My whole life I've heard, "now wait, *how* are you related to Pastor Burke?" ... well. I'm not. Not by blood and not even legally. It's a complicated situation that I totally understand, but can't really explain to other people. It stems from my dad's lack of family, which is again complicated. And while my dad's story is woven into my own, it still isn't my story to share. Suffice to say, the Burke family took my dad in and I was raised calling their boys "uncle" and calling them "grandpa and grandma". It's a strange but strong relation.
Death is really interesting. It's the sort of thing that we know exists and that we talk about all the time, but it always seems shocking when it happens? I think it's because something inside of us, in the deepest part of our hearts and beings cries 'unfair!'. We were never made to die, we were made for life. Even so, we actually weren't expecting him to pass, though. He had just been cleared of his battle from cancer and his doctor told him to go and relax on the beach in Florida. That was just about a month ago. He ended up back in the hospital in Florida and then Sunday we got the call that he'd be leaving the hospital and sent home for hospice treatment. I can't tell you how blown away I was. My dad (and their boys) all left the next day to make the trip from Michigan. Thankfully, they all made it in time and my dad said that while he was weak, he was still himself. I could hear him on the phone with my dad the day he left for Florida... you wouldn't have even known he was just given that grim diagnosis. He was asking my dad how church was that morning.
|My parent's wedding|
He was the pastor for a church that he planted in Fenton, Michigan for 33 years. He then retired and handed the church over to a man with a similar story to his own. That man has honored my grandfather in such a touching and real way. This summer they had a "Founder's Day" at The Freedom Center to honor my grandfather's ministry and 85th birthday. It was incredible. They went all out, decorating the church and hanging hundreds of photographs from the ceiling. My grandfather preached a message like I haven't heard since I was a little girl. Everyone was so respectful and grateful. Everyone was so kind.
I was talking to my brother on the phone about it today. It's so rare to leave this earth the way he did. In a culture that reveres youth and beauty while casting aside the elderly, he was sought out for his wisdom. He was incredibly respected. He was still a mentor, still admired, still so relevant. Of course he was relevant! But these days we can get so caught up in being "modern" that we forget the sage advice that comes from those who have gone before us. We tend to find them outdated. We say they couldn't understand. No one ever said that about him. He was talking to my husband and I this summer about a project he was considering. Some younger people had approached him about making a video giving truths about living through the Great Depression, explaining what it was like and encouraging those of us finding our way through the Great Recession. Everyone who knew him understood just how important his opinion and experience was.
|Preaching my wedding|
|Again at our wedding|
He also asked questions that cracked you up! He was such a funny guy. He never lost his sense of humor and he never stopped making jokes. I love that about him. While it's so important to remember his wisdom and to want to emulate that, I have to also speak to his personality. If I don't acknowledge that he's a firecracker, I do him a great injustice.
|Our last trip to Harrisville|
|Grandpa meeting Odette|
"To die will be an awfully big adventure.", said Peter Pan when Hook had nearly gotten him. For my grandpa, I'm sure he's having the adventure of his life right now... and some day, I'll join him again.