It was the most surreal conversation I have had, ever. Our dear friend and mentor from our college days, Doug Burck, called a few weeks ago to tell us personally that he has his ticket punched to go to heaven and should be heading there in a month or so. With his unique candor and contagious laugh he announced that his kidneys have failed and he only wants to do dialysis for a short time. This is our Doug that keeps us laughing with his stories and jokes, guides us to find God in everything, and has adopted us as his own kids.
So Doug gets to decide when he wants to pull his own plug and board the train to Heaven. And get this. He’s excited about his next adventure. Sure, he’s sad to leave his wife of 30 years behind and all of us who can’t really imagine life without him but he’s so Heavenly minded that he, albeit a bit nervously, looks forward to what’s ahead.
Not many of us get to know that we have 2 weeks left but Doug has been given this gift and with it he’s connecting with every dear friend he has to say goodbye, he’s making things right with others, and he’s savoring every minute with his wife.
He and his wife were our bridge to independence during those fragile college years where you are simultaneously letting go of parents with one hand while reaching towards the unknown of independence with the other. He prided himself in being the pebble in Cory’s shoe, forever challenging him yet he was the gentle salve my troubled heart needed. He knew how to love each of us, right where we were at. And they continue to bless the next generation as they have poured into our kids as well with yearly reunions that highlight our year.
Tonight we had one of our last conversations (man that’s difficult to type) in which he challenged our son Cade to “be better than me”. He said, “take what I’ve taught you and go further. If you don’t push to be better than I am than I will feel I failed.” He went on to tell Cade that he sees wisdom in him and he wants him to use that for God’s glory (little did he know that Cade’s name means, “Wise warrior”). He said, “If it’s possible I will greet you at heaven’s door and I want to see that you’re bruised and bloodied from your battles for God and when I ask you if you strived to be better than me, I hope to hear you say ‘yes’.” Big words for a 16-year-old to digest to which Cade tenderly responded, ” I will never forget you. You mean so much to me.”
Such a legacy. He poured into us. He poured into our kids. Open arms. Open heart. Unconditionally accepting. Feisty yet tender. Prodding us ahead to be better, stronger, and to live with integrity.
I know he’s excited but I am not ready to say good-bye. These are the relationships that forever change us, they become part of who we are and live on through us. I am a better person because of him and as we say good-bye I promise, Doug, I will keep striving to love others completely, fully, and tenderly as you do. If only I could master your feisty and rambunctious laugh.