Saturday, December 30, 2017

Remembering Cindy Johnson Burgess ~ March 17, 1960 – December 27, 2017

On a Saturday morning in Bryan, Texas, within the peace and serenity of Rest-Ever Cemetery, a group of family and friends gathered to remember and honor the life Lucinda Johnson Burgess, a woman who’d touched many with her spirit and optimism throughout her lifetime.

An occasion of saying goodbye to Cindy, in the presence of her family, presented voices united in prayers and affirmations that her life on Earth had truly made a difference to so many, there and those she’d reached in all of her lifetime.

She’d entered the world on St. Patrick’s Day, and so her birth made a special day even more special. She and her brother Craig grew up here in Bryan and in her lifetime, she met and made so many friends that this was definitely one home base for her.

Over 20 years ago, I first met Cindy through her parents, Lee Roy and Carolyn, when she’d moved back to Bryan, after having raised her children in Austin. I’d learned that she had battled the impact of brain cancer and knew that her family had kept vigil by her bedside throughout each step of the way. Those were the bad times. No one wants to remember the bad times, and yet, they reveal the very character of the person and those who love them.

Brain cancer meant a tumor, which meant radiation, which meant that she had been cancer free, according to her daughter Victoria, for ten years. Still, the radiation had done quite a bit to alter Cindy’s balance when walking, and yet, her smile was so bright all the time that you only remember her smile and her amazing attitude. She wanted to be brave for Victoria, and for her son Michael. Their growth and progress as young adults was key to her, and she was always so proud of each milestone they achieved.

Yet, it took more to be there for her kids than it did the average person. A serious medical episode and tough experiences in your lifetime, as minister Charlie Ray pointed out this morning, are like the notches along the stem of a rose, marking those times with a bump. Before and after, though, are the signs of life lived more smoothly.

Church was a relevant part of Cindy’s lifetime commitment of faith, key in Cindy’s life. When she originally lived in Austin, she was church secretary and a faithful member at Oak Hill UMC there.

When Cindy located back in Bryan, she became active at First United Methodist Church as well as attending many Bible studies and other church activities there. She also attended other churches’ Bible studies and found multi-ecumenical faith journeys refreshing.

When her health permitted, Cindy became active in local area politics, much like the apple not falling far from the tree. Cindy was a key volunteer in a local race for state representative and was truly appreciated and valued for her contributions. Her battle with cancer behind her, the side effects of radiation had slowed her down, but didn’t take her out of participating in things she loved.

In Bryan, unquestionably, Cindy loved being with her brother, Craig, sister-in-law, Kathy, and nephew Christopher, and there was usually good music or bbq involved in gatherings. Cindy and music are two words that go so naturally together in a sentence. She was a fan of classic rock, of solid country music, and there’s no question that her favorite performer, of whom she had become fond as a teenager, was Barry Manilow.

Cindy and a friend had a chance to see Barry Manilow’s concert in person at The Woodlands several years ago, and she was so excited to know that Vince Gill had recently joined forces with The Eagles for a 2018 tour. That was Cindy, always looking ahead, while looking back at what was good. She maintained a vital interest in the world around her always, and she was faithful in keeping up with what her friends and family were doing, as best she could.

Cindy was a faithful member of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority and made lifelong friends there as well. As word has spread of her passing, memories and tributes will continue to be shared on her Callaway-Jones tribute page and in cards that are shared in the days ahead.

In her final days, she achieved what every Mother prays to do in her lifetime, to see her children grown and happy, so she can transition into the next life in peace. With God’s blessings, that happened. Two years ago, Cindy’s son Michael was accepted into the Honors College program at the University of South Florida studying for his IT degree. That same day she shared that daughter Victoria had won Employee of the Year for her company. Cindy loved sharing good news with those who loved her.

Michael and Victoria often teamed up to honor their mother, whether Mother’s Day or other special occasion. Cindy, the mother, knew she was loved and beloved by her children, who also enjoy a close relationship with their dad.

Present day, Michael is now married to the lovely Kayleigh Dunna, and Victoria has become recently engaged to Cody Esser, who made a tremendously romantic journey to find Victoria’s engagement ring, the kind of journey that every mother hopes her daughter will find, in praying for a son-in-law who will treat her like a princess.

As parents, Carolyn and Lee Roy Johnson have lived the hardest day of their lives today, in giving Cindy back to God. It’s not a matter of faith; they know where she is and that she is entirely free of the Earthly illness that caused Cindy to fall earlier this month, and her system tried to battle back, and could not. In the interim, sister-in-law Kathy and brother Craig asked for prayers for her in the interim period.

Whether or not a person has a strong faith construct, you could be sure that knowing that “this life” is not all there is in the world makes the distinctive difference in our lives that reassures us what pastor Charlie Ray said to the local group of family and friends assembled to pay their respects to Cindy and her family: “This was God’s time, and today she hurts no more.” Love flowed throughout Cindy’s life and as the impact of that love remains with all those whose lives she has touched.

The service concluded by reminding us of the assurances offered by scripture of life eternal, including the gospel of John, the Psalms, and the promises of Ecclesiastes.

Next Saturday, January 6, there will be a memorial service in Austin and Oak Hill United Methodist Church in Austin so that her Austin family can pay their respects.

I’m not going to end this on a sad note. She wouldn’t like that, not one bit. Instead, every day of our lives is a chance to offer one voice to be heard. Cindy used her voice and we are all the better for hearing her.


  1. Dawn, you've written a beautiful tribute to a lovely lady whom I never met but would have liked to.

  2. Pam, thank you so much for your kind words! You would have loved her. And she loved listening to the radio as well, so you know she'd appreciate your Dick Biondi Film Project.