Monday, March 12, 2012


This post has been a long time coming. I have been thinking about what to write and how to write it for a while now. Even now I'm nervous to start writing because I don't think I can really do the subject justice, but I will do my best...

On July 5th 2011, Randy and Brenda Burningham were killed in a tragic motorcycle accident in Montana. Burninghams have been a part of my life since I was 6 and moved to Oregon. Mikaela, their third child, is my age and we have been close friends for 22 years. Her sisters and my sisters were also the same age and dear friends. Our parents were best of friends as well. We spent endless summers together on the lake, we took vacations together including Disneyland and McCall, and we spent many holidays together as well. When I look back on my childhood, Burninghams are a huge part of my memories.

My mom called me the morning of her birthday, July 6th, to tell me the news. I nearly fell off the treadmill and ran out of the gym in tears. I was completely in shock. My immediate thought went to their five children, but especially to Mikaela who, at my age, suddenly had to live the rest of her life without her parents. My second thought was for my parents, who had suddenly lost their best friends. My last thought was one of personal loss, that they would no longer be a part of my life.

This picture was taken hours before the accident...This is from Mikaela's blog ( and was taken about a month before they died...

To be honest, sometimes it doesn't seem like this really happened. Being across the country from most of my loved ones I feel pretty removed from everything and assume that life is just going on there as usual. However, when I hear my mom cry (something she rarely does) over the loss of her best friend, it makes it seem real. When I talk to Mikaela about how she finally was able to delete her mom's cell phone number from her speed dial, it makes it seem too real. I am saddened beyond explanation for all those who mourn the death of Randy and Brenda.

Right now Mikaela and her siblings are in Salem going through their parent's home, getting it ready to sell. I can't imagine the pain that is associated with that process. I am in awe of Mikaela and how she has handled this loss. She has shared personal experiences with me where she has been strengthened by our loving Heavenly Father. She can feel the prayers offered in her behalf, and she can feel when they have stopped. She is an amazingly strong person and will continue to live her life as she always has, living the gospel of Jesus Christ, so she can be with her parents again.

Losing Randy and Brenda has, in some ways, changed my parents forever. Brenda was my mom's best friend and I don't know if my mom will ever be the same. The four of them spent so much time together and made so many great memories. The unexpectedness of this has made my parents realize how short life can be. They are now, more than ever, focused on spending time with their children and grandchildren because in the end that is all that matters.

I had a terrible dream a couple weeks ago that felt more real than any dream I'd ever had. In my dream my dad died unexpectedly. I woke up in physical pain. My heart literally hurt. I had tear stained cheeks. It took me a while to realize that it was, in fact, just a dream. That gave me a small glimpse into the pain that Mikaela and her siblings are feeling, and it makes my heart ache.

When I think of Randy I think of how he would "tickle" our armpits, which was really just poking us until it hurt. I think of his motorcycles, jet skis, boats, and all other toys he could get his hands on. I think of the family Suburban which, at one point, lost the steering wheel. I think of how much he loved Mikaela and her love of animals and being outside. I think of him being very strict with dinner table manners. I think of the crazy tubing rides he would take us on behind his boat and, if we asked him to slow down, he would speed up and honk his horn. I think of the jokes he and my dad would play on eachother, and the constant sarcastic comments that went on between the two of them.

When I think of Brenda I think of her laugh, I loved her laugh. I think of her making yummy dinners. I think of her babysitting my little sister Lindsay, who called her "Bwenda." I think of her beauty and style. I think of how patient she was with her family. I think of her "suggesting" to Mikaela that she wear more make up, like her sisters. This, of course, ended up with Mikaela wearing even less make up. I think of what a beautiful water skier she was, and how much my mom loved to ski with her. I think of the fantastic baby shower she threw for my sister and the wonderful bridal shower she threw for me. She was so creative and unselfish with her time and talents.

Tragedy will hit. Loss is a part of life. I'm grateful for the example that Mikaela has set for me of dealing with the unimaginable pain of losing both your parents so young. I'm grateful for my knowledge of the plan of salvation. I know that Randy and Brenda are happy, together, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of their children so they can be together forever as a family. We love you Randy and Brenda, and you will never be forgotten.

My dad sent me this picture on Sunday when all the Burninghams were at my parent's house for dinner. Aubrey, Ryan, Dustin, Brandi, and Mikaela (and her little baby girl in her belly!)...


Daisha said...

Beautifully written Jenn! It still so strange to drive up Brightwood Ct to my parents and have their house sitting so still and empty. It really doesn't seem possible that they could be gone, it seems as though they must be on a mission or something and will return, but their mission is in heaven now. Loved all the memories you shared about them!

dbeyepoker said...

Such wonderfully written thoughts Jenn! Everything you wrote is the same thoughts that have been in my head for the past few days. Our family has been forever changed by this horrible loss. We will never forget all of our many memories of Randy and Brenda.

Love you sis!

Lindsay said...

OK this made me cry. I have the same memories with Randy and Brenda. It's interesting what we remember now that they are gone. I miss them, and I can't even imagine how their kids feel. I think about them often and how I wish I could just take the pain away. Thank goodness for the gospel.