Welcome to the memorial website for R.W. “Buddy” Burniske, PhD, who passed away April 20, 2006, after an 18-month struggle with cancer.
Buddy was a tenured associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Education, Department of Educational Technology. Through his classroom teaching, global presentations, and published works, Buddy influenced thousands of people around the world.
To honor Buddy’s memory, the College of Education and his family established this website. Within these pages, you’ll find information about Buddy, the memorial fund and annual ETEC award established in his honor, and link to his Facebook memorial.
I appreciate your empathy, but I’m ambivalent about cursing the Fates. When you stop to think about it, I had an awful lot of good fortune in my first 44 years. I never thought to curse the Fates for that, so why should I curse them for the misfortunes of this past year? I would, of course, like to have my leg back. I’d prefer not to suffer so many physical trials. And yet, misfortune teaches us a great deal about ourselves, our capacity for suffering and abilities to endure. It also reminds us of how much good fortune we’ve enjoyed.
Would I give back all the travels and extraordinary experiences in Egypt, Ecuador, Malaysia, and all the countries I’ve visited in between so that I could have my leg back? Would I trade all that good fortune to inoculate myself against the misfortunes that I’ve endured this year? Probably not.
So don’t curse the Fates, my friend, nor think of me as some pitiful figure. I’ve caught a lot of good breaks along my journey through life. And then I caught a bad one, one that tested my will, and taught me a great deal.
And the more I think of it, the more convinced I am that fortune is just misfortune turned inside out. Since I announced my condition last fall I have seen a side of humanity that many people will never see. I’ve had the great, good fortune of witnessing just how generous and charitable people can be. I’ve seen colleagues demonstrate empathy by giving up their sick days — lots of them — so that I could take Sick Leave for the semester. My department head sent out an email message to the College of Education on a Monday, requesting the donation of sick days to help me out; within 48 hours he had enough days to carry me through August. I would never have seen that generosity if not for the misfortune that came my way.
At one point in his book, “It’s Not About the Bike,” Lance Armstrong recalls an encounter with a cancer patient who smiles at him in a clinic one day and says, “We’re the lucky ones.” Armstrong wrestles with that notion, and so did I when I first encountered it. Yet now I understand that if we’re patient — and we endure the worst of this misfortune, including the bloody treatments — then we’re rewarded with opportunities to see people at their best. Even if I don’t pull through, and the demon proves too much, I will have had chances for conversations with my parents, Jackie, the boys and many friends and colleagues that the victims of sudden disasters will never enjoy. Those who die in car crashes will not have the chance for closure that I’ve had this past year. Nor do they have the chance to reflect on their fortunes/misfortunes and come to grips with their own mortality.
So don’t worry about me, OK?