August 7, 1940 – November 11, 2019
On November 11, 2019, we lost a soul like no other. Christine, better known as Chris to her friends, would tell you exactly who she is. She was not dealt the best beginning to her life, growing up in London England during World War II, but it saved her life. She would tell you her family life was horribly abusive and full of disturbing distorted messages but to avoid the bombs she was often sent to stay with her lovely Aunt Kate who truly helped her become someone who could thrive. Trauma will change your life but how is often a series of choices and chances.
As a young adult, Christine moved off to Teacher’s College, which she later got kicked out of. She always seemed a little too proud of that fact. And yes for those who knew her it was for unruly behavior. She married a lovely man who had a wonderful family and could give her a respectable life. The aspired dream of every dysfunctional kid. So happily ever after included marriage, two daughters, multiple pets, a move to Australia, then to Vancouver, Canada and incredible life experiences.
Then the day came when Christine made a huge move. In those days, divorce was still a whispered word, especially with a man who was not abusive or horrible but just wasn’t right. Ok she was afraid of heights and he was a mountain climber – perhaps an issue - thanks Captain Obvious. So she became the hippy divorcee with two daughters. Now Chris opened up to the world and saw all the possibilities. She was like a dehydrated person just drinking in all life had to give. But in her exploration she found her voice and people who shared her values.
Finally feeling connected to the earth with purpose, Chris met her soul mate (ok she didn’t know it right then). She was a wild beautiful woman with an incredible mind and spirit. Sel Burrows felt she was out of his league. The relationship was platonic. Never mind friend zone – he was in the babysitter zone. But they could talk and had shared passions. Then, one day the eldest daughter, (who can all teach us no question is a silly question) asked Sel, “Why don’t you marry my mum?” Along these timeline there were other forces at play including a well-timed phone call and a never delivered Dear John Letter. Now with all of those elements combined began the incredible loving long lasting relationship with her soul mate.
They got married, Sel adopted the girls, and then a son was added to the fold. Chris got her degree (Education, University of Winnipeg). Also for a short period the family cared for another son, Leon. Chris loved family life. When you create the kind of family we had, there are crazy and weird times in between the normal moments. Sel always said we weren’t dysfunctional we were differently functional (yup Mr. Spin Doctor). But given Chris’ background she was fierce about family – the epitome of the mother bear. As the Cree elders taught the bear asks that you be brave and believe in yourself. Like the bear, you need to stand up for yourself, your beliefs and your rights. So that is what she taught.
Chris was a teacher. It was important that you thought – question yourself, question others, think before you speak and act as well as consider consequences. She taught her family life lessons and finding magic in an imperfect world. She taught us to feel but often it was through an adventure called Travelling with the Burrows which is best described as an experiential learning journey. No fancy high end hotels (unless you need toilet paper) or snooty fancy restaurants (yes order the whole, dessert cart Chrissy). You were not a tourist but rather needed to be part of the community and walk a few moments in others’ shoes. We saw the world first hand. Opinions mattered, debates ensued and often a good old lively conversation, sometimes a raised voice and few scary moments but no matter even if people got anger and sometimes hurt we always loved each other which kept us united. That was what made us a family.
Chris taught pre-school and elementary school children in multiple schools in Winnipeg. She loved teaching. She loved her students. She hated staff meetings. She was always more concerned about how the kids were doing than in how the photocopier was being misused. She taught in schools for many years but even after retirement she continued to teach the world.
Chris was a community activist. She found a voice to speak for herself, beyond the abuse and because of a world that she knew could do better. Chris thought outside the box. She did not write a polite letter to her elected officials – during Desert Storm she staged a Die In at Portage Place to protest bombing in Iraq. During the Vietnam War she led a large demonstration to protest the war which included wrapping the American Consulate in crepe paper. Chris did not like to colour within the lines – it was never naughty or wrong she call that “creative”. Baby pictures often included a protest, rally, festival or political campaign office. Chris was less about polite and more about action. Recalling when she and neighbors, Roanna and Sandy with their dogs ran off the local drug dealers in two nights. Create the world you want to live in. Make that your goal.
