After reading an ESPN story this past November on how Brendan Burke was helping to combat homophobia in sports, I posted on my blog about him.
I was impressed how the then 20 year-old, openly gay son of a legendary NHL executive, was breaking down barriers. John Buccigross had just written a piece on how the Miami University student was serving as student manager of his university's ice hockey team and opening a dialogue about gays in the world of sports.
Yes, he wasn't a player, but he was the son of hockey royalty and his openness and candidness about his sexual orientation are a big deal in a country that still doesn't allow gays to serve openly in the military, for fear of such inane things as community showers.
Burke was viewed with nothing but respect by the Miami players. That there was a need to even feature a story like this at our nation's most pre-eminent sports website was revealing.
Sadly, Burke was killed in an automobile accident in Indiana on Friday. He was 21. His burial was yesterday.
Buccigross has written an equally eloquent piece about Burke's passing. He ended his tribute by speculating about all the things Burke could have accomplished over his next 21 years:
I would have hoped he would have become a teacher and coach at some point; lighting people up with his glow would have been best utilized on the young. He would have indelibly inspired, shaped and motivated kids with his energetic words and actions, and led with a kindly light amid the encircling doom of adolescence and young adulthood.Read the full tribute here.
Burkie would have been the all-time favorite teacher of hundreds of students. He would have written books, spoken at conventions, probably run for local or state office, started a blog, been a guest on television and radio, and probably become well known for many things. But teaching would have been his core strength because his strength was his quest for intimacy. His light was a spotlight ... on you.
And so gently grasping his right arm at the wake and hoping for one beam of light, it dawned on me. Yes, Brendan was a star, but he blazed because he found a little gleam in each of us. If his memory enlightens anything in us, it is this: CONFIDENCE.
A terrible loss for the Burke/Gilmore family and Brendan's friends? Unspeakably and unquestionably. But thank goodness they got the first 21 years, the 21 years friends and families treasure most because the team is almost always together and at its most intimate.
But Brendan Gilmore Burke's death is an even bigger loss for the people in the future who would have known and experienced him just once or on a daily basis. I feel the loss the most for these unknown faces. Because during the next 21 years, they will never see the light.
Once again, I would like to recommend sending Mr. Buccigross a thank you for helping to make the late Brendan Burke's life even more meaningful, and letting the world know about the man he was. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org