Reece’s Rainbow Report #52: Falls Family

I can still feel you hold my hand, little man

And even the moment I knew

You fought it hard like an army guy

Remember I leaned in and whispered to you?

Come on, baby, with me

We're gonna fly away from here

You were my best four years

I remember the drive home when the blind hope

Turned to crying and screaming, "Why?"

Flowers pile up in the worst way, no one knows what to say

About a beautiful boy who died

~ Taylor Swift, “Ronan”

Alabama mother Britani Falls stared out the window. Autumn was just beginning to settle into her corner of the South in 2016, but it didn’t feel like it usually did. Nothing did — not since Jake breathed his last. 

I want to know the purpose behind all this suffering, God, she thought. Watching her three-year-old son battle an incurable genetic disease to the point of death simply had to have some sort of bigger meaning. And Britani and her husband Wes were determined to find it. 

Seven years later, the Falls family still doesn’t have all the answers. They fervently wish Jake, a toddler diagnosed with SCN8A at 18 months old, were still around with his wispy, golden-sand hair and innocent smile. 

But they do know one thing: there was certainly a purpose — or purposes, to be more accurate — in Jake’s death. 

“Without Jake, there would be no Sam and Abbie for our family,” Britani says. “The tremendous love he left us with is why we are able to give back.” 

Sam and Abbie are Jake’s new siblings, both adopted from Bulgaria in 2019 and having Down syndrome. It’s a life path the Falls found themselves on after finding Reece’s Rainbow through their friend Tina, an adoptive mother of several children with disabilities. 

“It was a world I knew nothing about, but when I found out that special needs orphans are literally thrown away and left to die, I knew God had a plan for our family and it was to save the orphans,” says Britani, an MRI technologist. “We knew we couldn’t change the world, but we could change a child’s world, and that’s what we set out to do.”

The found a potential daughter in Bulgaria listed on Reece’s Rainbow, but she went to another family who had submitted first. Their agency told them instead about Sam, a two-year-old boy who was developmentally like a four-month-old. A few months later, Britani got an email from RainbowKids, an adoption and child welfare agency. Abbie’s photo was in it — and Britani was in love. 

“As soon as I saw her, I knew she was my daughter,” she says. Abbie was 23 months old, less than a year behind Sam, so adopting them together would, in a way, be like bringing home infant twins. 

That’s what the Falls expected, anyway. Reality turned out to be far easier — yet another hidden blessing from Jake. 

“After the life Wes and I had experienced with our son we lost, who was severely handicapped and medically fragile, bringing home two babies was a walk in the park!” says Britani, now 40. “They just fit right in.” 

They also began changing quickly. Abbie was very much like a newborn initially, barely even able to hold her head up. Now, at ages five and six, both Abbie and her big brother can walk, and Sam can run. He can also feed himself and has a bevy of “typical” peers with whom he enjoys playing. His parents describe him as full of life, extremely happy, energetic and rambunctious.

Abbie, on the other hand, likes to keep to herself and prefers her own company. That’s perfectly alright with her new mother and father, a 40-year-old registered nurse. 

“She knows she is loved and she loves us the best way she knows how,” Britani says. “They are polar opposites but that’s okay with us. It actually makes it easier!”

Yes, easier. Though most people wouldn’t look at the Falls family’s statistics — a toddler taken from them far too early, two more grafted in with intense special needs just three years later — and choose the descriptor easy, Wes and Britani have learned to stop thinking in terms of averages and typical. 

“Yes, God allowed us to suffer the pain of loss in this life in losing our three-year-old son, but He also allowed us to see the true joy in giving back,” Britani says. “He truly does have a purpose in your pain, if you only allow Him.”

Currently, the Falls’ purpose is raising Sam and Abbie alongside their two older brothers (“It’s amazing what having siblings with special needs will do to kids,” Britani marvels). Abbie’s love is simple and pure. Sam is joyful from the moment he wakes up until bedtime. He may get some of his mischievousness from his parents, who enjoy messing with strangers who mistake Sam and Abbie for twins. 

Has all this goodness erased the pain of loving and losing Jake? Of course not. Though a heart may heal from a dagger to its deepest parts, it will never be without scars. And Wes and Britani are okay with that reality. 

“We would do it again in a heartbeat, 1,000 times over,” Britani says. “I think everyone should adopt. It will change your life.” 

As Jake, with his “best three years,” changed theirs. Because everyone knows what to say now about that beautiful boy who died: he saved his brother’s and sister’s lives. 

Crystal Kupper
Crystal Kupper is a freelance writer specializing in magazines and special projects. Since earning her journalism degree, she has written for clients such as Zondervan, Focus on the Family and the Salvation Army, among many others.
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