rebekah was watching over.
“The last time I saw Rebekah, she gave me a hug and kiss and said, ‘I love you, I’ll see you in the morning,’ ” Rachel says. “A few minutes later, Austin gathered his stuff and he came over to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss and said, ‘I love you, Mom.’ ”
A short time later, Rachel received a call from the sheriff’s department saying that Rebekah was in an accident and was a “code red” at Via Christi Hospital. They found out Austin didn’t make it once they arrived at the medical center.
They held on to hope that Rebekah would survive, but neurosurgeons told the family the next morning that there was no more they could do. “You go into a mode where you somehow know, but at the same time, you don’t want to face it,” Rachel says through tears. “I was shattered. There are not even words to describe that.”
McKenzie Blake, 19, who met Rebekah in 2013 at Trinity Academy in Wichita, Kansas, recalls her final goodbye with her best friend.
“I sat there with her and I held her hand, and I just told her how beautiful she was and that she will always be my best friend no matter what happens,” Blake tells PEOPLE. “I told her how she meant the world to me and how I’m so thankful for the time we got to spend together, even if it was short. She has made the biggest impact on my life and it was really comforting to know that I made it back in time to say my final goodbye to her.”
Rachel offered her daughter comfort when she said her goodbyes. “I told her that we would see her again soon and that we were looking forward to that day,” she says. “I told her to go be with her Savior and rest in His arms, and be with Austin.”
Blake says she’s comforted in knowing that Rebekah and Austin are in Heaven together, and she wants everyone to live the kind of life that her best friend lived every day.
“She lived without fear and without limits and was kind and generous,” Blake says. “That’s how we want her to be remembered and that’s how we want people to live their lives. That’s what we want people to learn from her story.”
Geoffrey Turner, 70, says he has been Wesson’s close friend since 2002 in their home in South Africa. He says the 19-year-old’s faith was a strong part of his character. “This young man was such a fun, loving, and caring person,” Turner says. “His first love was the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s been hard losing such a beautiful couple, but we know where he is.”
The Bouma family are taking things step by step. Tuesday night, as she was surrounded by her family, Rachel offered some words of encouragement to her grieving loved ones. “Guys, we made it,” she told her family. “We made it one more day.”
Still, she admits, it is difficult figuring out how to go on.
“We’re surviving and focusing on getting through an hour at a time,” she says. “We get through an hour, and we’re happy with that.”
Rebekah’s mom also notes that her daughter is just as giving in death as in life; she listed herself as an organ donor, and Rachel says two people have already received her kidneys.
“It’s just Rebekah,” she says. “She was always a giver.”