This was a very tough weekend! We had the funeral of our friend Mike Burk, and all the boys decided to go...I was glad because it meant a lot to his wife Karen. I can't began to tell you how heartbreaking it was watching those boys and Karen. The sixteen year old was trying to be strong and not cry. The 14 year old was in tears throughout the whole service and the youngest didn't really understand what was going on...which I think was a nice distraction for Karen.
When we walked up before the service, I waited to give Karen a hug, not knowing what to say but just wanting to let her know I was there for her. She saw me and lunged into my arms. As we hugged she seemed to be hanging on to me as if I were a lifeline...a piece of the life that she and Mike had been a part of for 12 years. Baseball and basketball had brought us together and formed a bond and friendship that had become very special over the years. We held each other tight as she said, "Mike just loved you guys and the boys, thank you so much for being here. It really means a lot to me." Squeezing her tighter and fighting back the tears, "Mike has been an important part our lives. Please know that we are all here for you and the boys. If you need anything you know you can call us!" Jullien was standing behind me, she looked at him, chuckled and said, "Oh Jullien, Mike absolutely ADORED you! You always gave him a hard time but he loved you!" They hugged and laughed.
That comment brought back a whole new flood of memories...Jullien was always a hot head, a perfectionist and competitive to a fault. Mike knew this about him and I think saw a bit of himself in Jullien. As a coach he tried to calm Jullien down if he was having a bad game. He decided to find ways to motivate Jullien...one particularly important game found Mike's team down by quite a few points at halftime. He knew that if he could calm Jullien down and get his head back in the game...they could still win. He went straight to the heart of a teenage boy...he offered him CASH! He said, "I'll give you $1.00 for every basket you make." Jullien's eyes got huge, "Are you serious?" "Yeah..show me what you can do, let's see if we can win this game!"
Jullien's face lit up, a light had been switched on. He gathered the team, and said, "We can take these guys...we're better than them." My son turned into Koby Bryant right there on that basketball court, dribbling, passing, leaping, lay ups, three pointers, even a few allyoops. It was amazing to see, he had a look of determination that I had never seen before. We ended up winning the game by 6 points!
I walked up to Mike after the game and said, "What did you say to him...I've never seen him so intense before?" He just smiled and said, "I just figured out a little trick to motivate him." "Well what is it?" I waited patiently for the magic words that I could use for years to come. He grinned even bigger, "It's a secret!" "C'mon Mike, you have to tell me." "Jullien can tell you later if he wants." I got a little bugged, why wouldn't he tell me...I need to know, it was magical!
We got into the car, my son was beaming! "So, what did Mike say to you?" Waiting, leaning back over the front seat, anxiously holding my breathe for the answer (I'm very competitive too and HAD TO KNOW!) He reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a $20.00 bill. I said, "Where'd you get that?" "That's from Mike, he offered me $1.00 for every basket. So I scored 20 points and he payed me!" I told my husband to stop the car and turn around. Mike was just getting to his car. I told my son to give him back his money. He argued, but he knew I meant business! He got out of the car, head low, moping, and handed Mike the money. "My mom said I have to give this back." He walked Jullien back to the car and said, "We made a deal. He held up his end of the bargain so I need to hold up mine."
That was Mike, motivating, giving, encouraging, stubborn and most of all caring. He would not let this angry, overly aggressive kid get beat by himself. He looked inside, saw his heart and talent and found a way to lift him up and show him his full potential. Mike will truly be missed.
After the service I looked over to see his sixteen year old son standing alone, back away from the crowd of people. Staring blankly at the scene before him. I walked over, hugged him and told him how sorry I was and how much we loved his dad. He seemed numb, void, shocked, disbelief and nothingness...I saw a memory of myself when my brother died. I knew that he would be our mission. His long road ahead will be difficult, he'll need to be encouraged, watched and comforted. We'll stay close and help any way we can...we owe it to Mike. Stepping up in his memory and reaching deep inside to touch HIS children and wife.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." PSALM 23: 1-6