A special kind of love

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, July 3, 2024

By Kenny L. Hardin

For the Salisbury Post

“I’m lost without her. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without her.” 

Marty Burke’s voice cracked as he spoke those heartbreaking words with his head bowed and shaking back and forth in seeming disbelief. His wife, 41-year-old Eve Burke, died suddenly in his arms on June 22 as they were in the middle of a routine conversation preparing to go out for the day.

“She was talking and then all of a sudden she said she didn’t feel well and just fell down,” Burke said. 

I asked him to recount how they met and his look of sadness found a tinge of happiness as he fondly recalled first meeting his late wife at a local Special Olympics event they were both participating in. They were both playing in a basketball game at the J.F. Hurley YMCA back in 2012 and he was instantly attracted to her. He shared that early on he wanted to protect and take care of her because people often teased and made fun of her. He sat up straight and strongly asserted, “I had her back.” The two began dating then and the courtship lasted for five years before he decided to ask for her hand in marriage.

His once sad demeanor was now light and turned a bit upbeat as he shared the humorous tale of how he proposed to her. He admitted that he had gotten cold feet and was extremely nervous the night he planned to ask her, so he consumed a fair amount of alcohol to calm his nerves. When the time came to pop the question, it was obvious to his fiancé he was not in the right condition to do it, so she wouldn’t accept. Burke laughed out loud as he recalled her telling him to ask him again after he sobered up. He said he laid down and took a long nap and when he woke up, he asked her properly and she accepted. They were joined as one in a solid union on Nov. 15, 2017.

Reality returned to his face and his serious and somewhat sad demeanor consumed him again as evidenced in his body language and positioning. With head and eyes cast downward, his voice, though strong and determined, was full of pain and sadness. I asked him to tell me what his late wife was like and what it was about her that he loved the most. His head popped up and he began rattling off, “She was full of laughter and joy. She was very loving and outgoing. She cared about others more than she cared about herself. She had a pretty smile and big, beautiful eyes. She was always pushing and motivating me.”

Her former employer had equally wonderful things to say about the late Burke. From 2015-2020, up until the COVID pandemic impacted the world, she held full-time employment at the Family Closet Consignment Store located in the West End Plaza. The owner, Annette Parker, spoke fondly, lovingly and with so much respect for her sharing that she was an exceptional employee.

“Even with her special needs, she ran the business better than anyone,” Parker said. “I trusted her so much that she is the only employee I’ve ever given a key to the building.”

A large glass donation jar with the couple’s wedding day photo affixed to the front rests on the counter. Parker acknowledged that she died with inadequate life insurance coverage and her husband is finding it difficult to cover the funeral expenses.

During the entire 90 minutes I spent with Mr. Burke, he never brought up the subject or asked for any assistance and it was evident that wasn’t a forethought or something he was focused on. It was obvious the loss was so tremendous and overwhelming that he hadn’t arrived at that place in his grieving process. I asked him what led to their financial difficulties and he acknowledged that after they were married, it was determined that their income had exceeded guidelines, so his wife’s governmental assistance check had been stopped, which led to financial hardships. They lost their home and were temporarily living with a relative at the time of her death. His head was bowed again and his voice softened as he recalled that on the day she died, they were getting ready to go out to look at another place to live. I asked Burke if he had all of the money to cover her expenses and he said he had $3,000 of the $8,000 total that was needed for her funeral service and burial.

Even as I prompted him with more financial assistance questions, he never asked for any. During our interview, he shared with pride how he and his wife worked hard and were both gainfully employed. He spoke of working at his current job at Fresh House Produce for six years and his wife taking business classes at RCCC. I finally asked him if someone wanted to assist, where could they send the money? He said send it directly to the funeral home, Life Celebration Cremations and Burials in Concord. They can be reached at 704-787-8446.