Before you read any further, we recommend running to the toilet and grabbing all of the loo roll / paper towels. Because there are going to be a LOT of tears...
Rebecca Townsend was 17. She liked acting, travelling, playing volleyball and meeting new people. She had just finished secondary school, and had been accepted to study at an elite university, Notre Dame, in the autumn. She was so, so excited.
Last week, Rebecca Townsend died.
The teenager was crossing the road on her way to watch the fireworks ahead of Independence Day, when a car careered down the street towards her and her friend, Ben Arne. She shoved him out of the way – but didn’t manage to get off the road in time as a result. ‘The last thing I remember is Rebecca pushing me and telling me to hurry up,’ Ben apparently recalled after the accident.
But as her family and friends struggle to deal with Rebecca’s death, one thing has kept them going: a bucket list that the teenager had written years earlier, detailing three wishes:
– To travel to Spain.
– To kiss in the rain.
– To save a life.
And while her sister, Victoria, knows that Rebecca achieved the first two while she was still at school, it was only upon her death that she fulfilled her final wish.
‘To my parents, thank you for taking her to Spain,’ Victoria wrote on Facebook after discovering Rebecca’s bucket list. ‘To the Drama club, thank you for including her in all your countless productions. To Notre Dame, thank you for accepting her and validating all of her hard work—even if South Bend was not quite the city she had in mind. To her teachers, thank you for assigning her homework like this. To her friends, thank you for being her greatest supporters even during her toughest times in high school. To Niko, thank you for being the cute boyfriend she could kiss in the rain. And to Ben, thank you for letting her save a life.’
Now keen to remember Rebecca’s selflessness, and encourage others to be as loving and generous as she was, her sister and cousin have taken over Rebecca’s Instagram account and set up a Facebook page.
Called #RememberingRebecca, they hope that it will remind people to make the most of life by ‘going out and doing something that matters’.
‘The best we thing can take out of the story,’ Rebecca’s cousin told Buzzfeed News, ‘and really the most important part of it, is Rebecca was full of love, and we have so many opportunities to show this love.’
By paying for a stranger’s drinks in Starbucks, volunteering or donating to a charity, they’re asking for anybody who’s been touched by Rebecca’s story to ‘pay it forward’ and show some love.
Tributes have been pouring in, from family members, friends and strangers, who have been moved by Rebecca’s selflessness:
‘This is my baby cousin Rebecca Townsend, on July 2nd her beautiful life was cut short when she was crossing the road in Danbury, CT to see the fireworks. She was only 17 but she was so sweet, and kind, hard working, caring, loving, fun and funny. She had her whole life ahead of her, she was to attend Notre Dame in the fall. She started a chapter of the non-profit She’s The First that helps girls attend higher education who wouldn’t otherwise be able to. I’m so proud to call Becca my cousin. I’ve always looked up to her. When she was in middle school and I was in college she was teaching me SAT words AND giving me fashion advice. She has two sisters and 20 cousins who miss her dearly, not to mention her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more friends than anyone I’ve ever met. Check out the Immaculate High School website and donate to her mission. This angel is looking down on all of us helping us to be better humans. So much love to you and everyone who cares for you. We miss you. XX OO’
‘I’ve spent the last 5 days #RememberingRebecca. Every single moment. It was Independence Day weekend, so I also saw a lot of fireworks. Every single one I saw, I dedicated to her. I asked everyone I was with to dedicate their experience to her. I thank God that her final memory was viewing such a spectacular, beautiful event: fireworks. And though I didn’t know her well, her memory and spirit have touched my life over these last few days. I’ll never take another experience for granted. I’m going to live every day to the fullest and in a way that benefits others. Because that’s what her memory deserves. @rememberingrebecca I hope you know I’m going to be spreading the midwest with Rebecca’s love.’
‘Dear Rebecca and family, I’ve just read the tragic news. I am a complete stranger to you and I’m all the way in Australia. Your story, your bucket list Rebecca, is so inspiring. Most young girls bucket lists consist of buying a gucci bag and traveling the world. And yours was to save a life, and in the end that’s what you did. Your name and your actions will remind me daily that life’s too short and to be the best that I can be. My heart goes out to your friends and family and anyone affected about this tragedy.’