By Kathy Bergquist
On May 18, 1972, a 10 – year – old girl’s life suddenly changed when she attempted to cross Hwy 7 in Hopkins. No one will ever know why little Becky went across while her friends hesitated on the shoulder. But the impact of the motorcycle left an indelible mark on Becky, the Larson family, and nearly all who crossed her path over the next 44 years. On April 2 nd last year, Becky passed away after a 2 – year battle with metastatic cancer.
From her early days, Becky was vibrant and energetic; she loved people -especially babies. When I was born, 3 year old Becky was jealous, but it didn’t last long. Becky quickly became an adoring second mother who, much to our mother’s chagrin, wouldn’t leave her baby sister alone.
Three years later Becky transferred that (s)mothering to baby brother David and it was my turn to be jealous. We were typical siblings – best friends and worst enemies. I was the adoring (and an- noying) little sister who followed Becky around, and Becky alternately loved and hated having little sister Kathy as a constant tag – a – long.
Our family moved often with Dad’s job -from Minneapolis to Iowa, to Michigan, to Hopkins, and then to the Netherlands in 1970. Becky collected friends and ac- tivities wherever we lived. She was active in Good News Club, Girl Scouts, and church. This picture of Becky in a tree at the Kuekenhof is a good depiction of her spirited, fun – loving, independent personality.
We returned from Europe and settled back in Hopkins in January of 1972. On a beautiful afternoon in May, Becky and some friends went shopping to get a gift for their 5 th grade teacher. We were waiting for her to come home when Becky’s best friend arrived at our door and told us Becky had been hit by a motorcycle. Mom sent David and me to stay with a neighbor while she ran to be with Becky. I don’t remember much after that, but in that instant all of our lives were changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but Becky would never walk or talk again. Becky was in the hospital for 9 months before coming home to live with nursing care for more than a year. Our youngest brother Charles was born 2 years after the accident and Becky could not mother him as she would have liked.
Those early years were difficult for all, but especially difficult for Becky. I believe there were many things she want- ed to do and say, but she couldn’t. At times her frustration understandably came out as anger when she couldn’t do or say the things she wanted to. Over the years she became much more content and accepting. Little Becky grew into a strong and determined woman.
Becky loved deeply from a wheelchair and without words. One way she communicated her love was through hugs. She also communicated her love silently through smiles and joyful expressions. Becky could light up a room. At times she would vocalize her emotions – joy, laughter, frustration, even anger – and while she couldn’t express those emotions in words, anyone nearby had a good idea what she was feeling. A difficult memory is of Becky clearly expressing her dissatisfaction with a grunt and a swing of her arm when Mom said she wished she had breast cancer rather than Becky. Becky had a good life, surrounded by people she loved and who loved her.
Some would say Becky’s life was wasted. We’ll never know why she crossed the highway ahead of her friends, but we believe her life was not wasted. Her life has had greater purpose than it might have had if our prayers for healing had been answered the way we wanted. I can’t tell you why God allowed Becky’s accident to happen or why He allowed her to have cancer, but I can share with you the beauty that God brought from the ashes of that day in May 1972. It is best told by our mother in this letter written in February of this year, from Becky’s perspective to Becky’s classmates.
Yes, this is Becky Larson from your grade school back in the 70’s. Remember I was injured and suffered severe brain damage, my left leg was broken in two places and I was comatose for ever so long. My mother is writing this for me because I cannot verbally speak or communicate with anyone. I have things I would like you to know about me. So here goes…..!
Like many of you I am 54 years young, some might say I am stuck at age 10 which is when I was hurt. Yes, some of my interests might be behind yours as I have not had your life experiences. I love Disney Characters, Disney Cruises, live musicals; I also enjoy romance stories like most women do. I like to look at magazines, to be read to, go for walks and movies, especially I love my family and to be with them.
I live in a group home where they take very good care of me providing me with all the love and care anyone could ever want or need. I need to be tube feed now because I have trouble swallowing. I am wheelchair bound but before the doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to my bones, I enjoyed walking for short distances with one person on each side of me.
What I would like you to know about me is that I am a very strong woman. Oh, I have had my times of anger but that is pretty much in the past. I know my life has had purpose. It may be hard for some to see or accept, but I am okay with it. God has used my life to help many people with disabilities and their families. Because of my injuries my parents helped start Homeward Bound, Inc. a home for people with developmental disabilities. I lived there for 23 years and now I live at a Mount Olivet Group Home for people with similar disabilities as mine. My dad not only helped start HBI, but he was the director for 7 years starting shortly after the program opened. After he left Homeward Bound he went to work for Lutheran Social Services and expanded their program to include many services for the disabled, elderly, and developmentally disabled people. After that he was the director at Rolling Acres and helped many people move into community group homes; he also created a crisis support service. All of these good things began because of my accident. My mother says that on her way up to me at the scene of the accident God impressed a bible verse on her “All things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purpose”. Sure it was all difficult and at times almost unbearable, but God has been with us through all of it.
Please don’t feel sorry for me because my parents, siblings and I have lived the life we were called to live. I know at least a few of you have suffered because of me and my decision to cross the road, but please don’t grieve for me. Cherish my memory and the times we had together because I, in my own way, do cherish your memory and the fun we had.
My mom and I want to tell you this now because I have terminal cancer and am in hospice. I have only a short time left on earth; soon, I will be with my Father in Heaven and I will be whole again.
Becky – written by my Mom
Early in 2016, Becky Larson entered hospice, went on a family vacation, then declined quickly. She went home to be with Jesus on April 2,
2016, with sister, Kathy and the rest of her family at her side.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”