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: Laurie Geers (2005)

I know this is really long, but I started doing this right after the funeral. 4 months later, I realize I'm never going to get the words right. It's just a somewhat chronological story of my relationship with Mike. It was healing for me to write it and I hope it's healing to read it as well.

My first memory of Burke was sophomore year of college (maybe it was freshman year....) when Lauren Olson (then Stockle) told me of her HUGE crush on the red-headed guy in physics class. I didn't really know him personally yet, but from the way she described him, he was cute, charming, fun, witty and smart. I remember how excited she was when the 2 of them studied together for a test! Around that same time I knew of him as "Choir Boy" or "Singer Boy", the awesome singer at the Newman Center. It's just funny thinking back to that time when he was just this presence on campus - famous in his own right.

I honestly don't remember when we became friends – when I transferred into Industrial Engineering, I'm sure we just started hanging around the same people from classes and eventually got to know each other through doing assignments and projects. I do however, distinctly remember "Breakfast Club". Probably about once a semester, maybe more, a few of us from the IE gang (me, Burke, Lauren, Laura, Chad, Farrell and whoever else wanted to join) would get together before our first class of the day and eat muffins, drink Old Style and coffee with Baileys before we rushed off to class. We didn't so much drink the Old Style as we did laugh about the thought of drinking bad beer at 8 am! I think Burke would probably scoff at me saying "bad beer" – no such thing!

Of course, college was just filled with too many good times to even keep track of. I would say I got to know Mike even better once we both had graduated and moved to Chicago. At some point during the 4 or so years that we both lived there at the same time, he became one of my close friends. Somebody got married almost every year, so the weddings were always great times. And then there were the St. Patty's Day celebrations. Ah, the green suit. One of my favorite memories is Burke in his green suit and white shoes entertaining the LONG line at Chief O'Neill's with a moving rendition of 'Danny Boy'. Hilarious. He was always the crowd pleaser. On St. Patty's 2005, we came up with a game where for every 10 unsolicited compliments Burke got on his green suit, he had to drink an Irish Car Bomb. Let's just say here were lots of Irish Car Bombs that day.

And then there was WNG - Wednesday Night Gang - a bunch of the college gang that got together to hang out and let loose in the middle of the work week. We had found that weekends were hectic, but we wanted to make sure we all stayed in contact, so WNG was formed. Sometimes we'd go to bars, sometimes we'd go to movies, sometimes we'd go out to dinner, but we ALWAYS had a blast. The self-portrait of Burke with the stickers on his chest is post-WNG! We always kept "minutes" of our WNG outings - and we'd send them out the next day over e-mail to keep everyone entertained during their work day. The minutes mainly consisted of funny things that people said or funny situations that happened. Burke, the entertainer that he was, always had a very strong presence in the minutes!

Right around the time Mike's nephew was born, we all took a trip to Kansas City to visit Chad. We were shopping at The Gap and Mike bought the cutest little baby jean jacket. When he brought it back to Chad's, he attempted to try it on and then proceeded to dance around like Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy" singing "Fat man in a little coat...." He was soooo excited to have a nephew! The way Mike talked about his niece and nephew....it was precious. He loved them so much.

Before Mike moved to New York, he was staffed in Chicago for a while and I think that's when Mike and I grew the closest. We made a point to get together as regularly as we could - going out for sushi and going to museums were kind of our "things". At one point, we tried a place called Cafe Sushi, which was right down the street from his place. It was great and I remember him saying that he was going to become a regular there and just belly up to the sushi bar and get to know the chefs. Some people might just say that, but he actually did it! A couple weeks later, he told me he'd done exactly what he said he was going to do and said the chefs were really cool guys. Burke was just so easy to know. Even friends of mine that had come to visit me from out of town and met Burke often asked about him down the road. He left a lasting impression on everyone he met, whether he knew them for 5 minutes or a lifetime. Actually, come to think of it, he left a very lasting impression on two of my friends from Minnesota. Rob and Nicole had come down for the weekend - Mike joined us for a night out on Friday and the next day we headed down to the Museum of Science and Industry. We got on the Green Line going south and were going to hop on a bus that would take us directly to the museum. Well, by the time we got off the train, we realized the museum would be closing in less than an hour......so, Burke suggested just walking down the street to grab some food instead. Great idea!, we thought. We're walking down the street when all of the sudden, we hear a woman yelling at us and running down the street towards us. It was the woman working at the train station we had just left. Out of breath, she asks us where we think we're going. Slightly confused, we said we were just going to go find a place to eat. In her nicest, you-guys-are-so-completely-naive-it's-pathetic voice, she told us that wasn't a very good idea and basically held our hands back to the train headed back up north. Looking back, I just laugh - there we were, a bunch of white kids walking down the street with our Marshall Field's bags on the South Side of Chicago at dusk. Brilliant. Mike will go down in history with Rob and Nicole as the guy who almost got them mugged on their vacation to Chicago. It still cracks me up.

