John Burke, a donor dad and active volunteer with The Living Legacy Foundation sent us the following e-mail in reference to his son, Jake Burke. We felt it was beautifully written and asked permission to share it with all of you. Our thoughts are with John, Jake and their family on this day, and we hope John’s e-mail touches you all as much as it touched us on this beautiful Monday morning.
Today, October 11th, marks the eighth year anniversary of losing my 19-year-old son, Jake. Please take a minute to reflect with me all the times that many of us had with him. This includes the good, crazy and even the bad times. Jake was killed in a car crash that occurred on Rt. 83 near the beltway on a rainy morning 8 years ago.
As tragic and horrific as the accident was, it brought about some extremely wonderful changes to my life and the lives of many others. Jake was an organ donor and by his gifts of life, he actually saved the lives of perfect strangers. For this, I am so very proud of him. I want to believe that I am a better person and am more appreciative of life, family, friends and the gifts that God has given to all of us.
Through all the grief and the memories that I have of October 11 2002, I have found strength because of Jake’s decision to give of himself. His gifts would not have been possible without the work that The Living Legacy Foundation provides. They have been there for me and my family every step of the way. They have helped me focus and turn my grief into a very positive thing. I have been volunteering for them ever since the accident and they have allowed me to tell Jake’s story, over and over again. Quite frankly, I wonder how they put up with me. I just absolutely refuse to let Jake’s life become a footnote in the history books.
EDITOR’S NOTE: John, we feel honored to have you share Jake’s story at our events and we love having you as a volunteer. Jake’s life will never be a footnote in history books, as his story touches and inspires everyone you share it with. More importantly, the lives he saved will continue to carry on his legacy for years to come.
This past May, Sally and I presented the 6th scholarship in Jake’s name to a graduating senior at Loch Raven High School. I will continue this scholarship as it brings back some great memories of Jake’s time there. Through all the football and lacrosse games, the dances, the parties and even the calls from the principal, I knew Jake loved life and wanted so much to live it to the fullest. He did that – sometimes his grades even proved it.
This New Years, Sally and I will be at the Rose Bowl Parade, representing The Living Legacy Foundation. We will be working on the Donate Life float and attending all the festivities. While we won’t actually be riding on the float, we will help decorate it for the parade. We both consider this quite an honor and only hope that we represent The Living Legacy Foundation well and help promote the work that they do and the awareness that it brings. We still get chills that The Living Legacy Foundation actually asked us to represent them this year. A very special thank you to Latrice, Charlie, Karen, Jim, Jennifer, Lauren, Laura, Sherry and all the wonderful people who touch the lives of so many through their work with The Living Legacy Foundation.
When you finish reading this, I hope that you grab your kids, your spouse, your family members, close friends – hug them, kiss them, let them know how much you love them. When Jake woke up that morning, he had no idea that this would be his last day on earth. Life is way too short and so very fragile when you think about it. Show all those that you work with how much you appreciate their efforts, drive a little slower, smile more, reflect on how good you actually have it. Don’t be afraid to give of yourself to the less fortunate. Don’t be afraid to give the gift of life to others. Jake didn’t know anyone of the people he donated to. I know for a fact and first hand, how appreciative they were for Jake’s unselfish gifts.
Finally, to Sally, you never let me have my “pity party” and I am eternally grateful for that, your friendship and most of all your love.
Yes, I miss Jake terribly. I miss him every minute, of every hour, of every day. I know in my heart, that the world is a better place because of his gifts. Please raise a glass of good cheer to Jake on Monday… but not too many.
Cheers and peace to all of you!