On Wednesday morning, my dear sweet friend, Valorie Burr, lost her valiant fight with brain and lung cancer. What this ugly disease did to such a vibrant woman is unfathomable. Even with all the symptoms and treatments Val endured, she displayed such fortitude, grace, and humor. She continued to live life to the fullest until the very end.
All of the sentiments expressed after Val's passing would embarrass her to no end. She would be flattered, of course, but her attention was always on others. If she could, she would tell all of us who loved her to stop crying and grieving. She'd be the first to say, "Get together, have a party, talk about all the great times we've shared, tell funny stories, and for goodness sakes, laugh!" That's how she'd like to have her life celebrated. So tomorrow at her wake, I know there will be tears. But there will also be "Val stories" that will make us laugh. She'd like that.
If I could use only one word to describe Val, it would be "authentic." She was so genuine, warm, and good hearted. Val was never out to impress. As beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside - to know her was to love her. She served as a role model at work, at home, and in her personal life. Geez - it's so difficult to talk about her in the past tense.
Positive character traits are those things that draw us to other people. When someone is generous, kind, energetic, or optimistic they exude energy that attracts others. Of course, who wouldn't want to spend time with a warm, open, and loving person? That was the way people felt about Val.
We attended high school together and years later shared an office while working for NASA. Val was in my wedding party and hosted my wedding party dinner. We have enjoyed a special and unique friendship that has spanned several decades. I often told her we'd be friends forever because we knew all of each other's secrets! Many of you have perhaps heard the quote "a good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a best friend will be sitting in the cell with you, saying 'damn, that was fun'!" That was Val and me. A somewhat ironic way to describe our friendship since I worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 20 years, but I always thought this quote was so funny!
Val lit up every room she entered with her vibrant personality and infectious laugh. She was intelligent and quick witted - how she could make me laugh! She used humor during good and tough times. After her cancer diagnosis, I truly believe that she was here on earth with us longer than expected because of her zest for life, positive attitude, and sense of humor.
I took Valorie to many of her chemo and radiation treatments and several cancer support events. What an inspiration! Val showed so much courage and grace during her fight with this awful disease. In spite of numerous brain and lung tumors, intense radiation, and chemo treatments (not to mention the side effects of her illness and treatment), she remained positive. She was upbeat, making friends along the way, joking with the staff, and living life to the fullest. I remember when she lost every single hair on her entire body from her cancer treatments but found one long hair on her chin. She told that story in such a humorous way, that I laughed until I cried. As a cancer patient myself, I learned from her how to meet it head on. She had bad days, of course. Who wouldn't? So there were certainly times we cried together, but much more often we laughed together.
I have way too many precious memories to list here. Playing on volleyball and softball teams together. Bowling league. Bridge every Thursday night at her house. Playing practical jokes (now, there are some stories!). Getting together to eat dinner and play games - she especially loved trivia games. Going out with friends and making fools of ourselves singing karaoke. We even sang in a couple of wedding ceremonies. Along the way, I fell in love with her family and have wonderful memories that will last me a lifetime.
Val loved to entertain in her home and was a fantastic cook. She was just plain fun. And that energy!!! I don't know where it came from. I wish I could have bottled and sold it.
Val not only listened when you talked to her, she heard what you said. She always gave sound, practical advice. She was extremely supportive and always there for me when I needed her. She was a generous, loyal friend to many.
I was blessed to spend quality time with Val right up until the end. We emailed almost daily during the last year, participated in activities at the Annapolis Wellness House (for cancer patients and their families), and visited. In fact, just days before she died, a few of us gathered in her family room with a karaoke machine. She was laying in a hospital bed, too physically weak to do anything on her own but mentally alert. She held a mic and softly sang along with us. She was smiling the entire time.
Val was the best friend a girl could have and I have many wonderful memories to treasure. I will miss her gorgeous smile, the sound of her laugh, those incredibly captivating eyes, and most of all, her friendship.
Valorie died much too young, but lived her life wonderfully. She will be forever cherished. I love you, Val.