Brandon’s Gifts

A Father’s Story of Love


Robert R. Burdt


There’s a hole in my heart and a wondering that will never leave, and yet, I have had a great life.

His name was Brandon, and he was my son, my first child, the one who made me a father. This was his first gift.

Brandon died on Good Friday, April 13th. He never lived to see age two. His birth was the happiest day of my life, and every day for the first six months, my heart expanded daily as I watched this sweet, good-natured baby smile and blossom.

With little warning, everything changed and when we took him to the doctor, we learned he had an incurable heart defect. My joy turned to fear and a sadness more profound than I’d ever known or could have imagined. As I fought to save my son’s life and make every day of his life the best it could be, I also discovered a courage within myself I didn’t know existed. That was Brandon’s second gift.

We never gave up trying to save his life. Brandon spent the days, weeks, and months prior to his death in and out of Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California. When he was home, we had to drain the fluids from his lungs every four hours to keep him comfortable. I experienced every grimace of pain with him. Those times when he felt well, his contagious smiles and giggles brightened my days. This was his third gift: he taught me that when life is going well, celebrate and don’t hang on to yesterday’s pain. Maybe his real lesson was that pain teaches us to celebrate any chance we have to experience happiness.

Brandon died thirty-seven years ago and as I write this, my body shudders as it recalls those days and nights I spent helplessly watching my baby suffer as his life was being stolen. Until Brandon became ill and died, I had never experienced grief. Grief was just a word, something that happened to other people. Once he was gone, my grief felt like I lived in a barren forest destroyed by fire. No beauty to be seen no matter where I looked—just total, unrelenting devastation. Being a man, I was expected to stay strong, and while I could pretend to anyone looking from the outside, inside I was a shadow of the man I’d been.

When Brandon was undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital, my wife and I didn’t want him to be alone, so one of us was always there. The hospital had no accommodations for us or other parents, so I would spend each night sleeping under his crib so I could remain close to him. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to them, many parents I met were unable stay with their children.

Although my grief was all-consuming, I believed Brandon’s life had to have meaning beyond the still unimaginable fact that he was gone. I got together with a few other parents I’d met when we were at the hospital and together we decided to raise money for a home so that parents would have a place to stay close by. There were many fundraisers, and meetings with hospital executives and local businesses. Getting involved and knowing I was doing something to help others helped me cope with my grief. My forest was devastated but I began to see new trees and flowers and hear the birds singing. This was Brandon’s fourth gift: he added meaning and purpose to my life and to the lives of many others.

Brandon gave me the gift of fatherhood and love, and his courage enabled me to reach out to others, knowing it was more important to do something which would honor Brandon’s life rather than sink down forever in a hole. I wanted the joy of his life to mean more than the pain of his loss. Brandon lived and because he did, I learned to celebrate life whenever there’s an opportunity, and to be a better father to my two sons who never knew their older brother.

I will always miss Brandon, but because of him, I learned compassion, love, and how to listen to others when they are hurting without having a need to fix, judge, or change. That was his fifth gift: he made me a better man, husband, father, and friend.

These were Brandon’s lasting gifts: Live with joy, laugh often, be kind, show compassion, focus on what’s good, love with all your heart, and celebrate life as often as possible.


Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be

Neither a borrower nor a lender be ~ William Shakespeare


First and foremost, I want to say how much I appreciate everyone who has read, liked, and reviewed The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life.

Early on, as a newly published author, I felt humbled and honored when people told me they loved my book so much that they’d lent it to a friend.

A year later, my reaction has changed and I’d like to tell you why.

Do you know what authors get out of you loaning your copy of our book to your friend?  The answer is this: We get nothing.

For the most part, the person you lent the book to never lets us know how they felt about our book and never writes a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or their blog.

Financially, we earn nothing from that loaned book.

Please keep in mind that writers have a lot invested in their book in terms of time and money. And the only way we are able to recoup some of our outlay is by book sales.

While we authors appreciate your good intentions in loaning our book to your friends, please understand that this is our business and we prefer you not give our work away.

That is, unless you plan to send it to Oprah Winfrey or someone of equal fame, and then, by all means, please do send your copy. I’ll be happy to reimburse you for the shipping costs.

In Honor of Our Fallen Soldiers – We Remember

At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.

Local author receives national recognition trough the INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD


Contact: Virginia A. Simpson/(760) 774-4992/

Local author receives national recognition through the INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD®!​

El Dorado Hills, CA — The INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD recognized The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life by Virginia A. Simpson in the Relationship category as the winner and can be seen here:

The competition is judged by experts from different aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. Selected award Winners and Distinguished Favorites are based on overall excellence.


As a Bereavement Care Specialist, Dr. Virginia Simpson has devoted her career to counseling individuals and families grappling with illness, death, and grieving.  But when her own mother, Ruth, is diagnosed in 1999 with a life-threatening condition, Virginia arranges for Ruth to move in with her—and is caught off guard by the storm of emotions she experiences when she is forced to inhabit the role of caregiver. In The Space Between, Simpson takes readers along for the journey as she struggles to bridge the invisible, often prickly space that sits between so many mothers and daughters and to give voice to the challenges, emotions, and thoughts many caregivers experience but are too ashamed to admit.


