Memoir Contest Winner: My Darling Jack by Irene Burden

by Matilda Butler on July 26, 2012

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #187 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Memoir Contest – First Place Winner, Gratitude for Family Category

Women’s Memoirs is pleased to publish the Irene Burden’s First Place winning story in our November 2011 Memoir Writing Contest

Congratulations Irene on your award-winning story. Expressing gratitude is an important function in our lives and we appreciate you sharing your story with us.

Interested in memoir writing? Perhaps you want to enter one of our contests? Details are here. We hope you’ll enter.

We also invite you to leave Irene a note in the Comments section below her story. It always matters to a writer to hear from her readers.


by Irene Burden
My Darling Jack,
How many times over the past 10 wonderful years have I written these three words – at the start of a letter, a card, a note.  Three simple words, but they are full of meaning.
After being on my own for 12 years I was just so incredibly lucky to meet a man who had integrity, was both strong and an incurable romantic, and who loved me unconditionally and from the very bottom of his heart.  Knowing from the start that our time together would probably be short, we hit the ground running – and we never, ever stopped, did we?

Our reaffirmation ceremony

Our reaffirmation ceremony

Engaged on your 65th birthday, we got married 6 months later in New Zealand, and reaffirmed our love in Melbourne later that year.  We travelled around the globe at our normal frantic pace, drinking in everything the world had to offer. We rode roller coasters, flew in Peter Pan’s ship and rode ET’s bicycle at Disneyland; just missed getting mugged in Vancouver; nearly ran over an alligator in Miami.  We even morphed a daughter in Las Vegas.  Our Natasha would be 17 this year; how time flies when you’re having fun!
We never wasted a moment – on garden trips we would visit 7 – 8 a day; on an overseas trip, it was often 3 countries in a week.  In the first 6 years there was constant commuting to work in Melbourne, 2 world floral art shows, 2 trips around the world, visits to Japan, US, Canada, England and, of course, our favourite gardens of the Southern Highlands in NSW.  Having someone to share my gardening interests was so incredibly rewarding – thank you for all the videos and photos you took; for making notes of special flowers we saw; for always bringing to my attention the beauties of nature.
Back in New Zealand, we bought and renovated three houses.  I can still see you perched on top of the ladder trying to dislodge the old kitchen cupboards in our “weekend cottage” that ended up being our special “together” place.  You worked like a Trojan, never complaining about hours spent sanding floors, digging drains and putting up new walls.  You were always there to hold the paint bucket and the rollers for my attempts at painting and wallpapering.  When the inside renovations were finished, you started from scratch two huge gardens – always taking into account our preferred plants and my favourite colours of white and green.
I joined floral art, and you were there beside me, supporting and encouraging, suggesting and advising.  You even submitted an entry – and won!  And continued winning…  We attended seminars and trade shows, propagated plants; and everything we did, everywhere we went, there were the two of us, with shared interests and a common dream.  We played Upwords, watched our favourite BBC comedies, surfed the Internet, and generally had a ball.
And then the cold, cruel winds of fate began to blow.  Three years ago circulation problems surfaced and, no matter what we did, no matter how hard we tried, amputation became inevitable.  And that’s when you truly showed us what an incredible man you really were!  Through seven operations over a two month period you bravely fought on.  Barely a week out of hospital you were driving your John Deere ride-on mower – your mobility scooter – around the yard.  The next week you were mowing the lawns.  The mere loss of a leg certainly wasn’t going to stop you!  When Mario, the new left leg, arrived in June 2007, you practised day and night until, four months later, you walked without support and the wheelchair was only used at night and for long trips.
?We celebrated your full recovery by doing a dream trip to Vancouver, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies in June last year – but within three months, despite a frantic trip to Sydney and last minute attempts by the specialists to save your leg, you lost that battle too.  The pain you went through that week in September still haunts me – but, once again, there you were – grinning from ear to ear and amazing everyone in the hospital with your positive attitude and steely determination to walk again.
And walk you did!  Despite all odds, having been told countless times this could not be done, you stood up without knees, you practised until you almost dropped and, up to that last fateful minute, you lived a life many able-bodied people half your age only dream of.
With your indomitable spirit you touched everyone who came in contact with you, and I feel so honoured and so richly blessed by having had you in my life. 

We thoroughly enjoyed all the good times, and the challenges of the last three years just served to strengthen our love and our very close bond.  I love you so much:  I’ll miss you like crazy. 

The last photo taken

The last photo taken

Thank you for 10 love- and laughter-filled years; for your unconditional support and for always, always being there for me.  You were truly my inspiration and my guiding light – thank you, my darling, for being the wind beneath my wings.
memoir writing


This is the letter to my beloved husband Jack, which was read out at his funeral service.  Although we only had 10 short years together, they were packed to the rafters with so much happiness, challenges, and finally tragedy. I am just so thankful for each and every minute we got to spend together.

Jack died in my arms of a heart attack on board the ‘Dawn Princess’ as it pulled into Honolulu; living life to the fullest to the very last minute.

Irene Burden

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