Chris and Sel were actively involved in social justice and community engagement. They brought this thinking to Point Douglas when they returned to live in the neighbourhood. The Powerline was created by Chris, Sandy Dzedzora and Sel and continues to be run from their home. Where the community becomes its own watchdog and ensures the well-being of all. Basically everyone deserves a chance for a better life in a better environment. Chris was on the Board that launched The Eagle Wings Daycare and the restoration of Barber House.
Chris believed everything deserves a new chance to succeed. She was an avid pet lover, activist, rescuer and sometimes pet hoarder (little bit). We always had pets. The stories of monsters in the bed were all too real when kittens are actually born in the bed. Chris heart knew limited boundaries with pets – dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, many different birds included wounded park birds, turtles, fish, tadpoles and maybe a lizard. Every animal had a story and every animal was welcome at the “dog palace” (ok some cats and others protested the name but it stuck).
Often Chris’ DYI spirit was used to beautify the world we lived in. When your car gets rust spots a few strategically painted blue birds, flowers and vines can change the way you see things. Yes our car had blue birds – some things just can’t be explained. This type of transformations are only further fueled by the rummage sale and thrift store mentality, coupled with a flair for the dramatic and acting. There is purpose and potential in everything sometimes you have to look a little harder to find it and work a little harder to make it work, but creation was essential. There were many a psychedelic cape to be made and worn.
Drama and Art were passions. Chris loved art and performance. The house always had high visibility overload full of the most eclectic things, beautiful pictures, thought evoking reproductions and even disturbing images. Her life stories and her world views became evident in her actions and her art. She put a lot of emotions and released pain into these pieces but she was always very humble about her work. She was extremely proud of her daughter’s (google Teresa Burrows artist) passion for art and her incredible world recognized art works. As well as her many grandchildren who also shared her love and abilities for art.
Chris embodied common sense. She was blunt, clear and fair. You learned to negotiate. She believed with food you didn’t have to like everything but you had to try it. It was how she viewed relationships. Family moved as an entourage in younger years. Chris and Sel took their family everywhere and met people from all over. Wonderful memories from Pow Wows to running the halls of the Legislature afterhours come to mind. Lots to see and lots to learn. Chris explained that life was colourful and just like an excellent 64 pack of crayons they never seemed to argue who was better. It was a collection they all mattered to the other. We learned you get to know people for who they are and how they think and act – essentially you don’t have to like everyone but you have to at least try them first. Chris had so many fabulous people walk through her life that impacted who she was. She had good friends and always loved a bit of fun and a good giggle.
Chris loved music. Didn’t everyone’s mum have them dancing in the kitchen to Jim Morrison’s Riders on the Storm. Lots of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Chicago, Rolling Stones but she also loved Jazz and Classical Music. She supported the symphony, the ballet, other dance and performance groups. There was always music in our house – often some bad singing, sometimes dancing and related mishaps. But you were taught to feel the music, taught the power of music, how it can unite and inspire people. What a way to make a difference and send messages of love and acceptance – the human anthem. Again Chris taught that finding and using your voice for the betterment of others was the passion that drove her and Sel. You never stop believing you matter and can help change the world.
Chris was not a perfume girl. But she loved flowers and plants – memories of wearing daisy chains we made in our hair. Big old vases of Bulrushes on the table. Chris took on nature inside and outside her home with jungles of house plants and beautiful award winning and “tour” status gardens in both Winnipeg and Thompson, MB. Chris and Sel owned and planted a Christmas Tree Farm for a few years outside of the city. She had a green thumb, but the past few years she became a consultant with Sel tending the never-ending garden. She believed that people and nature could respect each other. Beauty can be created it just needs some nurturing.
Chris had a mischievous side, she was often trouble on a good day. She had a saucy personality, and even though everyone thought she was so nice. She wasn’t. She could be downright disruptive and disobedient but generally with purpose. She was human and imperfect in many ways. She was most often too hard on herself. To better understand Chris read these quotes from her end of life letter (started June 7, 1988 and added to over her remaining years). Chris asked to be cremated and goes on to write, “I would strongly prefer that there be no elaborate boxes used, plastic bags are good enough for soldiers, they’ll do for my carcass too.” She also requested that “since I never rode in an elegant stretch limousine during my life – nor wished to – I would think it ridiculous to transfer a lifeless hunk of meat in the most expensive car available.” Her first P.S reads “please do not use that blasted euphemism “passed away” about me – I will not have “passed away” (sounds like gas) I will have died.” There was a rebel with a cause in the girl – you know the Fridge magnet wisdom “well-behaved women rarely make history”. She had it.
