At my home in Squamish.
I interview Jan Phelan (Mother to the inspirational Sarah Burke) and we talk about life with and without Sarah and the legacy her daughter created.
Welcome to the Lawless Podcast.
This is Episode 4 and it's a tribute to my late friend Sarah Burke.
I interview her mom Jan Phelan and I think most people know who Sarah was and what role she played in free skiing and halfpipe skiing and she was a mentor she was a friend she was a daughter. She was just one of like the brightest lights out there.
At the end of the episode, Jan brought over an article that ESPN ran and Jan thought it was just a really good article that kind of summed up a lot of like what Sarah was and what it was like to spend those nine days in the hospital in Park City after Sarah's X-Men the halfpipe, and the title of that article is, “One Light Will Not Go Out” and I think the Sarah Burke foundation and I think the way that we are always liked sharing stories of Sarah and just celebrating how passionately she live life and how she really thought to make a difference and her resilience. So this is a tribute to my girl Sarah Burke. Thank you for everything that you've done for everyone even if it was just a smile you gave one person you mattered so much and continue to every single day. So here we go, Just sipping on tea with Mama Jan.
(You are listening to the Lawless Podcast)
Andrea: Now, what was Little Sarah like?
Mama Jan: “Oh little Sarah. Well she was quite remarkable in the sense that, for a newborn she decided to sleep through the night just barely two weeks old so I know I've got a lot of friends who would be singing the blues at 3 4 and 5 years when their child was getting up, a number of times during the night but she was just that's just an example of she's just very agreeable very happy, very agreeable and very content to kind of sit and watch the world go by make her a few comments and enjoy. That's what she did, and she was never really any trouble. I hate to say that because its sound so blunt but, No, she was great when she did get into trouble and it was pretty big trouble but some and I know nothing that couldn't be sorted out.”
Andrea: That's the kind of my impression of her too. Soft-spoken but very determined.
Mama Jan: “Yeah”
Andrea: Yeah, like very inclusive very agreeable when she spoke to you she was really present, I found.
Mama Jan: “Yes”. Yeah. That's a really interesting thing to notice because that's very true. It's kind of unsettling when you know that someone is not present and kids are just you know your sort of a bit of an impediment to a kid but when a kid is present, you really having a real conversation with them, which is great.”
Andrea: Definitely. As an athlete though, she started as a figure skater?
Mama Jan: “Yes. Yes she loved figure skating and it was interesting because her sister Anna was as graceful as a ballet dancer. She was absolutely gorgeous but she didn't have the athletic part of it. Sarah had the athletic part. She could jump and jump and jump, but the grace was not there. So that just wasn't her sport, but if you could only take the best out of the two of them, you would have had had an Olympic skater there.”
Andrea: -Well you had basically an Olympic Half piper.
Mama Jan: “Sure did.”
Andrea: Blazing the way to that.
Mama Jan: “Yes. Yeah”
Andrea: How did you feel when you watch the Olympics halfpipe, the Olympic halfpipe competition for the first time?
Mama Jan: “The first one? Well, actually this is one of the really great things Rory took me to Sochi for that. So I was there and it was wonderful because but every second run,every third run, the moderator, the person counting the Skiers and explaining their jumps and so on, would mention how Sarah had work so hard to get to get skiing halfpipe into the Olympics so that was very gratifying and it was again so many things at this point are Bittersweet. I mean, they're hard because you can sit there and think, she should be here she should be here!
Andrea: I remember reading or you saying something about as a mom you sort of had to to just sort of loves Sarah and let her do her thing and what was it though you said it would be better to remember kind of like the quote something like it being hard to imagine without her or something about like having?
Mama Jan: “This was after losing her and it took me a couple of years after losing her and a friend came up to me to say how sorry he was and so on and he kept going on about how it was the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent or to a person to lose a child and was the very worst thing and I've said,Yeah it it really is I was struggling to just get through the day at that point but after getting through a couple of years, I came to the realization that, No, it's not the worst thing that could happen to me, the worst thing would have been never to have had her in my life and so I am grateful for every wonderful memory and for every day we had together and that is so precious to me.”
Andrea: Well she’s a remarkable lady and good friend and yeah and definitely taken from us too soon but I do feel like you had the opportunity to see her in all those phases of life like a baby a child growing into the woman and then you know like ultimately she was a very accomplished woman, on like every level not just athletes like she was such a good friend she's a good daughter she's a good partner.
Mama Jan: “I think the friend part and the impact she had on the world was quite apparent. When after we had lost her, and the website that Michael had made, there were people giving into this from all over the world and so she had made an impression all over the world had an impact on people.”
Andrea: Coz even outside of like her athletic prowess, just her smile, you know you felt like just always smiling and it really, she was so easy to capture. The guy that have taken a lot of photos of her and she just had that, you know, instantly connect her.
But what do you mean by the website with giving, like giving compliments or how like people were contributing to like, what went on to become her foundation?
Mama Jan: “What went on to become her Foundation is what I'm speaking of. Sarah's agent and Sarah's brother-in-law, Tim, set this up when we were still in the hospital and we knew that the medical cost where going to be huge so they made what do I call it? It’s a website or a giveforward?”
Andrea: -Yeah it's like crowdsourcing, like kinda, like a Gofundme, I can’t remember which one that was.
Mama Jan: “Yeah and I think the first one crashed because so many people, and then they had built two and people were giving anything from $5 to, I think someone gave $1,000, it was just amazing and one person I think even said, “I don't ski, I don't live where there snow but I saw her one time on television and I was so impressed so here's $50”.. And that was, it was wonderful. It was amazing for me to see the impact that she had on people who both knew her, who competed against her, who just briefly had some kind of meeting with her and who didn't know her at all. That was amazing.”
Andrea: -Yeah and that’s why I think I was saying that I really loved on the pamphlet that we made for her celebration in life, that sort of borrowed quote of, “One light will not go out, lights a thousand more” and I think it’s fair to say she’s a lot more than a thousand lights.
Mama Jan: “Yes I think you're right, yes.
