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The birth of a color

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WCIV) -- In the adult world, colors have names. Kitchens are painted Dill with accents in Bamboo; bathrooms are bathed in Dark Iris and Du Jour.

That practice continues on the web with Alice blue, named for the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, and Lemon Chiffon, and Lavender Blush.

But children are different. They have favorite colors. They like green, or blue, or yellow. Rebecca Alison Meyer loved purple. It was her favorite color.

On the web, there are 140 named colors, 17 standard and 123 more, denoted by name and hexadecimal value. The colors are supported by all web browsers.

Now there is a push to add a 141st color -- RebeccaPurple, for 6-year-old Rebecca Meyer who died on her sixth birthday. "She was six years, eleven and a half hours old," her father Eric Meyer tweeted on June 7.

See, Eric Meyer has been a mainstay on the web for two decades. He's been at the forefront of web development and web standards, working towards a goal of making the Internet a place where the experience was essentially the same no matter what way the user chose to view it.

And that's where the push for the newly named color started. Friends and colleagues started the campaign. On the day of her funeral, the hashtag #663399Becca trended on Twitter.

In hexadecimal, #663399 is Rebecca's favorite color.

Rebecca was diagnosed with grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma in 2013 and the Meyers were faced with a life and death decision of their second daughter. She would undergo proton treatments that might give her five more years of life. Her chance of survival was 50 percent, wrote Eric Meyer in late August 2013.

"Imagine that your child’s life depended on a coin flip. That’s where we are. Even with the best doctors and care and technology in the country or possibly even the world, her chances of making it to her tenth birthday are basically the same as the chances that your football team gets to choose between kicking or receiving."

So they packed up the eldest daughter Carolyn and young Rebecca and even younger Joshua and went to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, arguably the best place for Rebecca to be both for the surgeries to remove the tumor and the proton therapy to prevent another from emerging.

The proton therapy can be dangerous. It's designed to burn away the cancerous cells without destroying too much of her brain matter. But two weeks into the seven-week therapy, young Rebecca was as vibrant and bright as ever.

After six weeks of therapy and life in a Ronald McDonald House, Rebecca remained full of energy. She runs down one hallway, skips down another. She's 5 and she does what most 5-year-old girls do.

However, Kat and Eric Meyer could see signs the treatments were taking their toll. She was losing her hair around the spot where the concentrated beam of protons hit her skull day after day.

Rebecca loved gymnastics, too.

Her lessons took a back seat after her diagnosis, but in January it looked like her bloodwork and MRIs were all coming back with more good news. Her strength returned. She could race around the house with her older sister and little brother.

She was even invited back to gymnastics to the pre-team class, Eric wrote in January. Oncologists said the chemotherapy made her return to gymnastics impossible though. Her bones were weak. They could snap on a landing. She could end up with internal bleeding on a fall.

"Rebecca did not cry. She just looked sad, and then insisted she only wants to go to school, not to gym. We probably cried a little bit more at the near-certainty that she was lying to try to protect us, which is heartbreaking all on its own, just as it was to hear of her fear of hurting me forever," Eric wrote on Jan. 17.

In February, an MRI showed tumors emerging again in her brain.

There were several flare sites, as they are called, popping up. Surgery was out of the question; all hope was put in hoping medicine could stop the spread of the cancer.

The hope, Eric wrote, was to push back the cancer long enough to allow her to visit Cedar Point on her sixth birthday as her Make-A-Wish Foundation dream. She wanted to win every boardwalk game, he said in March.

In April, Kat and Eric had to have a talk with young Rebecca, a girl just months away from her sixth birthday. They had to discuss her quickly coming death.

Through tears they had the hardest talk with Rebecca of all the long, painful talks of her short life.

"We kissed her, almost but not quite crying again," Eric wrote. "And then it was time to tell her sister."

As an cancer survivor or family member coping with a loved one's battle will attest, there are good days and bad during the fight. Fortunately for the Meyer family and Rebecca, she had many more good days than bad. Often she was able to run and play and do all the things a girl of 5 years would do. During a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney, most people wouldn't pick her as the sick child, Eric wrote.

Late in the month of May, that changed. "Rebecca's spark has dimmed, and we don't know why," he wrote.

By June, the talkative, athletic girl with big brown eyes and a love for all things sweet barely spoke and hardly moved. She remained headstrong and defiant, though.

On June 7, the girl with the big brown eyes, a head full of curls and a mouth made to smile died.

"She’ll never learn to read. She’ll never learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle, or to drive a car. Never get to ride the best roller coasters, never learn to swim unassisted, never go to sleep-away summer camp," Eric wrote three days after Rebecca died. "My beautiful, bright-burning girl, my little spark. I wanted so much to watch you grow and learn, and to see the world made new through your eyes. I would do almost anything to restore all that to you."

Five days later, Eric, Kat, and Carolyn delivered eulogies at Rebecca's funeral; it was her sixth birthday.

She was six years, 11 hours, and 30 minutes old when she died.

During his eulogy, Eric related a story of the day his daughter died. See, the Meyer family was supposed to make one more Make-A-Wish trip to Cedar Point on her birthday for a weekend of fun and roller coaster rides and games.

"Instead, that was the day she died… and on that day, a water main break closed Cedar Point for the entire weekend, because if she couldn’t go, then nobody gets to go."

And out of her death, something was born. There was a push for a new, specific color in the rainbow of web colors. There was a push for beccapurple to be added to the CSS specification.

Eric said he would stay out of the debate for the color's inclusion, but did have one request -- making the name Rebecca Purple: "A couple of weeks before she died, Rebecca informed us that she was about to be a big girl of six years old, and Becca was a baby name. Once she turned six, she wanted everyone (not just me) to call her Rebecca, not Becca."

On Saturday, Rebecca Purple, hexadecimally 663399, was added to the CSS Color Level 4. Apple, Mozilla, Google, and Microsoft have already announced plans to implement the color in a coming update.

In a temporary world where each moment is fleeting, especially for the family of a dying 6-year-old girl, there's a bit of permanence in Rebecca Purple.

And that is how a color was born.

The Meyer family asks that charitable donations be made to Philadelphia's Ronald McDonald House and the St. Baldrick's Foundation, an organization that funds childhood cancer research.

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