Beckett’s Witness: How a Sweet, Short Life Changed Lives
The testimony of Peter and Stephanie Weinert’s son has touched family, friends and strangers alike.
A baby’s battle for life has inspired and touched the lives of his family, friends and strangers alike.
Born on Oct. 26, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Beckett Weinert’s life started out with plenty of complications, as shared by his mother, Stephanie, who has shared her son’s story via social media. She told the Register that a conscious decision led her to publicly share her son’s story — a decision that has led many closer to God and each other.
Stephanie and her husband, Peter, were thrilled when they realized they were pregnant with Beckett, particularly after suffering multiple miscarriages throughout their marriage. Their other four living children were also excited about their new sibling. Their family felt incredibly blessed as the pregnancy progressed. Although Stephanie suffered from many complications during pregnancy, they were given no reason to worry about their baby.
“Those sufferings prepared me for the later sufferings,” Stephanie recalled, noting that “no one detected that he had Down syndrome or had a hole in his heart, even though we had tons of ultrasounds.” Stephanie even recalls telling a friend in a parking lot, “I’m just so relieved he’s healthy” during her pregnancy.
At her 38-week checkup, Stephanie’s medical team informed her that there was no amniotic fluid, and they prepared her for an emergency C-section.
The Weinerts’ family and church community rallied behind them. The delivery was a frightening experience, but Stephanie placed her trust in the Lord. While there were fears for Stephanie, no one worried about the baby. While Stephanie and Peter reveled in their newborn son and Stephanie began her recovery, it was a full two days before any concerns regarding Beckett’s health were raised.
As the family prepared for discharge, a pediatrician examined Beckett for what seemed like a lot of time. After multiple examinations, she turned to Stephanie and Peter and said, “I think he might have something wrong with his heart,” adding that they would be staying in the hospital for another day. They also were told Beckett may have Down syndrome, as he had several markers. As the doctor was leaving the room, Stephanie, in a state of shock, asked her, “What do we do?” The physician replied simply, “You just love this baby. That is your job.”
Stephanie knew she could do that.
Over the next few days and weeks, bad news poured in regarding little Beckett’s health. The big concern was his heart, which would require surgery. Amid these worries, the Weinert family bonded with their newest member. Stephanie and Peter decided to wait to share with their other children the health concerns about their new baby brother. They were able to fall in love with him and get to know him without any worries for 10 days. His parents knew Beckett would need his siblings to help him learn and grow, and the kids committed immediately.
Diagnoses and Evangelization
Beckett’s diagnoses started a life of tests, therapy, doctor appointments, check-ins and the loneliness that accompanied the beginning of a global pandemic. The isolation was particularly difficult, since lots of people did not get the opportunity to know Beckett like they would have had he been born outside the pandemic.
“Social media was really his mission field and where the world got to meet him and love him, and where Down syndrome became something different for a lot of people,” Stephanie shared.
After an email exchange with a friend, in which Stephanie shared about her son, her friend’s heartfelt reaction and response inspired Stephanie and made her realize she should share with others.
“I copied that email and posted it on Instagram with a picture of Beckett and immediately got such an outpouring of love. It gave me so much consolation as his mother and courage about sharing his story.”
Along with his family, people from all walks of life were learning and growing with Beckett.
Stephanie received news about families deciding to have more babies and parents receiving prenatal diagnoses with grace and courage because they thought of Beckett, and learned of more work being done for the pro-life movement — all because of Beckett’s story.
As Beckett grew, his medical needs became more apparent. His parents received news that, along with his heart problems, his lungs were also working too hard and were too weak to handle the vital surgery his little heart needed. Heart studies and CT scans filled much of that fall and spring. At a year old, Beckett was on oxygen full time, which drastically increased the level of care he needed.
‘Dose of Happy’
However, despite his medical needs, Beckett’s personality and joy grew. He loved pickles and bacon, singing with his siblings, and country music. He would be crying, and simply turning on music made him so happy. During medical examinations like blood draws or echocardiograms, which required stillness from the tiny patient, his parents would play Dierks Bentley songs, and Beckett would hold still to listen. Sitting on the porch with his family, Beckett would blow kisses and share his happiness with anyone and everyone passing by.
“He just loved so well and had so much happiness. Everyone would get their ‘dose of happy’ being around him,” Stephanie told the Register.