Andrea: -Cause here we are sitting, like 7 years later and she is still so present.
Mama Jan: “Yes she is and I love how there's always some tributes to her on, while I'm on Facebook and I know it goes on the other social media sites, just tributes to Sarah.”
Andrea: -And I think your son-in-law does a very good job with his other profile on the Instagram.
Mama Jan: “Are you speaking of Rory?”
Andrea: -Yes. (Both laughing)
Mama Jan: “With his profile on Instagram and Sarah Burke’s foundation, and there's always, he's always saying something, some sort of tribute to Sarah or remembering her, constantly.”
Andrea: -Yeah, he carries her with her. Ohh ahh, he carries her with him or and like his like Sarah, parachute?
Mama Jan: “Yes, Yes”
Andrea: -And then there's the legacy of dogs, now dogs too is contributing to Sarah's Foundation.
Mama Jan: “Yes. I think that's absolutely great. Sarah so wanted a dog, a puppy and then there was only a time of the year when she could have a dog. If she got a dog and then she was leaving to be on the circuit, and the dog would grow up and not really know her. She got Dexter, rescued from out from under a car and Darcy.”
Andrea: -But I remember you kind of were missing link. Like it was, you agreed to take on dogs, Rory and Sara were out in the winter.
Mama Jan: “Yeah and I happen to have a house with a fence in the yard and so it worked out perfectly and I wasn't really a dog person before then, and then having Dexter for months on and I learn to love dogs. And I do so.”
Andrea: -I don't think I'm a dog person. I think I really love my dog not until I get to know other dogs that I kind of felt like I think I am more like a character lover like I loved once I get to know people and characters like I don't instantly fall in love with everything.
Mama Jan: “Good point.”
Andrea: -But yeah it is too bad that my dog and Dexter don't really get along too well indoors, Outdoors they’re better.
Mama Jan: “Yeah it's it's funny. Dexter's a little possessive. You can't give Rory a hug without having Dexter scold you for it.”
Andrea: -Oh that is so funny.
Mama Jan: “Yeah she's so possessive of her man.”
Andrea: -Quiet alright she is on. I love seeing the footage of her on the back of Rory’s dirt bike.
Mama Jan: “Oh no!”
Andrea: -Like Dexter's always like flying and Dexter have a bigger life than I would say I do
Mama Jan: “She's probably led a bigger life than most people have, I mean, you see shots of them up on a mountain top, playing in the snow, and you can only get there by plane or sled and how many people do that? So she's an adventure dog, for sure.”
Andrea: -Yeah. Do you get into the sky very often with them?
Mama Jan: “Not so much anymore. I found that I had trouble with the headset where the headset, just made me dizzy, dizzy, dizzy. But I am looking forward to going up again sometime soon. I'm ready again.”
Andrea: -Oh nice. Perfect. We have to wait for a perfect sunny day.
Mama Jan: “Yes.”
Andrea: -Ok we need to skip the head though because I did want to talk about the little Sarah. So when did she finish like figure skating?
Mama Jan: “Well she kept figure skating for a number of years, I would say until she was 10 or 12, something like that. She started skiing when she was 4 and she just took to it, she took to the Moguls. It was quite amazing, cause I shy away from the Moguls, my goodness, but she loved them, she loves skiing. Both her dad and I were skiers. I've been a skier all my life and I started when I was 4 and he's been a skier all his life and it took all of us and as Sarah’s sister Anna, and Gordon I, and that was what we'd love to do to get away and do in the winter.”
Andrea: -Do you remember the first time you send her to the Whistler?
Mama Jan: “Send her to Whistler? That would have been when she had gotten on the circuit and that happened when she was about 17,18 and at no! at 17 she moved on to May Mack and because it was, I don't know it was where people, were all of her friends were training and so on and then a couple of years after that she moved up Whistler and she was in a position where she could buy a townhouse which she did so.”
Andrea: -But she came out here to go to Camp didn't she? When she was out here to go to camp?
Like when did you first realize that she kind of had like a future in skiing?
Mama Jan: “Probably she was into her competitive career at that point. Was she 17 at the time and she was doing okay and it was just so great. Gordon took her and it was too liberal a in Quebec and she wanted to do big air. She was a junior girl at the time, no junior girls to compete with, no senior girls to compete with, no junior boys to compete with who would enter this, only senior men some of who were on the international circuit in the World Cup circuit and so they were 23 men, senior men and Sarah who was a junior girl and out of that she came 4th.”
Andrea: -Amazing and that was her first big competition?
Mama Jan: “That was her first breakthrough, where it was so remarkable that was the time when Solomon offer, made her an offer. Picked her up as a sponsored-athlete and she at the time was skiing moguls during mogul’s competition on that circuit and so she had to leave that and go into the free skiing circuit with a halfpipe.”
Andrea: -And then she switched over to halfpipe?
Mama Jan: “Yes, she switched over and she became a sponsored athlete at that point and the first year of making that decision, she went around the world yeah it's great.”
Andrea: -And how did you feel as the mom, your little girl, cause how old was she 17 or 18?
Mama Jan: “She was 17, now, as a mom, as a mom. That was really hard for me because there are, it's a physical thing with moms and the emptiness that draws, I mean it hit me really hard because I wasn't ready yet to let her go but I knew it was an incredible opportunity so we went out and had a shopping spree and got her some new clothes and that would kind of try and get into any occasion that she might come across and I took her to the airport.”
Andrea: -That's awesome. That's good. I know it's crazy to think at 17, your life exploding in that way. Too much trajectory.
Mama Jan: “Yes. Huge Step, really huge but you know you bring your kids, basically to be who they are and a lot of who they are, is kind of just almost innate, it's some it's in their bones it's in their instincts, they are born with talents and abilities and it's your job as a parent not to make them become whatever and account and not that there's anything wrong with that but to get them to do what they do best and so she was doing exactly that and it would be wrong to do anything but support her.”
Andrea: -Definitely. That’s awesome.
I just had a memory, did you guys send her to like a clown camp or what was that like?
