1. Tell us a little about who Burk was.
Burkley McKay Hansen was the kind of kid that every parent dreams of having. He was born three years after our first set of twins, and was a welcome change from his active older brother and sister. Burk was quiet and introspective by nature from the start of his life. He watched and observed, and this caused him to see what many people miss when they interact with each other. He was sensitive to the feelings of others and aware of those around him who were hurting, scared, or lonely, and desirous to help and serve those people. When we talk about his tendency to serve others, we are not exaggerating. He would often mow the lawn without being asked because he knew that it needed to be done. One day when his younger sister was sick and I was at work, I received a call from him. He was very concerned because he had taken her temperature and it was high. He wanted to know what should be done for her. This was his nature. To love, serve, and watch over.
Burk was also a typical teenage boy. At the age of thirteen he loved basketball and was an avid fan of his favorite teams, always loyal to them even in losing seasons. He teased and annoyed his younger brother and sister the same way that most other older brothers do, but he also watched over them the way that a father watches over his children. He was a mix of extraordinary and typical in one beautiful package.
2. Take us back to right before Easter last year. Where were you and how did you first learn that something had happened to Burk? Is there any way to describe what you were feeling that day?
April 4th, 2015 was a day I will never forget. We had been watching conference with the sister missionaries. The morning session was finished and we were eating lunch. All the family was there except for Burk who was at his friend’s house having slept over the night before. We were sitting around the table when someone knocked on the door. Clint went to answer it and Laynie followed him. A few minutes later Laynie came up to me and said that she was scared because something had happened to Burk. I went outside where Clint was talking on the phone to the mother of the friend that Burk was staying with, while the mother of another friend was standing at the door. They had tried to reach us by phone, but we didn’t have our cell phones with us so she had come to the house. I heard Clint say “Let me make sure I’m understanding you right. Burk was on a four-wheeler and he hit a tree. He’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and they may need to life flight him…” I’m a nurse by profession, and I knew what this all meant. I immediately ran into the house to get my shoes on. Clint came in quickly after me when I said to him “We need to hurry. If he’s going to be on life flight, then I’m going to be with him.” All I could think about in that moment was getting to the hospital as quickly as possible. I didn’t want my baby to be going through something so scary without me there. I was thinking that in the worst-case scenario he would have traumatic brain injury. It never crossed my mind that we would lose him. Clint told me to go ahead and he would follow with the kids. I drove to the hospital, praying the whole way. As I look back on that drive, I know that Burk was with me because I felt peaceful and I prayed that I would be able to face and accept whatever was to come, still not thinking for a moment that he was gone.
I arrived at the ER and asked to be able to see my son. The attendant wouldn’t let me, and that was my first clue that something was really wrong. She showed me to a room, a private room, I recognized it as a room for grieving families. Two of Burk’s friends had been with him at the accident scene and both of their fathers showed up at the hospital before Clint did. We were sitting in the private room when the Paramedic came in. He said “What questions do you have for me?” I looked at him and saw that he was sweating profusely. It registered in my mind that he must have been working hard, coding Burk, administering CPR, and once again the gravity of the situation was apparent to me. I asked him if Burk’s heart was beating when he arrived on the scene. He shook his head no, and in that moment I knew. I knew what the odds were of his heart restarting and sustaining, and I knew that they were very, very small. In that moment I knew that he was gone. I don’t know how much longer it was before Clint and the kids showed up. Clint looked at me and I shook my head. Mikah came to me and asked what was going on and I told her that they were working to get his heart beating again. She started to sob in my arms. Clint called for a family prayer. The doctor came in after the prayer was finished and he was shaking his head. I knew, we all knew. Once again I’m certain that Burk was with us in that moment. There was not a lot of wailing like you might expect, rather there was acceptance in that room, acceptance of the Lord’s will.