“He did a lot of good showing the beauty of Down syndrome. God gives us these little angels in those with Down syndrome. It’s the best that a human soul can be in this world — and other people got to see that.”
In mid-April 2021, Beckett had a G-tube procedure — a normally routine operation to provide a gastronomic opening — that resulted in a ruptured stomach wall in Beckett. The intensity of the pain resulted in pulmonary crisis. “His lungs never recovered,” Stephanie recalled.
Stephanie and Peter rushed Beckett to the emergency room. After spending days by her son’s side, in a state of complete fatigue, Stephanie was directed to go to sleep for just four hours. She had hardly left the room before she was called back: Beckett was in cardiac arrest.
After 12 minutes, Beckett was revived. “God has a way. It was not just chance that I wasn’t in that room when that happened. I was in the room for nine of the 12 minutes, but wasn’t there for the start,” Stephanie shared. “It was very life-changing. It was, in a way, a gift — because everything gets prioritized correctly. It was very spiritual.”
Three and a half more weeks of hard fighting later, on May 11, 2021, Beckett died. “His heart just could not keep up. We had to let him go,” Stephanie said.
“I believe everyone prayed him home. There was so much happening in that world, it was spiritually palpable. It was an honor to be a small part of it and witness the way God moves people. It was a holy place.”
After his passing, doctors, nurses and even cleaning staff shared with Stephanie how Beckett changed their lives. She also received many stories of God moving people through Beckett’s story: There were stories of people coming back to church and praying for him; others experienced conversions during Beckett’s hour of death; old friends saw each other in adoration after decades without seeing one another — because they both came to pray for Beckett.
“Beckett never said a word in his entire life, and yet he did so much for the Kingdom,” Stephanie said.
The days leading up to and after Beckett’s death were incredibly difficult for the Weinert family.
“We had to get through so many of the impossible things you think you could never live through as a parent, but God gives you the supernatural grace that you need when you need it. Getting through the experience of death, saying goodbye, leaving the room ... we were calm and clearheaded. It was the grace of the thousands of prayers we were receiving. It’s just a testament to God’s grace that you get through it.”
When a baptized child dies before the age of reason, immediate entry to heaven is ensured, so the Church makes provision for a “Mass of the angels” instead of a requiem Mass. The Mass of the angels is full of rejoicing.
“Beckett had every grace and prayer that he could have had for a happy death,” Stephanie said. “It was very beautiful to learn of this liturgy and how the Church reacts to a soul they know is going to heaven.”
Beckett’s parents decided to bury him near their home at Belmont Abbey. “Where we chose to have him buried, we knew he wasn’t just our baby anymore,” Stephanie said. Knowing people would want to visit him, he is buried right next to the adoration chapel. Many people have come to pray and visit him there.
The Weinert family carries their cross together. In some ways, it is harder today than it was last May, Stephanie explained. “The shock has worn off. The fight-or-flight adrenaline wore off. The slow and steady ache of grief has set in. ... It will always be our cross.”
As a family, they help one another with their shared burden. “We try to be gentle with each other as a family and accept where each of us is in a different day.”
Now, a grieving mother is giving back — supporting families that receive a Down syndrome diagnosis and raising money for Down syndrome adoptions. With Beckett’s story, Stephanie hopes to do more in that ministry. In many countries, more than 90% of children with Down syndrome are aborted.
“It’s such a disservice to Down syndrome people. Their friends are missing. The community they should have isn’t here. It’s a tragedy for us that we don’t get to see the miracle of these lives,” Stephanie said. “We are missing out on so much joy and goodness because they are not here. I didn’t know that before having Beckett.”
She has also started a new online ministry, Mother and Home. “The reason I started Mother and Home was because of Beckett. I realized how much God uses mothers,” she said, adding that she has a desire to take those 12 minutes from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit last spring and share it with mothers and “help them know the value of what they are doing, raising souls not for here but for the Kingdom.”
As Stephanie carries her grief of losing her child, she tries to be like Job and bless the Lord throughout it all — and encourages others to do the same.
“We can do that, but we have to choose to do that. And it’s a choice that’s the hardest thing. In all struggles, we get to choose to say, ‘Blessed be your name,’” Stephanie said.
“It’s not going to just make everything okay, but it’s going to put you in the right relationship with God and let him handle it. It’s the only thing I know to do.”
Emma Jirak Follett writes from Wisconsin.