Mama Jan: “Yes, that like, well it was that, was with her dad and it was up in Sioux Saint Marie where he was from and so there is there a circus camp and so they didn't trapeze and and trampoline and all kinds of trying to walk on a tightrope and and she also took her cousin Brooke who is only about six months younger and they went together.”
Andrea: -And do you think when she came back, she was a little different or so the world evolves differently? Or how do you think that?
Mama Jan: “Well going to the circus camp, I would imagine you, you came to certain wildness,with that exposure, so I would say that definitely is an influencing factor.”
Andrea: -I was just kind of like connecting the dots like because she was such a trickster too right? like scaring people.
Mama Jan: “Yeah,yeah she loves to do that I would have had a heart attack if she ever did that to me too often but yeah I've seen her websites, scarier, no that was just lots of fun so she really enjoyed that.”
Andrea: -But that was not anything she did with you growing up?
Mama Jan: “No, that was her own invention.”
Andrea: -Yeah, Yeah maybe life on the road.
Mama Jan: “Could be.”
Andrea: -Created the perfect environment. Cultivate that. A very layered young lady, our Sarah Burke.
Mama Jan: “Yes”
Andrea: -I don't personally consider myself a competitive person, maybe a little bit on the aggressive side with things and I don't know if it's like almost like a little bit of a fear of putting myself out there or being judged or like putting myself in that different Arena so I feel like I have like this position in my head where I think like being competitive you have to be like pretty intense and then but knowing what an agreeable person Sarah was or like which I guess is really plays more into like her having like really good sportsmanship.
Mama Jan: “Yes”
Andrea: -But when do you think you realized her, she realized that she wanted to compete, like where do you think, like that competitiveness came from?
Mama Jan: “That's a really good question and I don’t know, not sure if I have a good answer for it. I know when she was in in high school as she went on the cross-country running team. But what she would do and her teacher just kind a, looked at her and shook her head. She would stay behind and just kind of run on the spot until everybody else was well ahead of her and then raced to catch up and she would usually, you know, come in both hand or so, so that is having to get through the whole field of people on this cross country run and so she obviously could have you know,placed at least. But that, I don't know, that wasn't her goal. She just wanted to wait and just see how she could do. It was a constant competing with herself.”
Mama Jan: “Yeah so which is what she did because throughout all of her competitive career there were she started off, there were no other women in in this form of skiing and so she had to start training them and encouraging them bring them along and then compete against them.”
Mama Jan: “So she would have to.,”
Andrea: -Like mentor them.
Mama Jan: “Mentor them and she would have to mentor them fairly because if there weren't enough women had to be enough women to make up a full, I don't know, a dozen who were capable of competing at that level and so she had to do a very good job of teaching them and then go out and they did beat her from time to time.”
Mama Jan: “But ah”
Andrea: -But I think she loved like the spirit of that but yes like in the in the pipe with an outside of the pipe everyone was friends you know.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, Love that”
Andrea: -Okay well let's just talk really quickly like, you could probably like list off her actual accomplishments. It was like golden X Games five times or?
Mama Jan: “It was 5 times, 4 times in North America and these European X Games. Once. Yeah and I don't know how several, 2 at least World Cups and world that's World Cup is also as a whole team becoming in 1st.”
Andrea: -And then what you're saying cause she had to like cultivate these other girls to like bring them up so that they can compete with her. But then when she had that then I remember her fighting for like, like equal rights and women like..
Mama Jan: “That was, that was a really tough battle for her and very discouraging. I don't know why she didn't just give up because it constantly she would be totally , yes yes, you know bring the women there and and then they would sit while we're kind of a little late on time so we're not going to run any of the women and there were other times it was she also had to fight for Dew Tour. They were give $20,000 prize money to the man and the women if they let them run cause Dew Tour was really tough for her to break into. They get $2,000 so that was part of the battle too.”
Andrea: -To get.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, to get women interested in that”
Andrea: -Cause before that she is more like, they would let her like for run, right?
Mama Jan: “They would just let her for a run. Yeah, but she'd go to every competition she could get to and for run.”
Andrea: -Yeah. Do you think that like is that her resilience, would you say that was like on top of like her talents that she like cultivated do you think it's like a resilience that was able to help her to like break through like you're saying like you would have just given up?
Mama Jan: “Yeah because the opposition to having women in the halfpipe was was huge. I mean, it was just not possible it wasn't even interesting to any of the sponsors or to any of the companies that put on these competitions so would it be to build up her resilience? Absolutely. She had to be tough, she constantly writing emails to all of the powers that be from ESPN to anybody to allow women into making a space for women and he's competitions.”
Andrea: -Yeah and then once the Olympics were accepted into, sorry, once the halfpipe was accepted into the Olympics, would she kind of lobbied for a lot, right?
Mama Jan: “Hugely. Yeah.”
Andrea: -Can you walk us through a little bit of like that process?
Mama Jan: “I know she was very disappointed when in 2010 it wasn't allowed in 2010 because really hoping so she'd been working for. I don't know how many years before that and she would lobbied the powers-that-be the Canadian Olympic Committee, constantly and the Peter judge, the coach there, and while training was all for it obviously he was the Canadian coach for the halfpipe. So it was it was a constant talking to people, meeting with people and writing emails and writing letters. All the time she would run her letters by me to see if I could think of anything else or find any way to make it better and that went on for years. So it was quite something when they finally did allow it.”
Andrea: -And then didn't she band with a few other half pipe Riders and they sort of created their own team and hired Trenton to help them train before it got accepted into the Olympics?
Mama Jan: “Oh yes.”
Andrea: -Before funding was like?
Mama Jan: “Yes and so they just paid Trenton out of their own Pockets.”
Andrea: -Do you remember who that was with?
Mama Jan: “Oh My Goodness..”
Andrea: -Was that like, Mike Riddle or?
Mama Jan: “I don't remember who was it.”
Andrea: -We’ll have to fact-check it.