I knew the Nurse Supervisor who was attending to Burk and she asked me what I needed in that moment. I told her that I wanted to see Burk. Once again, Clint told me to go in first and he would follow with the kids. Nothing prepared me for the sight of my lifeless son. He was just as beautiful as ever, strong arms and legs, beautiful clear skin, long eyelashes. I went right to him and pulled up his eyelids to look at his eyes, I put my head to his chest, I grasped his hand. I inspected him the same way that I did on the day he was born. As a mother, you look at your tiny newborn, at their eyes, their arms and legs, their fingers and toes, and you let the miracle of their existence sink into your mind and heart. I found myself repeating that ritual in the ER that day. I was letting the reality of his death sink in. His skin was still warm, but he didn’t return the pressure of my hand. My ear to his chest didn’t report the rhythm of his heart or the rise and fall of his chest. Clint and the kids came in and we surrounded Burk’s body. I think of that circle that we made and know that Burk’s spirit was standing there with us.
Over the next hour our ward family showed up at the hospital to support us. They came to mourn with us, to comfort us, to fulfill their baptismal covenants in the most essential way. They were there for us when we needed them. I will forever be grateful. I am so grateful for that sacred time in the hospital when I was able to be with the body that I helped to create for Burk. I knew instinctively that he his spirit had left it, and I had such love and respect for that body because that was the vehicle that Burk used to come into my life! Oh, how I miss seeing that boy in his physical form! I can’t wait to be able to see him again and embrace him!!
Ethan and Laynie didn’t spend much time with Burk, it was too much for them and they left with friends. I don’t know how long we stayed in the ER, but eventually we had to leave. We had to walk out of that room and go home and do what? Live our lives? Picking up the pieces after this kind of experience and living again is the hardest part. I know where Burk is, and I know what he is doing. I have no concern for Burk, but living through the ache and the pain is hard. I struggle with it on a daily basis. My oldest twins are graduating high school this May, and Mikah will then leave for college and Nate will leave for a mission. These changes have been very difficult to face, and I struggle with the desire to keep them home, under my wing where I know that no harm will come to them. I feel this and then I listen to the wise counsel of my husband and friends who remind me that I can’t protect them from harm no matter how hard I try. I’m reminded that the reason that I gave them life was so that they could live it! What a difficult reality this is to accept, but I am accepting it. In the meantime I’m soaking up every last minute that I can with them while continuing to accept the reality that Burk is in a different place than I am.
3. This seems to be every mom’s worst nightmare. How did you cope? How do you cope even now?
There are some things that I have found that help with the daily pain and the daily struggle. As a family, we talk about Burk and say his name regularly. Our family went to Orlando and Kansas City recently and during both trips we have talked about what we think Burk’s favorite part of the trip would have been. We remember crazy things that he did and said on previous vacations and we laugh.
That is so healing! To remember him and laugh and smile when we do. We also cry when we feel the need to. There is no judgment when those tears come. We just lean on each other and cry without trying to change anything or make it all better or take the pain away. That was a hard thing for me to learn as a mother because my instinct is to tell my kids that everything will be ok, that I will always be here with them, that they will never have to go through this pain again, that we will always be safe as a family. I can’t make those promises because we have experienced the harsh reality of life, that sometimes it ends much too soon. Instead of making those promises to my kids, I have told them that we will see Burk again and that our family will be together eternally because of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is real for us. We hope for and rely on the promise that we will be able to see, embrace, and speak with Burk again! We have to wait for that blessing, but we believe that it will happen! There is no doubt. Sometimes there is sorrow because of the waiting, but never doubting that it will happen.
4. What are some of the things Burk taught you during his life?
The most lasting lessons Burk has taught me in his life are about our eternal nature as children of Heavenly Father. Burk was His son before he was ever mine, and he has returned where we all will some day. My goal is to live a life that will make him proud, that he will be able to say to me “Good job Mom! I was cheering for you when you did this, or that, and I knew I could count on you to take care of the people I love.” I want to be able to hear him say that to me when I see him again.
5. What do you think Burk would think about all the things the foundation has done in his honor?
It is strange to think of Burk’s legacy because he was just a kid. He was my special kid, but still a normal teenage boy. I think that he would be so pleased with the foundation and the service that has been rendered in his honor. He would for sure be humbled by it, but then he would say “This is so cool!” with his crooked smirk. He would love that the foundation focuses on the youth in the community and especially his friends. He loved his friends and was fiercely loyal to them! I know that he would want them to be taken care of and watched over the same way that he did when he was alive. The foundation has been very healing for our family.