Shannon Verboort Becker ’97: Celebrating God and Life
Story by: Grace LeChevallier
“He gave her to us.” Shannon Verboort Becker ’97 speaks with gratitude to God as she shares the story of the life of her daughter, Reese. Reese was born on September 20, 2010 to Shannon and AJ Becker and big brother Josh. Shannon beams as she describes her blessed life. Reese brought nothing but joy to the world; the Becker family had it all. Their son Josh adored Reese and wanted to be with her all the time. He wanted to give her kisses even while she was sleeping. When Shannon tried to deter him, he would say it wasn’t fair because “Mommy gets to kiss her and me when we are sleeping.” The family was actually having a problem with too much kissing. Life was blissful. For months, she and AJ would say, very single day, how lucky they were to have Reese. “She made us better than ourselves.”
Thursday, February 10 was a typical weekday. At 12:30 p.m., while Reese was taking a nap, she was found lifeless and blue. Shannon rushed to meet her at the hospital and was able to hold her one last time. “She was so beautiful and peaceful looking.” At only four and a half months, Reese had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS/SUID).
Shannon wrote on her blog as part of her daughter’s eulogy: “A good friend said to me that Reese was an angel sent to us for a purpose. God saw something in AJ and me, and he knew we could handle it. So he sent us this perfect little angel to teach us something. She had a purpose, and when her mission was complete, she had to leave. She bound our family with her love. I have to believe that she was never ours to keep…that we were just blessed that she chose us for her short visit on this earth. We were blessed to be able to call her our daughter. And now we will spend the rest of our lives missing her, but trying to live up to being the kind of people she wants us to be. And we will strive to learn what she was trying to teach us.”
Shannon remains strong as she shares her story. The locket containing a photo of Reese that she wears around her neck is a continual reminder of the blessing she was given. Her faith has been revitalized through the life and death of Reese; Shannon’s increased faith is just one of many gifts Reese has given the world.
Shannon’s loss has ignited a passion to bring awareness to SIDS, as well as explore new research to reduce the prevalence of SIDS. It is unexpected and undiscriminating. Infants can pass away even in the arms of a parent. Shannon believes that a parent can read all the books and follow all the advice, but sometimes it is not enough. She found that her faith was something she could hold onto.
Since Reese’s death, Shannon has been active in helping to raise awareness, especially through First Candle, an organization that promotes safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first years of life. Shannon has followed the research of Hannah C. Kinney, MD, from Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Kinney’s recent study confirms that infants who die of SIDS have an abnormality in the brainstem that affects responses to breathing and carbon dioxide, as well as to temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Research and awareness are vital to increasing the survival of babies, but Shannon recognizes the mystery of life and death.
The pain of Reese’s death remains deep, but Shannon chooses to recognize the gift. She chooses to remain thankful for each moment of the day. She chooses to “Celebrate God and Life.”
For more information on SIDS, visit www.firstcandle.org. According to their website, “First Candle is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first years of life. Our current priority is to eliminate Stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) with programs.