Yeah, yeah. Cause I remember I remember her just kind of like taking it like a business like okay well now we're going to hire this coach in this to get to that next thing and I can remember talking to Trenton and him just saying how Sarah was just so good cause he would explain to her what she had to do and then that she would take it all in and then she would just go out and do it.
Mama Jan: “Yeah”
Andrea: -Like not second-guessing, not, you know.
Mama Jan: “Yeah. So that was another great reason for her success, she could take what he said and apply it and do it and follow it, faithfully.”
Andrea: -How did you feel when Cassie Sharp won the gold?
Mama Jan: “Oh I thought that was so exciting and Cassie said so many lovely things about Sarah so and I'm just an absolutely thrilled, absolutely thrilled that Cassie won. Yeah, Lovely girl.”
Andrea: -Did you cry?
Mama Jan: “I was in Portland Oregon at the time and they had very little coverage of the Canadian I didn't actually get to see it but I was in touch actually with Rachel and the, on Skype.”
Mama Jan: “And she was crying her eyes out.”
Andrea: -Oh yeah It would have been good for you to listen it live cause listening to TJ and being like that, the announcer and stuff and she did a really good job of talking a lot about Sarah and breaking like things down.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, yeah it was it was really great that they did that and paid tribute to her all through the whole thing. That was great and Cassie at the end.”
Andrea: -And still going. That’s awesome.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, yeah”
Andrea: -It's a beautiful thing, it's a crazy as a mom to step back and think I'm outside of all of like the dark parts that just to look at like the focus of like that your daughter kind of like change the face of skiing for women or you knew were so instrumental for getting the Olympic or the halfpipe included in the Olympics like that must be a lot to think.
Mama Jan: “Yes and I guess as a mom she will, has always been and will forever be my little kid, my own little girl and so that's where my main focus my whole knowledge of her, and is and always will be and so, to see the impact that she has had on the world and still continues to have on the world is what startling and really gratifying.”
Andrea: -What a gracious, amazing woman. I was trying to think about the first time I met you and I think it might have been on Sarah’s birthday? And I think that it was also the first time I was introduced to like, the dirt cake?
Mama Jan: “Oh yeah… She always wanted a dirt cake.
Andrea: -Oh I can see why. Like it’s not even just about the cake which you'll have to walk us through what it was but I just remember the entire presentation.
Mama Jan: “Oh yes, that was, that’s half of it.”
Andrea: -Oh yes, can you walk us through that? Cause basically we had this amazing dinner and you come out with like a pot.
Mama Jan: “Yes, a flower pot. Brand new, never used of course, but a flower pot with crumbly what look like crumbly dirt in it and some flowers sticking out of the top and the line is, “0h I was so busy today I didn't have time to make a cake so you're just going to have to eat dirt and then dig into it and put some of this crumbly chocolaty substance into a ball and then a gummy worm on top of a nice big fat gummy worm or two and start passing the balls around, and there was the odd person who really got taken in by. But it was just fun and Sarah's very favorite.”
Andrea: -Yeah. Do you remember how old she was when you like happen to have the dirt cake come about?
Mama Jan: “Oh I would have started making those when she was about three or four.”
Mama Jan: “So it’s all her life she had to have a dirt cake.”
Andrea: -Cause that’s what I think of being, well there you go, of being a 3 year old sitting there, like so excited for your birthday and then your mom comes out and tells you shouldn't have time to make a cake and she had to make you a dirt.Cause I hadn't been tipped off for it so my experience of it was like from those fresh eyes.
Mama Jan: “Are you taking it back?”
Andrea: -Yeah I didn't know what was going on but we just had like this view of an odd, weird, I want to see a salmon , it was like in a lovely dinner where like in your backyard and you come out with this like flower pot and I remember a lot more than just one or two gummy worms. It was awesome.
Mama Jan: “Yeah. Lots of fun.”
Andrea: -Well, that’s what you are Mama Jan.
Mama Jan: “Lots of fun?
Mama Jan: “Good. I like that.”
Andrea: -I can remember just when, do you remember what year it would have been that you came out to BC?
Mama Jan: “I think I came out around 2007.
Mama Jan: “Yeah. So around then?”
Andrea: -Yes probably and I think at that time I worked at like Sushi Village.
Mama Jan: “Right.”
Andrea: -And then I felt like you were just like one of her girlfriends.
Mama Jan: “Haa.. Well that's nice too.. because she always included me in everything and I still do see a lot of her girlfriends.”
Mama Jan: “Stay in touch. That’s really nice.”
Andrea: -Cause Sarah included everyone.
Mama Jan: “She did.”
Andrea: -Cause I can remember getting left behind here like having to work over Christmas holidays and you know it's like she made sure that you came over for dinner, or this or that and she's always so gracious and well-made the time.
Mama Jan: “And one thing that I really appreciate that Sarah did and that was she always had me, we were always together for Christmas no matter what was on, we never spent Christmas apart. So that was a lovely thing.”
Andrea: -It's good. It’s beautiful.
I don't know if you're going to, want to talk about it but maybe it is something that is good to talk about but you're saying that this last year has been so hard for you?
Mama Jan: “Well this particular part of the Year from which is I never knew about this anniversary dates can be difficult and they don't seem to be getting easier so I'm not sure what that means but at any rate from the time she fell on January 10th and then that was the time we went down to Salt Lake City until the time when she passed away on January 19th so that whole week is what I was saying is, not getting easier, it’s getting harder and I don’t know why.”
Andrea: -And I think in my experience, well, for one it's a very traumatic time and I think it get stored in your body and yes and then just with the calendar it's like you're reliving it like, you know cause you love them in my own experience like I'll remember like the phone call and then I remember like all the steps that it took to get to that hospital room and then you'll think about kind of like when you realized the severity of the situation and just like it's just like all those layers and unfortunately it's not a happy ending, right? So it’s like and it just mounts and builds to this and yeah.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, your body, your body stores and remembers that trauma as surely as a physical scar, it’s there.”
