Noah Matthew Burke
Died on March 2, 2008
at the age of 4
He was Diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 1/2
We moved to Ione in June of 2007 to start fresh and live a life long dreamed of. My husband got a job on a 4,000 acre cattle ranch and we were all quite happy.
Noah’s sister, Chloe, was born in Oct. of 2006 so you can imagine my hands were pretty full at that time.On March 2nd,it was a Sunday, we all (Me, Noah, Chloe and Dad) were home enjoying the day off. Dad was preparing his vehicle for a new job he was starting. He was a very curious, independent little 4 year old who loved to be outdoors. He loves playing in the tall grass. As if he were a Lion hunting in the Savannah. Scrunching up his face in delight. It was still quite cold out but the signs of Spring were beginning to show.
Noah had on Camouflage Pants and sweatshirt, a rusty colored Carhart knit cap and cowboy boots. As it warmed up and the sun came out I took the cap off and went in and got him his new Go Diego Go Bicycle helmet that his dad bought for him. He loved it.He wasn’t going to ride a bike. He didn’t know how…but Dad knew he would love it. Diego was his favorite show. Animals were always “his thing” After a bit I thought I should go in and check on Chloe to see if she was still sleeping. I had stepped inside and left the door open to keep an eye on him. He was laughing and shaking his head back and forth enjoying his big helmet head.
The next time I stepped out Noah was playing on the porch…that was the last I saw him. As soon as we both realized he was gone, we ran out into the driveway and began to yell his name. I was in immediate panic…I was yelling his name, but I knew he would not answer. Noah only had a few words in his vocabulary and would not respond most of the time.
We checked all of the spots we thought he might be and then proceeded to call 911. As soon as people started coming I was in a dizzy spin. I couldn’t think, breathe, or hardly talk. I remember spouting out things like, what he was wearing and that he doesn’t respond to his name…and that he has no regard for his own safety. This was about 2 o’clock. People kept coming to help look for the little lost Autistic boy. Searching the area by way of 4-wheeler, Horseback, and foot. The Sheriff kept asking me if there was anything they could be doing that they weren’t…I couldn’t think of anything at that time, of course now there are a few things I wished we’d done and crossings at the creek we should have guarded…I have a big list of shoulda coulda woulda’s that play through my head on those awful days.
At approx. 6pm someone located a tiny cowboy boot on a small island out in the middle of Willow Creek (About 200 yards from our house) The Sheriff came and got me to identify it as Noah’s. I ran out to hear my husband yelling “Sara, they found his boot in the Creek!! In the Creek!”…I immediately lost it.
I Was screaming and falling to the ground. “NO! NO! My baby, NO!” I knew at that moment that I would never see him again. At 3 o’clock the county sheriff’s dept. had called in for National Guard help and 2 Black Hawk Helli-copters were arriving. They headed down stream. They set up command post in my front yard. It was getting dark and the searchers were getting tired. For a few hours I sat at the window watching all of the flashlights out in the fields and
listening to the Helicopters flying overhead. It was an empty bottomless, dark, and overwhelming feeling. Then they had to call it quits for the night. My worst nightmare had come true. I was
having to go to bed without tucking in my baby boy.
I couldn’t sleep at all. I trembled at the thought of him floating down stream, cold & alone. I shook until I couldn’t stand it….I got up slipped on my shoes and coat and ran outside…I screamed his name. Then I fell to my knees. I asked God ” why? Why my baby? Why my baby?” I was very angry with God for letting this happen. I was angry at myself for letting this happen. But most of all I felt an empty very uncertain feeling in the depths of my heart. A feeling that you know will never leave you. “How would or could I ever feel happiness again, or how will I go on with out him?” This consumed me for several days until the reality of it all sunk in. And well, I have to say we have our beautiful daughter to thank for helping us get through what had to be the nightmare of all nightmares. She made us smile on the days we thought we could not. She filled those empty spots in our hearts with warmth and love and most of all…a certainty of love and life that cannot ever be taken away. Bless her dear little sweet heart.
When I woke to the alarm clock, it felt like a nightmare… the helicopters were starting out where they had left off. The dive team was headed to the creek, and everyone was showing up with hope still in thier eyes. Me and Lea (the pastor) walked down to the creek. She held my hand as we quietly approached the bank. She asked me ” Sara, what do you think happens when we die?”
Feeling a loss of words I looked up into the sky and said ” Love, love is the only thing that is eternal. We go where our love is. Here we try to learn of love and live in love. When we go, we are love.” I was amazed I was able to put this into words seeing as the last 24 hours were filled with words I could not speak. As I walked back to the house I had this feeling of lightness. Like I had been touched by God. I felt and could almost see my little baby standing there holding God’s hand and smiling at me.
Yesterday was a whirl wind and certainly chaotic. However I felt a bit of tranquil peace this morning. (At this point I have to say a bit about the community I live in. Everyone that could be here to help was. Any way they could.There were over 200 people including the emergency rescue, and National Guard, and people of the surrounding towns. Even mothers of the kids in Noah’s preschool were out here late with flashlights and boots. I will never forget all of the faces of the Angels that came to help. The schools put on a spaghetti feed to help with the service costs. )
By 9 am they had found him 3 miles downstream. The black Hawk pilot spotted something blue in the water just below the surface. Noah’s Helmet. They then came to the house to tell us I knew already but it was all so surreal to us. We never saw him that morning. It was probably better that way . We saw him the day after at the mortuary.
They allowed us as much time as we needed. That was the sweetest yet the hardest thing I have and will ever have to do. Say goodbye to my son. He was so cold, so we put his favorite Finding Nemo blanket around him. Then we read him his favorite story. “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss. Then we gave him his favorite little
baby elephant. We knew he was gone but I was rubbing his head and stoking his hair and talking to him like he was hearing me. I didn’t know what to expect of myself as I walked into that cold room. But as I entered I realized that this would be our last time seeing his sweet little face and I couldn’t let it pass me by with fear. We said our sweet goodbyes and proceeded to make the arrangements.
There were as many if not more people at his service as there were there that night looking for him. I was amazed. We let balloons go, blew bubbles, and sang the saddest songs I’ll ever hear. It was perfect. To this day I will never forget the family that all came and shared memories and helped us. We laughed, we cried and remembered everything about little Noah.Noah is still giving us gifts.
Rest in peace little Angel Noah XOXOXO’s
Noah’s familie’s memorial site