When Mike was just starting to think about moving to New York, he told me of a book he'd read called The Alchemist. He told me how it inspired him to really go after his dreams. He'd work at Accenture for a while, save some money, and then he was going to go after a singing career. I was so proud! I had so much confidence in him and I prayed that he wouldn't get caught up in the working game and that he'd really chase his dream. This past spring, I finally read the book (LOVED it) and immediately sent him an e-mail reminding him of how this book had inspired him and wrote something to the effect of "Go sing or something already!!". He replied back saying he loved having friends who know him well. Considering the fact that Burke had SO many friends, I just remember feeling so good that he considered me to be someone who knew him well.

Right before Mike moved to New York, the two of us cooked dinner at his place and sat out on the patio and chatted. He commented on how it felt like college. Something in the air that night... we pretended we didn't have a care in the world. We talked about a lot - life, love, religion, faith. Going out, partying, riding bikes and things like that were all fun and don't get me wrong, we DID have some great times - but these conversations were what drove our relationship below the surface. I can't even put into words how grateful and blessed I am for that.

Of course, there was RAGBRAI. I all but begged Mike to join my team, but he had plans for his 3-man team. Still cool, I thought, I'll still see him all the time. RAGBRAI is just one of those things - you don't really call people or make plans - you just go with the flow and whatever happens, happens. We'd run into each other randomly throughout the week - Jodi Hill and I would share stories of Burke sightings. There was one time I ran into him when our group stopped for a pancake breakfast in the starting town. Mike was just sitting there reading a paper - he was driving that day.... We were chatting when one of the ladies hosting the breakfast came around - they were selling raffle tickets to win a new road bike. We all bought one and then took off for the day. Then, a week after RAGBRAI, I get a call from Burke - "Guess what?! Remember the raffle at that pancake breakfast? Well, I WON the bike - woohooooo!" Man, he was excited about that bike. I think he called me up and told me every time he went biking during the few months after he got it.

Then, on RAGBRAI 2005, we randomly connected at a bowling alley/karaoke bar on Sunday night, July 24. I walked in and lit up when I saw him - I remember thinking, "yay! Burke's here! sweet!". To think we were debating just going back to the tents and going to sleep early. Big hugs, quick catch-up on life, chit-chat, etc.......and then Burke and Deacon were up with a fantastic rendition of Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. I always got the biggest kick out of hearing Burke sing - not only did he have an excellent voice, he was such a performer. He knew how to make a crowd love him. I was just beaming, telling everybody at my table, "That's my friend Burke!" A little while later, we said our good-byes - I had heard there was a storm coming, so we were going to go and get in our tents before it started raining. Little did we know. When it hit and I saw lightning strike 50 feet away - twice - I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life. Thank God there was shelter near by. After the storm calmed down, I remember thinking that I wanted to check and see how those guys were doing, but the people at the fire station weren't really encouraging anyone to leave since the storm was supposedly building again. There was word spreading that a 22-yr-old from New York had been killed - and for a split second, I thought what if it's Burke - but I blew it off because he's not 22 and firefighters probably know their stuff. Still, I had a sinking feeling and in the morning, I went to where I thought they were staying. Burke had told me 5th/8th, 2 blocks from us, but it must've been 8th/5th because there was nothing when I went up the street. I saw that I had a message from Chad, but I figured it was probably just a drunk message and decided to listen to it later when I wasn't in roaming. Then I heard the accident had occurred about a mile from where we were. And then a message from Laura later….. Looking back, there were many clues that were pointing right at my original gut feeling about Mike, but it was like my mind wasn't letting me acknowledge them.

When I got my messages later that day, I just completely deflated. I don't think I was surprised because I truly believe that deep down, I knew already. For quite some time, I went through "what-ifs" in my head. I spent empty moments trying to remember every little thing about Mike. I want to hold onto my memories - I want all of my Burke memories to be right there - all of them, all the time. I've found myself full of self-pity because there's a big hole in my future. I sob with empathy for ALL of the people that are going to miss him so much. I'm so disappointed for those that will never get to meet him.

This has been a work in progress for months now because I almost feel like sending will be saying - "OK, that's it. That's everything I have to say about Mike".....and I don't want it to be like that! I have so much to say. So many great things. I have so many memories....it's painful to know that I can't possibly relay them all.

I believe that Burke is with God now and although in my finite frame of reference, I want him here, he truly couldn't be in a better place – with God who created him in His perfect image (Genesis 1:27); God who wrote out his life before even one day came to be (Psalm 139:16), with God whose plans are so much bigger than our own. I cannot wait for the day I will see him again!

My boyfriend was with me the last night I saw Burke; he also heard Mike sing Rocky Mountain High. Soon after the funeral, he told me I should really listen to the lyrics of that song, but it took me two months to prepare myself for it. As I read the lyrics, tears came to my eyes.

"He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year
coming home to a place he'd never been before.
He left yesterday behind him
you might say he was born again
you might say he found a key to every door."

Michael Burke was a great man and a wonderful friend. He left behind a strong legacy, one that I will never forget, one that will constantly remind me to really live.

Mike's family and friends and the foundation are constantly in my prayers.

Grateful to have known him,
Laurie Geers

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