Described as “A beautiful, searingly honest book,” The Space Between “offers a testament to love’s enduring and transformative power throughout our lives and in our closest family ties.”

“In 2017, we had worldwide participation, from London to Australia, from Portugal to Hong Kong, and are so proud to announce the winners and favorites in our annual INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD. Independent publishing is alive and well, and continues to gain traction worldwide,” said awards sponsor Gabrielle Olczak. For more information please visit: and to see the list of Winners.



About the Author

Virginia A. Simpson, Ph.D., FT is a Bereavement Care Specialist and Executive Counseling Director for hundreds of funeral homes throughout the United States and Canada. She is the Founder of The Mourning Star Center for grieving children and their families, which she ran from 1995 to 2005, and author of the memoir The Space Between (She Writes Press, April 2016) about her journey caring for her ailing mother. Virginia has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. She holds a Fellowship in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education & Counseling (ADEC) and has been honored for her work by the cities of Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirages. She lives in El Dorado Hills, California with her husband Bob and her Golden Retriever Shelby.


Social media links:

Twitter: @drginni12

About Independent Press Award

The INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD is a global competition judged by experts throughout the book industry including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. Winners and Distinguished Favorites are chosen on overall excellence. For more information and to view all the books awarded winners and distinguished favorites, please visit:

You have received this email as a result of your connection to Dr. Virginia Simpson or

If you have received this email in error, please respond to to be removed or to be added for additional notifications. In this 2017 competition, the Independent Press Award has seen books pour in from across the globe this past year.  To learn more, please visit our website

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And the Winner Is—Me!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being a finalist in three writing contests.

Today, I am proud and excited to announce that The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life WON the following awards:

2016 May Sarton Women’s Book Award for Memoir

2016/2017 Reader’s Views Reviewers Choice Award Regional Best from West Pacific, and First Place Memoir/Autobiography/Biography

(I won’t know the results of the third contest for a few more weeks)


Winning—being a winner—feels great.


At first, I said, “I’ve never won anything before.” I then began to ponder winning and realized I’ve always been a winner. Here are a few examples of how:

  • I’ve won every morning I am privileged to awaken to a new day
  • I’ve won each morning when the sound of my husband’s breath lets me know he’s still with me to share another day
  • I’ve won when Shelby, my Golden Retriever, stretches into a new morning and gifts me with a tail wagging hello
  • I’ve won every moment I continue to have the gift of sight
  • I’ve won each day I can hear, especially music or the sound of my husband’s voice telling me he loves me
  • I’ve won because my legs are able to walk and carry me wherever I’ve wanted to go
  • I’ve won because I am still curious and able to learn
  • I’ve won because I live in a home with indoor plumbing, a roof over my head, and food to eat so I never have to go hungry
  • I’ve won because I’ve survived 100% of every painful challenge life has thrown my way and managed to learn and grow from each one
  • I’ve won because I have great friends who’ve spanned every decade of my life, some for as long as sixty plus years
  • I’ve won every year the people I love have stayed alive
  • I’ve won because fear didn’t stop me from accomplishing the one thing I always said I wanted to do—write a book
  • And, of all the things I’ve won and continue to win, I’m most proud of this: I learned how to love and how to be loved.


Yes, today I am a winner, but I always have been and always will be as long as I remain mindful of what and who I have to be thankful for.


And so, in honor of winning, I invite YOU to take the time to write down all the ways you’ve won and continue to win.

Enter Goodreads Giveaway for Chance to Win FREE copy of the award winning book,The Space Between

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Space Between by Virginia A. Simpson

The Space Between

by Virginia A. Simpson

Giveaway ends April 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And the winner is — I don’t know

I’ve watched the Academy Awards since I was a little girl, and for the past few years the Golden Globes. I’d hear the actors and actresses in advance of the program say, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.”

Now I know the truth.

I’m currently a Finalist awaiting the results in three awards contests: May Sarton Women’s Book Awards, The Northern California Publishers & Authors Book Awards, and the Reader Views Annual Literary Awards for 2016-2017.

Each time I received notice that The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life had made it to the finals, my initial reaction was happiness. Then my mind immediately raced to winning.  No matter how many times I’d say to myself, “It’s just an honor to be nominated,” I’d hear my little girl shy voice add with a gleam in her eyes and a cockeyed grin, “But I really want to win.”‘

I’m grateful that when I find out whether I’ve won or am destined to forever be a finalist, no cameras will be watching to capture my reaction. I’m not an actress nor am I  good at pretending — and I actually don’t care to pretend at this stage of my life. I’m uncertain whether I would be able to graciously applaud and smile for the person who stole my award — I mean, the person who was fortunate to be declared the winner.


Wish me luck!

Pop-up Computer Surprise – Interview by Lizbeth Meredith

I am technologically-challenged/impaired and don’t always understand why something will pop up on my computer screen or disappear without warning.

Today was one of those pop-up days and I was delighted to be reminded of this interview of me by Lizbeth Meredith, the talented author of the excellent Memoir, Pieces of Me.

Below is the interview about my relationship with my mother, being her caregiver, and The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life.  My hope, when you read this is that if your parents are still alive, you will be inspired, and if they’re gone, you will both forgive and congratulate yourself.


Be sure and pick up your copy of The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life