{photo a day}: something you adore + a story

3. Something you adore: old photographs of my mom and dad
January 3, 2012


My mom and dad have been married for 30 years. It’ll be 31 years this August.

They first met in 1976, three years after my dad had his accident.

I think to tell this story fully, you need the background information first. It’s the most amazing miracle I’ve ever heard and it’s the reason my sister and I are here today.

In 1973 my dad was in a life-threatening car accident. He was thrown from a jeep 4 days before Christmas and landed on his head. He was with his friend and was in the passenger side of the car, and he was not wearing a seatbelt (as most people didn’t in those days). They were coming home from getting a Christmas tree and were hit by another car in the middle of a snowstorm.

He was in a coma for 3 months and he barely survived.

I still get shaky every time I think about it. What it was like for his mom and dad, for his brothers, for his friends. They did not think he would survive, and even if he did, they thought the damage to his brain would be too great to recover from.

But he did survive.

He survived.

He woke from the coma, a miracle in and of itself, but it was only the beginning of an incredibly long road to recovery.

He needed to re-learn everything. Everything. How to eat, how to walk, how to talk. The right side of his body was paralyzed from the impact of the fall. Slowly with the help of many others, my grandmother helped him get back on his feet. My Grandma Grace loved her son too much to let him slip away. In 1975 my grandmother went to the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, PA to learn “patterning”. Patterning is a specific type of rehabilitation for people who’ve had a traumatic brain injury. She patterned him every day. And taught everyone around to help too. My dad was patterned twice a day by 4 or 5 people at a time.  He did that program for a year and made so much progress that he was able to go to college.

Still even today, my dad walks with a limp and slurs his speech a little. But he’s the friendliest person alive and has the best outlook on life and the best laugh. I am forever grateful that he’s my dad. Forever and ever and ever.

It was on a weekend night (in a wheelchair) that my dad met my mom in a bar in Syracuse. He was still recovering from his accident, but had made tremendous gains. My dad was out with some friends. My mom was attending Syracuse University for graduate school and was at the bar that same night.

A few years later my dad saw my mom again at a wedding. Another year later, my mom asked my dad’s brother Dean about my dad and how he was doing. Dean told my dad afterwards and pressed him to ask her out. After another year (it took him awhile he says), when my dad was on a school break, he saw her again. Finally, he called and asked her out to dinner. He took her to the Old Stone Mill in Skaneateles. He had a “buy one, get one free” pass and told her they couldn’t get any drinks or dessert.

This makes me laugh harder than anything, because this is perfectly my dad.

He laughs so hard when he tells this part of the story.

He laughs so hard, everyone that’s listening starts laughing too.

Then he says, “Well, then I broke down and we had dessert. And she married me despite all that.”

I love my parents more than anything. I love how they fit so well together and how much they have given me and my sister. Each and every day I admire them and their goodness and grace.

We are so so very blessed to have them.

It’s a miracle, really.

A miracle.


  1. Beautiful.

  2. Wwwwoww…….what an incredible story. That’s truly a miracle. Just unbelievable.

    Lovely post, thanks for sharing.

  3. thanks for sharing this story! it’s incredible and such a miracle. it seems so rare for someone to recover from a brain injury, never mind go on to have a family. amazing, amazing. i had goosebumps while reading.

  4. Ali Herter says:

    Im crying. Love Mr and Mrs Burns. Love.

  5. Alisia Chase says:

    This is stellar. Really. It obviously comes from the depths of your heart and as such, is some of the best writing I’ve read (and like all Burnses, I read ALOT).
    Brava to you Sparkle One!!!!!

  6. jennifer roberts says:


  7. Such a beautiful, beautiful story…and your parents sound like such fun. I can’t believe all of the things that had to happen for them to end up together…and what an amazing journey your father took.

    Thanks so much for posting.

  8. Loved reading this story! Truly a special family and your Dad is a great inspiration. Thanks for sharing!!

  9. What an incredible story! It’s such a fantastic gift to have happily married, in love parents. My parents will be married 31 years in May!

  10. Love this story! I only knew pieces and it’s such a great one – thanks for sharing!

  11. I legitimately just teared up. This is such a sweet and amazing story, you are all so lucky to have each other! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. Erin Pilson says:

    I knew your father, Chris Burns, when I was a kid growing up with Lisa, Matt, Jimmy, and Peggy. I lived just up the street from the Burns’ in Syracuse. Your story made me tear up as well, I could feel the affection in your words. Keep on writing, you have a gift.

  13. oh my lord, this is beyond amazing.

  14. Matthew Burns says:

    Phenomenal story. Even though I was probably only about 5 I remember the Monkey Bar Equipment my dad built for Chris. It was set up in the garage and I remember the Uncles working on it with Chris endlessly.
    I love your story so much and almost died when I read the “buy one, get one” part…before I read your next line I started laughing because that is so Uncle Chris! Plus I could totally visualize and hear him laughing as he told the story.


    • Thanks, Matt. It’s so great to hear all your memories. The one you posted on Facebook had me cracking up! My dad never fails to make people laugh. Ha!

  15. What a beautiful story! I’m so glad you shared.

  16. Love this story, Anna! Beautiful.

  17. Oh Anna-what a beautiful tribute to your parents and to your love for them. Thank you for telling Uncle Chris’s story. It truly is a miracle. You told it so eloquently. How wonderful that you & meg see the greatness that is your parents and you appreciate them so much. I’m proud to have you in my family! Love you!

  18. Oh friend!! I just read this and teared up! There are so many things I did not know about your parents.I had never heard the whole story. Gosh, they are so dang cute. I laughed about the “free pass”. I showed it to Trav and he was laughing too. Love to the Burns family!
    XO moe

  19. Thank you everyone for your kind words and comments. I loved getting them and knowing this story touched people. It truly is incredible, and I’m so glad I took the time to share it.

  20. Oh Anna, loved this.

    You were right, it’s something to be very proud of. It’s their love story after all!

    I loved that it was serious, and uplifting, and funny. It had all the right parts.

    And I love that your family left comments.

    Just love.

  21. Gretchen Burns says:

    Anna, it is amazing to me how many people were involved in those pattering sessions. I will meet people and they would say they worked with Grace on Chris patterening seesions. She was organized probabbly her military upbringing. I am glad you are writing about how this terrible accident pulled a family, a church, neighbors and friends together to keep Chris Burns alive. Dean has that same laugh.

  22. Such a thoughtful and wonderful story Anna. It was wonderful to be reminded of this story!

    and my goodness look at all those comments. you are moving mountains lady! :-)


  23. Just now stumbling upon this story and I’m so happy that I did. Strange that I read it the week of father’s day. You are such a sweet heart and it’s obvious you have an amazing family! I love this story. XO

  24. This is so sweet!! Thanks for linking to this in your latest post… you wrote this before I started following your blog and it’s one of your best. Your parents sound so wonderful! You ARE one lucky girl, all thanks to a miracle.


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