Michael loved life and lived it to the fullest. He did more in his short 27 years than most do in a full lifetime. He will be missed terribly by all those whose lives he touched.

Memories of Michael

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From: Michael Cipriano (August 2005)

There is no way to just tell A story about Burke. I have been reading old emails from Mike and remembering many of our weekend trips to Chicago and Iowa City over the past few years, and it isn't any event or series of events that sticks with me...it is how he always treated me and how he always made things better just by showing up. I am a few years older than Mike and most of his friends and often felt a little bit insecure and fearful that someone would ask "who brought the old guy?" But Burke always made me feel like if I wasn't in attendance, he would genuinely miss me. I can't say that about too many people during that time in my life, and that is a huge part of who Mike will always be to me. I hope he knew how much that his acceptance of me helped me get closer to actually accepting myself. He saw good in me before I was putting a whole lot of "good" on display.

It goes without saying that days and nights spent with friends were ALWAYS better when Mike could make it...which was more often than not. It's funny how so many weekends, nights, and football games get cataloged by our group of friends as either being with or without "the X Factor", which is what I always called Mike. The reason why he earned his nickname is true to how he lived his life and impacted so many of us during it. You didn't always know how things would be different when Mike arrived, BUT you knew that they would be...and by different, I mean better...MUCH better. What an incredible legacy it is that every time he was around, he made the experience of those in his presence better. That is why he is "X" because no matter how much fun we'd be having, we'd be having more fun when we added "the X Factor."

When I was a kid, I heard a son say that his dad made him better without making others worse. I wish I could say that about myself, but I can't. I can say it about Mike Burke. I always wanted to goad him into mocking someone I disliked or getting wrapped up in my "I can't stand that guy" rhetoric, and he just wouldn't. He'd just smile and say "c'mon Cip, who cares about them...we're here and they're not with us." Every time I feel myself starting to fall into the trap of being merciless, I know I will hear him saying those words to me.

As a Christian, I require no explanation for what happened to Mike. That doesn't make it any easier to deal with this loss, but it does motivate me to be better. I'm here, and my friend is not. If I don't learn from the example of kindness and compassion that he ALWAYS showed me, then I disgrace our friendship. I am determined not to let that happen. Mike Burke lives in those of us whose lives he helped make better as long as we try to live the way he did. In the last week, I have thought about few things other than Mike...and I am glad. I know his memory will help fuel me in my work as a teacher to help others believe in themselves the way that he helped me believe in myself. All of that being said, I am a selfish fool because I miss him and I want him back. He's with God now; while that gives me incredible comfort, it doesn't make missing him go away. It never will.

Michael Cipriano

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