Andrea: -Yeah, so but yeah I've been doing this somatic healing. I should get the guy to do a session on you. My first guest on my podcast who told me that he's done some of it and anyways that's off topic. Will do that.
Mama Jan: “Sounds interesting.”
Andrea: -Will do that to try to like, kind of something just like get a little bit lighter but that kind of stuff cause it's yeah and I totally understand like how this like that piece of you is gone or whatever or floating in a different dimension.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, yeah. I don't know that I have the words to describe what exactly that is. There are a number of people who say they do but at any rate, I'm just, I'm just here this particular time I'm right in the middle of that whole week and feeling it.”
Andrea: -Yeah Yeah.
Mama Jan: “Just sort of this days, days and really incapable of doing a whole lot except lying down, watching television something totally useless.”
Andrea: -I love but where she wrote about donating her organs, Sarah.
Mama Jan: “What are you referring to, I’m not remembering.”
Andrea: -He wrote something on her Instagram thing about after she fell and then her she and then her brain yes irrepairable and how she'd written like cause you can say like what kind of organs do you want to donate or what and she’d written some line like all of them are or whatever.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, He searched and searched and searched for her driver’s license with that particularly on it and finally it took several days.She had written, “Take it All __ __ __ !!”
Mama Jan: “Yeah”
Andrea: -So she didn’t sound super convinced.. no (Laughing)
Mama Jan: “She could have said it in a stronger way than that.. so, she wanted if anything ever happened to her, you know, she wanted just to be of some use. So that was great.”
Andrea: -Especially in someone so young, to have taken that
Mama Jan: “Yeah, Yes because when you’re young, you are invincible, right? Nothing is ever going happen to you.”
Andrea: -No, but then you guys, I don’t know on how it works with it but I thought you have some sort of like a close thing but you’ve had contact with people who have, wa it someone who got her eyes?
Mama Jan: “I don’t. I didn’t. But I received a document, just saying thank you and just basically, you know, her lungs and heart went to a person in Blah Blah.”
Mama Jan: “That sort of thing, just something very big to let us know that they took it all, that whatever they could, they followed her wishes.”
Andrea: -I thought somebody had written.
Mama Jan: Maybe, it wasn’t me.
Andrea: -I have to fact-check that.
Mama Jan: “Good, that is something really good that someone got her eyes, is that what you’re saying.”
Andrea: -I don’t know,I’m just thinking that it’s been long time ago
Mama Jan: It’s diffic”ult to talk about”
Andrea: -Yeah, for sure. I’m thinking just not even for a thing maybe more for a science
Mama Jan: “Yes, I don’t have trouble with it at this point.”
Andrea: -Yeah. That’s good
I felt that we have talked about something happier.
Mama Jan: Alright, tea time
Andrea: -What do you think about it was, this article, do you remember like a certain part of it, like if I just read a little part of it?
Mama Jan: “What I liked about it? Hmmm...”
Andrea: -I like the title; One Light Will Not Go Out
Mama Jan: “Yes,yes. It was just factual and sympathetic but maybe I should say empathetic, it’s accurate and just very nice article that is Phelan wrote. I don’t even remember where it was posted.”
Andrea: -Yeah. I might link it up to the show because it’s pretty long
Mama Jan: “It is pretty long. Yes.”
Andrea: -Maybe we’ll just read the beginning of it because I felt the beginning is always very strong.
One Light will not go out by Eli Saslow. The story appears in June 11th Women and Sports Issues of ESPN the Magazine. She was always the person who brought everyone else together. “THE MAGNET”, her friends called her.
They travel from across the world to see Sarah Burke one final time. High school classmates came from the east coast and family members flew in from Canada. Professional athletes travelled from Norway, Sweden and Japan. They arrived on mass at the hospital in Park City, Utah. Spilling from Burke’s room into the general waiting area, in the hallways until finally the doctors found a conference room big enough to accommodate them. For 9 terrible days in January, they sat there, waited and prayed. They rehash questions that made no sense. How could they remain hopeful when the most optimistic among them is lying unresponsive in the other room? How head skiing’s most darling athlete suffered from the brain hemorrhage while practicing in orderly routine trick. Why now, just months after she had engineered her sports inclusion to the 2014 Winter Olympics and had become a long last a gold medal favourite. Mostly they spent the long hours in the conference room trying to reconcile the Sarah Burke on life support and when they had known her for 29 years, the one who had lived in perpetual motion and supported everyone else. This was the woman, who had visited the troops in Iraq, had a 75 foot ski jump in the Canadian back country, pause for a magazine cover and designed a jacket for a sponsor in Europe. All during the course of one typical month, this was the first woman to land a 720, a 900 and a 1080 in competition. This was the skier who had won 4 gold medals at the X Games, a friend who dropped everything to make a JC Concert in London. A businesswoman who signed deals with nearly a dozen companies and a prankster who launched a website, scared.com. And to post videos of herself jumping out from behind doors to surprise other skiers. She did everything to the fullest all the time says her husband Larry Burke. The joke was always like there had to be 4 or 5 Sarahs and now there was this one who is in the hospital, haemorrhaging, preventing oxygen and blood from reaching her brain, resulting in a coma. Doctors tried emergency surgery to no avail. Test showed that her heart was still beating but her brain was damaged beyond repair. She was gone. As Burke’s family members prepared to say their final goodbyes, the hospital staff came with more bad news. Burke was a Canadian citizen who had been skiing in the US without any health insurance because her national ski team policy covered her only during competitions and some practices. Her hospital bills with total hundreds of thousands of dollars, and nobody in their family could afford to pay them. Her agent, Michael Spencer, retreated to the conference room in grief and decided to take up a collection. Spencer also wanted to raise money to start a foundation on her behalf. He joined giftforward.com and designed a page for Burke on which anyone with internet connection could donate money and post a tribute.
