Celebrating the life of beloved mother and grandmother
Interview by Tonya Kerr & Kathryn Streeter
Answers by Shelley Syed
After years of battling cancer, Audrey Burge, 62, passed away April 5 and is survived by daughters Shelley Syed, Sherry Harris and Samantha Burge and seven grandchildren. Those close to Audrey knew that her great joy in life was her grandbabies, Jensen, Julia, Ava, Celia, Phoebe, and Sabrina. The seventh, Emerson, was born immediately after Audrey passed away. As is captured in the accompanying photo taken last year, Audrey shimmered with happiness when surrounded by her precious grandchildren, making her pain and suffering impossible to detect.
Audrey’s daughter Shelley Syed generously agreed to share her thoughts about her mother. Shelley’s tender words remind us to celebrate daily what infuses true joy and lasting meaning into life: those dear little people closest to us, running around in our homes.
In the photo, your mom’s eyes sparkle. What have you learned from your mother in her role as mom and grandmother?
My mom would always say that the best thing she ever did in her life was have us girls. I had a difficult time finding pictures of my mom by herself for her funeral. Every photo either had her kids or grandkids in them. I think her grandchildren gave her the motivation to never give up and to always remain positive.
For me, I will try to always remember that you just never know how long you have with your children. I will hold onto every single moment I get to have with mine, treasuring every skinned knee, shared laugh, and good cry. Our time on this earth feels so short. I want my little girl to always feel loved unconditionally every minute I get the opportunity to be here. My mom always made me feel that way—no matter what I did I always felt loved exactly as I was. To have someone in your life who loves you exactly as you are is such a gift.
What did your mother hope her little grandbabies would later treasure from this photo?
The kids didn’t fully understand what was going on with their Grandma at the time [of the photo-shoot]. My mom told me she was afraid they wouldn’t remember her. This picture was a way my mom could forever document the love she had for them. She was going through chemo during the time and not feeling well, but you would never know. She was endlessly patient that day even though it was hot and the kids were not on their best behavior at times. My sisters and I will keep the memory of my mom alive with this picture.
As a tribute to her persistent positivity and magnanimous spirit, can you share about your mom’s extraordinary “celebration of life” outlook up until the end? Your mother’s smile is contagious!
She really did have a beautiful and contagious smile! My mom was scared of all the moments she would miss. She told me she was sad she wouldn’t get to watch her grandbabies grow up, graduate, get married, and have kids of their own. She decided that she would make every single minute she did have with them count. Every hug, kiss, smile, and sticky hand she held was a gift she didn’t take for granted. I think when she heard them say, “I love you Grandma!” it lifted her spirits more than any medicine in the world could. I believe my mom celebrated the lives of her grandchildren on that day [of the photo]. She knew for a long time she wouldn’t recover. But for her, love was always so much stronger than the fear or pain that cancer caused. The love she had for us all was the tether that kept her here for so long, despite her terrible diagnosis. The waves of grief I feel over her loss can be very overwhelming, but I’m trying to replace those feelings with the immense love I have for her.
Thank you for speaking with us, Shelley. Through your mom’s life, your words call us to remember the important things in life. It’s with deepest sincerity that we offer our condolences to you and your family.