I rarely share deeply personal parts of my life at Blended and Black so I started a section called Naja’s Personal Blog. There is no experience so deeply profound currently, than the life of my friend, Winnie. We memorialized my friend Winnie Burch yesterday. When her daughter Alexcia asked me to speak at the memorial on behalf of her mother’s community, I was scared to do it…although I dare not decline. This was by far, one of the biggest honors of my life. Winnie drew such a crowd that there was an overflow and standing room only in the sanctuary. Every single person in the room spoke consistently about the way she moved them. Her spirit was in that place and now we all know, All Is Well. Below is my speech. I hope this inspires someone to give love away, make others feel special, take extra special care of their health and live more abundantly!
I’m Naja Hall and I’d like to especially welcome Winnie’s community. We are the loved ones that she hand-picked. We are her extended family, her homegirls, her sisters, brothers, her play sons and daughters and her dear friends.
Winnie had a way about her, she commanded respect. When she spoke, you listened. She was firm and decisive in her tone. But at the same time, she was soft (most of the time), nurturing and genuine. I’m sure each and every person that represents Winnie’s community, has a distinct memory of an experience with her that made you feel exclusive.
Winnie made everyone feel like they were the only one. And yes, she has a beautiful family, children, grands, siblings and friends that she’s known far longer than me, but she let me feel like she was mine too…and I was hers. She knew SO many people, but she made me feel special. This is a talent that many people just don’t possess. Even in the twilight of her life, she found a way to give love away.
When I got word from Alexcia that her mother passed at 4:46 am on March 23rd, I was in shock. Yes, I knew that her prognosis was terminal BUT Winnie told me, and I’m sure many others in this room that her work was not done here and she wanted to live. That woman was so firm in her faith that it rubbed off on me. I was aware that the cancer had begun to overtake her organs, her energy was low at times, but she proclaimed to live on! Faith! Her FAITH was so infectious that a conservative-optimist like me, started to believe she would somehow make it. Despite science and reason, I prayed fervently to God to let her mission continue! As I look around today, I understand that those prayers were not in vain. I’d seen her a few days prior to her passing and we talked about the future, we had a light-hearted chat, even on her sickbed, she grabbed my hand and prayed for me.
During our last moments together, I asked her was she afraid, she said no and smiled.
I asked her does she cry, she said sometimes.
I told our friend I loved her 17 times before I left her room. I told her I’d be back to paint her nails a cute color. I kissed our friend on the cheek and I went away feeling good. She just had a way of making people feel good.
Sometimes, my mind won’t allow me to speak of our Winnie Burch in the past tense. I dare not say Winnie lost her battle with cancer because she was not defeated. She decided that she would live. And she did! She lived and left on her own terms. While she may be departed in the flesh, there are so many that carry memories, lessons and experiences with Winnie and we now hold a piece of her legacy.
I’d call Winnie to share a major life accomplishment, and she’d say ‘All is well’ that meant that she was in celebration with me.
Anytime I’d complain about a silly life issue, she’d allow me to rant and then she’d simply say ‘All is well’. I now realize that meant, “Girl, shutup!”
She would end every text, facebook chat or phone call with ‘All is well’ and I’ve found myself doing the same thing. It’s my small way of honoring her lessons and spreading the love that she left me with.
I encourage you all here today to honor our departed and find your own unique way to finish her mission.
To her children Alexcia, Chad and Marion, to her siblings and grandchildren, on behalf of Winnie’s Community, thank you for sharing her with all of us.
I love you and in the words of our beloved, Winnie (SAY IT WITH ME), All Is Well.
Winnie was 58 years old at the time of her Stage 4 Colon Cancer diagnosis. She was 60 when she passed.