“Sarah did so much for females and winter sports during her time with us”, Spencer wrote on the top of the page. Now we are asking for your help. Burke, who wanted her organs to be donated, had always been a giver herself. She had started at least one tradition that had spread among her friends. At the end of the night, she would like to ask a bartender to change a few 20 dollar bills into quarters and dimes. Then she would walk home tossing the change along her path. Building a trail of coins that is stretched for a mile or more. She believed that joy and generosity could be contagious. “Think of how happy it will make people to find it in the morning”, she said sometimes. “Maybe now some of those coins would circle back”, Spencer thought.
On January 19th, a few hours before Burke died, he had a button on his laptop to make the fund raising site public. He hoped that a few hundred people will post tributes. He wanted to raise $15000.
“I had no idea what could happen or who might see it”, he says. Because nothing in this life had prepared him for what would come next.
“Thank you for the Ohhss and the Ahhss”, Caroline $50.
“May we all have the courage to stare fear in the face”, Anonymous $75.
She started skiing just after she turned 5, the daughter of 2 artists in Midland Ontario who saved their money for weekend left tickets. She became a good muggle skier. But she preferred to careen through the woods and build jumps. Freestyle skiing was just beginning to take off in training parks and halfpipes around the world and Burke wanted to try it. Midway through high school she signed up for a bigger competition at the Canadian nationals. She arrived in Quebec City 10 hours from her home, only to find out that no other girls has signed up to compete. There are also no registered women and no junior boys. Officials encouraged her to try back to Midland but instead Burke decided to compete against 23 men. Most of them are already professionals, some at least twice her age and a few can’t help but chuckle on the teenage girl with a toothy smile, blond pigtails and old left tickets stuck to the zipper of her bulky jacket. She finished 4th. For the next several years, Burke divided her time between building her skills and building up the competition. She graduated from high school and moved in to the group house in May Mack, California, where she kept the water bill affordable by showering only a few times a week, saving her money to travel to freestyle competitions around the world. Other women were stronger or more athletic but nobody outside her body control in sense of ease in the air. Most people get scared up there but she was totally at peace as her coach was trying to train her. Burke won most events she entered. Her audacity in the back country made her a call star in ski movies. Her flirtatious smile and bleach blonde hair led FHM to name her to its list of the 100 sexiest women. She signed contracts with Solomon Smith, Roxy, Monster, and Halley Hanson and soon the water bill don’t seem to matter.
Meanwhile, as she emerged as one of skiing’s few mainstream stars, she gathered ski chatrooms on the internet and randomly messaged any girl who seem interested on freestyle. Knowing this sports could barely depended on having a deeply talented field, she was so serious of weekend halfpipe clinics for women and became a councilor at an Elite Freestyle Summer Camp.
Sharing her tricks in the off season with women who tried to beat her in the winter, she could have been scared or resentful about losing her place on the top but instead she taught us everything she could, says Rod Screenwiled.
A student in those camps and the rating gold medalist in the x games and she was carrying women’s skiing on her shoulders. Burke started movement to force the director to include the woman skiing and she beg her sponsors to kick in for equal prize money, when one contest paid $20,000 to men’s winners and $2000 to women’s. She travelled to the X Games 4 times to perform an exhibition while the men warmed up, because the event did not yet offer a competition for women. It was a constant frustration and sometimes you could just see the tears fogged up in her googles, says Jessica Vicki, a close friend from Midland. But then she would take off the googles and be smiling, like, “Ok I’m fine.” She was always fine. That was her brand of toughness. Mingled thumb, fine. She’d have surgery and make it back to the health 3 hours later and even if she was still vomiting from the anesthesia, dislocated shoulder, fine. Broken hands, busted ribs, turn up knees, knocked unconscious, fine. All fine. Broken back, fine. And just to prove it, why not throw a casual peace sign to the crowd of the 2009 X Games as paramedics carried her down the mountain. Once full filming a ski movie and then Canadian back country, Burke’s friend, Mike Douglas suggests that building a different job for woman.
The job for the man was a monster, a skyscraper of snow built an avalanche country that required a flight of 90 feet to reach the landing area. Naturally, Burke wanted to try it but the physics didn’t end up, it was too much speed an air for someone who weighed a 125 pounds.
“Please let me build and do something a little more reasonable”, Douglas said.
“No way”, Burke said. They fought for 30minutes but there was no winning ones, Burke had made up her mind. She flew at a jump at a full speed, lost control in the air, and barely reached the landing area.
“It wasn’t really crashed so much as all like that of an explosion”, Douglas says.
Skiis and boots and goggles scattered across the mountains. 5 other athletes hurried down hill to check on her. Douglas dugged into his pocket for his cellphone prepared to call 911.
“Im fine”, Burke said, standing up, waving them off then she head up back the hill and hit the trump again.
“Sarah is my 6 year old daughter’s role model and I could not be more proud of her choice,”
“She inspired me to start jumping cliffs and experience a new way of skiing, Thank you.”
She found adventure everywhere but mostly she found her true love, Burke, Bushfield and other professional skiers at Summer Camp when she was 14, and he spent the next 7 years chasing her around the world.
He finally persuaded her to go on an informal date in Oregon in 2003, suggesting only that, she wear comfortable shoes. Off they went to the woods to shoot, they were crossing the rapids and in the most dangerous spots, hopping from one slippery rock to the next, soaking their pants to the knee. “It was intense and awesome,” Bushfield says. And it became the blueprint of their relationship. Be spontaneous, take rest, and make every experience memorable.
Easter wasn’t just an egg hunt but a scavenger course to quote by treasure maps. New Year’s Eve parties felt tired. So, they invited friends to wear wet suits and jumped into a frozen river at midnight with mini sheer bottles of champagne. Even the most remote hikes in British Columbia became routine. So they bought night vision googles and started climbing mountains in the darkness. Bushfield traveled everywhere with climbing gear and a rope in his backpack and he made it in a daily mission to entertain Burke by doing backflips off bridges and jumping off buildings. They surf together in Costa Rica, backpacked in Europe and mountain biked in Brazil.