Chris taught us how to love and be loved. How to build relationships, cope with your feelings and ask for help. Sometimes we made mistakes and life was messy but she always told us we could tell her anything. When we did she would always listen and care. Sometimes advice was sage and sometimes it got lost in hilarious translations like when your boyfriend dumps you and she tried sayings like “it’s ok there are more fish on the beach”. “Yes mum the dead ones” which received the response “well that not quite right then”. Humour has its place even in sadness and we often repeated her convoluted idioms throughout her life.
Chris was never big on formal organized religion, sadly she had seen that the structure of power and money could create obstacles for real change. She would encourage you to do your own research, explore, question and evaluate. Concepts like Karma and Buddhism interested her but her spiritual side was most relatable to the Grandfather’s Seven Teaching which spoke of Indigenous elders teachings on human conduct towards others. There are different variations and not meaning to offend anyone, this is a very simple overview. Wisdom (prudence, intelligence): To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom. Wisdom is given by the creator to be used for the good of the people. Love: To know peace is to know love. Love must be unconditional and mutual. When people are weak they need love the most. Respect: To honour all creation is to have respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish be respected. Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Honesty (righteousness): Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. Humility (compassion, patience): Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. You are equal to others, but you are no better. Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others. Truly it is hard to argue with these values and not see how they all fit as integral parts in a good life worth living and an even better world for us all to live in. “Faith is not about everything turning out ok. Faith is about being ok no matter how things turn out.” Chris believed no matter where you started and where you came to be that everyone mattered and everyone had something to contribute.
Chris lived in t-shirts that didn’t advertise brands but said thinks like “in a world where you can be anything…be kind.” She believed in kindness and compassion for others. She showed through her actions and words that you can shape your world, you can build the life you want and need. In her letter she spoke to her husband about the love, joy, laughter and sorrows they shared in a “in a relationship that has been mutually intensely rewarding” and to her children that she “never felt that you owed me anything and yet what you have given me is not measurable” and in the end “to my family, friends and students – I will continue to live on in your memories and the things I taught you, I believe this is the only immortality there is”. She got in life what was most important to her – to make a difference in people’s lives and to be loved.
With goals accomplished, she went gently into the good night. Now she is gone from our daily lives and we will miss her greatly but she would tell you she is not gone. She always promised to be with us in spirit and we know she always will.
Thanks for absolutely everything and we will love you forever. Love your husband Selwyn (Sel) Burrows, daughter, Teresa (Blair) Hudson, daughter Karen Burrows (Barry Chupka), son, Riel Dylan (Jackie) Burrows, grandchildren, Matt (Tanis) Hudson, Graham Hudson, Luke Hudson (Michaela Dillman), Emily (Patrick) Hayes, Stefan Hudson, Jesse Chupka, Jade Chupka (Dylan Verhaeghe), James Burrows, Lily Burrows, great grandchildren, Kody & Carter Hudson, Alex Hayes, Ember Dillman and Leah Hayes.
Special thanks to Dr. Robinson & Dr. Ahmad who shepherded Chris through many years of her health issues. Also thanks to the wonderful staff and doctors at the Health Sciences Centre whose care and compassionate was amazing.
Anyone that wishes can join family and friends in a come and go Celebration of Life for Christine Burrows on Saturday November 16, 2019 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm at the Filipino Senior Centre at 49 Euclid.
For those who can’t be with us, do something that makes a difference in her honour – a humanitarian donation, volunteer, paint a mural over gang signs, host a charity music event, plant a garden, or invent your own outside the box, colour outside the lines tribute. Just please show some love and a little compassion so we can all live better.
Memories, Stories and Condolences
Please share a story, photo, memory or condolences for the family by completing the form below and click "comment".