They bought a house near the ski area and near the British Columbia. Remodeled it themselves and hosted Axing tournament in the back yard. Bushfield learned how to fly and bought a plane so they could buzz around the mountains and chased bears along the ridge lines. He proposed on Christmas Eve in 2009 using a shoveled message in press powder on a remote mountain and then flying Burke there, the next morning. “Marry me, Sarah”, he wrote. “Because it never seem like a question.”
“She liked to, She lived to the fullest, not a moment wasted, she was happy. How many of us can say that?” - Alex $50.
“Well we really see snow in my neck of the woods; I had the chance to watch her after randomly channel surfing one day. She was awesome.” – CJ $500
There were so much, she still wanted to do, want to training and Rehabilitation Clinic, and raise kids, become a broadcaster, and win the Olympics.
For Painter, her coach, the challenge was always to limit her focus. “She had a hard time saying no,” he says. “She did weigh too much.”
But the International Olympic Committee announced last summer that it would add both ski halfpipe and slopes style to the 2014 games in Soulche, Russia. Painter suggested that Burke hire a scheduler to help her manage her time. She had spent the past 2 years traveling to meetings and pushing for this sports inclusion and so she and everthing about the Olympics excited her now. She liked filling her out the IOC paperworks she looked forward to the drug test. It made her feel like a real athlete, she told friends. Still, she always succeeded her way and trained on her own schedule. And this fime, would be known to a friend.
Burke spent the winter travelling to charity events and surf trips. A weekend to January, she left for a 3 day training camp in Park City where monster her energy during sponsor had granted a 22 feet halfpipe that she had ski a dozen of times.
The plan in Utah was simply to stick with what she knew; so on the afternoon of January 10th, she soared off the bottom of the halfpipe and twisted into a flat spin 540, one and a half side ways rotation, a standard trick she had mastered in her teens. She had planned it thousands of times, she had fallen thousands of times and it never had mattered. This time she fell, she over rotated on the landing, flashed forward and banged her head. It was an unremarkable crashed and for about 10 seconds nobody else in the pipe seem to notice. But then it had been 15 seconds and still she did not answer when another skier called her name. Sending half dozen of athletes rushing to her side then it was 2 minutes, emergency responders who had hurried to the scene begun to notice signs of cardiac arrest. Then it was 5minutes, and paramedics radioed for helicopter. In the chaos that followed, Bushfield received a call in his cellphone, he answered while sitting inside the large whizzer, taking a break from his stay in the mountain.
“I heard its bad news about Sarah and then the whole thing is just a fog,” Bushfield says.
He scrambled to find a flight to Utah that afternoon, when he arrived, the same husband who always had resisted routines, spent 9 days inside the red park building, never once leaving, repeating daily conversations with doctors even if the answer has really changed. They said, Burke had torn her vertebral artery, which helps supply blood to the brain stem. They said she wasn’t waking up. They said the odds of this exact accident seem like one in a million.
“A fluke”, Spencer says, “a moment so bad and so unexplainable makes you wonder, if anything good could have happen again”. Then 2 days after Burke died, something did. Spencer checked the fundraising website he created to help covered Burke’s medical expenses and saw that more than 250 people had donated and posted tributes in the 1st 3 hours. More than 3000 donated in the 1st 3 days. The money came from 22 countries and then tributes were posted in Japanese, German, Italian, English and French. Ski memo explains that she was jobless and therefore can only give $10. A sushi restaurant in Canada held its own fundraiser and pitched in a $1000. Billy Jean King, Dwayne Wade and ‘Lil Wayne all offered tributes. A flooded traffic crashed giftforward.com so people made donations to other websites. Here was every person who knew about her suddenly giving back at once. Jan Phelan, her mother, “we couldn’t believe how many people she’d reached,” Bushfield says. “Almost hard to keep track,” Spencer says.
So less than a week after Burke’s death, he navigated through the internet and calculated the total; his grass roots project had raised more than $300,000.
“I am so sad to loss her but so grateful for her life,” – Mckinzie $100
“You’re paying her an honor, every time you ski” – Randy $100
“The money more than covered medical expenses with her sponsors in Canadian Ski Team offering to pitched in. So Burke’s family decided to use some of it for a memorial in April. Bushfield spent a month obsessing every detail mostly because it gave him something to do. Ever since Burke’s death he had tried to recreate the feeling of closeness to her. He took long bike rides to mountains they had visited together only to experience a terrible sense of loneliness once he arrived. He tried to lose himself in the adventures like surfing in Los Angeles or streets skiing in Australia. But what was the point without Burke waiting to hear his stories. “The last part of every experience was coming home and laughing in bed with her,” he says. Instead now, he came home to her meticulously organized clothes still hanging in the closet and her 2 iPhone still sitting in the dresser, drawer. He couldn’t bear to see but couldn’t bring himself to give away. “It sounds weird but it feels comforting to know these old text messages and pictures are still right there”, he says. “It’s like parts of her still exist.” He tried to gather those parts at the memorial whistler. More than 3000 skiers, friends and fans showed up for Burke’s style event. A Rule1- 3 day party that included a ceremony, and a clecial lake and a halfpipe, and a midnight dance off at the restaurant. On the last night, Bushfield and his family hosted a public ceremony; it was at First Downtown Square. Some people arrived with stickers that read “Celebrate Sarah” and others wore replica necklaces of Burke’s Snowflake tattoo. A fan posted over a small stage that read, “One Light Will Not Go Out if it Lights a Thousand More” and Bushfield walked through the crowd to distribute hundreds of candles. The last figure step off the stage at 10:15 pm and tradition called for a final moment of silence. “Let’s make it a moment of noise,” Bushfield said. The crowd counted to 3 and then shouted the news.
Andrea: I don’t even know how to pronounce this word, AKAKAFANY.
Mama Jan: AKAKAFANY.
Andrea: AKAKAFANY of GRIEF in RAGE and GRATITIUDE. A group of close friends went to Burke’s favorite bar and drink her favorite champagne and danced her favorite songs. They talked about building a foundation in Burke’s name that would help support women skiers. Maybe, they agreed, joy and generosity really could be contagious. And just before last call, some of them walked up to the bar tender and changed the $20 dollar bills into a face fossil coins. When the sun came up the next morning over Whistler, the Carl Weston street were dotted with silver and bronze.
Andrea: -Ohh, it is beautiful.
Mama Jan:” It is, isn’t it? Yeah. It’s very very good, it is very well said.”
Andrea: -It’s all like the lot of the points
Mama Jan:”There was one thing I was remembering when you were reading that. And this is what I have been told in ESPN. I guess that was roughly around January 23rd, January the 25th, right after we had lost her, ESPN wanted to put on a celebration for Sarah there, which they did, and it was beautifully done and a lot of Sarah’s friends, they shot out all the lights, they came down the halfpipe and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. But I have been told that also ESPN has never done a tribute to any other athlete in any field, but they did for her. Which I thought was lovely, says a lot about Sarah too. Yeah...”
Andrea: -Yeah. Such a special, special lady.
Mama Jan: “Yeah.”
Andrea: -Do you remember the name of the film that they kinda talked with her, a film was that with a snowboarder that also had like a brain damage from ah..?
Mama Jan: “Kevin Pierce. He did go into a coma, but he’s come back. He managed to come back.”
Andrea: -Yeah. But they feature her within the scoop of that film.
Mama Jan: “I haven’t seen that film. I thought I have seen it all but apparently not.”
Andrea: -He also had a brother with Down syndrome.
Mama Jan: “Ahh. Really? So do you know Kevin at all?
Andrea: -No. No. We just have the same; we have siblings with Down syndrome.
Mama Jan: “Well I just thought with the Ski industry and so on.”
Andrea: -Yeah. But his brother is so cute.
Mama Jan: “Oh. Is that right? Oh I haven’t seen it.”
Andrea: -For some reason though, I thought Sarah was featured in it.Her story lives on.
Mama Jan: “Her story lives on. Yes, it does and Im really grateful to all of Sarah’s friends who acknowledge everything that she has done. Through Social Media, have lovely posts to her around this time of the year too and on her birthday on September. So she is still remembered in a wonderful way.
Andrea: -Yeah. Cause what is I think is on the 19th its Ski for Sarah Day.
Mama Jan: “That’s the day that we lost her. Is it, your meaning, the Whistler?
Andrea: -Yeah. Its like kinda, you have to go there and do something. The cast on my hand though but I will definitely go and ski there.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, I think Kelly and I will go skiing.
Andrea: -Yeah, I don’t know if you know this actually because just before her passing, I was going through a difficult time in my life and she gave me a pair of powder skis.
Mama Jan: “Oh nice.”
Andrea: -I will show you and they are my crush. And Yeah, She was like, there’s nothing like powder you know, to calm the heart.
Mama Jan: “That’s lovely.”
Andrea: -I actually have a vision of building a cabin somewhere, someday and just like mounting it on the wall. I used to ski on them but just look on it.
Mama Jan: “Are they wide?”
Andrea: -Yeah, they are rock ski. They are beautiful.
Mama Jan: “That’s a nice story.”
Andrea: -Maybe I should give myself a goal that I should have this cabin built within the next 3 years.
Mama Jan: “Oh that’s wonderful.” I would like to come and visit. Can I invite myself?
Andrea: -Of course. You are in. You will feel that you are in your own cabin.
Mama Jan: “Ok. Even better. Lovely. “
Andrea: -Awesome. Oh, thank you so much for coming Jan.
Mama Jan: “Thank you for having me, thank you for thinking of me.”
Andrea: -Yeah and then I guess to carry the spirit of Sarah Burke so people can still like donate to Sarah Burke Foundation, like its actually sarahburkefoundation.com
Are you on a board for that?
Mama Jan: “I am not on the board, but Sarah’s sister, Anna and Anna’s husband are in in charge of doing all that and organizing the applications for the scholarships that happens September, October something like that.”
Andrea: -Ok and what is it you guys do actually announced two scholarships winner a year?
Mama Jan: “Yes, two scholarship winners, 7 and a half thousand dollars of piece, just given to any winter sports athlete and whether or not like, there was one girl who did the sledged hockey. Because she did not have this long legs but she was very courageous girl.
This year was a girl from Hawaii who did, was very good, excellent on Surfing and I believe it was the halfpipe and another fellow who did the back country skiing competitively.”
Andrea: -Oh cool. So it’s woman and man?
Mama Jan: “Yep! Woman and Man Winter Sports, any Winter Sports.”
Andrea: -Perfect! Ok. SarahBurkeFoundation.com and now we have Dex Knows Best, so a dog food which a portion of that goes to Sarah Burke Foundation as well.
Mama Jan: “Yeah, yeah.”
Andrea: -And then what was that triathlon that she would do for that?
Mama Jan: “Oh yes, there was a triathlon yearly, I believe it’s on the Spring, and its raising money for St. Jude’s hospital and that’s a hospital that doesn’t require anyone to pay anything and it’s a basically kids with cancer.”
Mama Jan: “St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases. It gives us all hope.”
Andrea: -Beautiful. Alright! Well thank you for going on for Sarah and for being generous with your time today.
Mama Jan: “Well thank you.”
Andrea: -Alright. I love you Mama Jan.
Mama Jan: “Ohh, I love you Beck.”
Andrea: -I like the idea of going skiing on the 19th , may we all go to Sushi Village for some dinners as well.
Mama Jan: “Well, that’s sounds nice too. Yeah..”
Andrea: -Alright. We’ll make it happen.
(This episode of the Lawless Podcast was brought to you by Country Cards. A country reminds you to take out the garbage before we even wrote a thank you card but we should probably write more thank you cards because those actually sell. But hey if you bought this card and your wife takes out the garbage, you’re stall. Countrycards.com checked them out from the lawless and check the discount code to receive a discount.
Due to our lawless nature, we drop new episodes at random. I’d like to tell that happens every Monday or Wednesday morning but that is just not the case.
Shammick and DRMC took care of the music. I wanna thank my mom for always letting me ask a million questions, perfecting sarcasm, I thank you every day.)