Superheroes Aren’t Supposed To Die
The mystique and allure of superheroes is their seeming immortality. No matter what evil villain appears and no matter the level of their insidious attack, there’s always a miraculous victory that ensures there will be another comic book issue, another blockbuster movie. The good guys always win.
Superman and Spiderman are assured of many centuries of battle after victorious battle. Shoot, even Indiana Jones keeps coming back for more!
Why is this? Superheroes aren’t supposed to die. A defining attribute of a superhero is their bulletproof exterior that covers a tender heart for mankind.
Countless people have contacted me with their testimonies of my dad’s soft, compassionate heart. I have been so blessed to watch my superhero in action for the last forty years. His passion for people was second to none.
My dad was my superhero—and, on Good Friday, 2010, my superhero died.
Robert Burton absolutely had superpowers. He used them all the time, and many people have been saved because of them. What were they? Mercy. Compassion. Love. Faithfulness. A continual sense of humor.
Here’s a testimony from someone about one of my dad’s many victorious battles against the forces of darkness:
"All I can tell you about Bob Burton boils down to this: In two short years of knowing him, he accomplished what an army of people, including my wife, attempted for decades, and failed: he brought me to Jesus. All of the others pushed, but Bob led. He led with love, and understanding, and tolerance and with patience. Lots of patience! He was a kind, kind man, who gave of himself so that others could have a piece of him to hold onto through this sometimes difficult life. And he did that with love, and gladness in his heart.”
The reason this testimony was possible, the reason why we all can be free, why we can also win battle after battle against life’s villains, is because my dad also had a Superhero. His Superhero also died on Good Friday.
The result? We all have the opportunity to be endued with Superpower, with the Holy Spirit. We all can love and heal and touch terrified, desperate people who have been abused by a very evil enemy.
Jesus also rose from the grave. He is now alive and active. Extremely active. And, because of that resurrection, my dad is also alive and active right now with Jesus in Heaven. Many people who are still on the Earth are alive and active because of my dad’s willingness to carry Jesus and walk in resurrection power everywhere he went.
A Very Special Part of the Story
As I mentioned above, a key superpower my dad wielded was his sense of humor. He had joy and expressed it continually.
I was sitting in a Starbucks here in Grosse Pointe, Michigan connecting with a young, emerging leader in our church. As we were concluding our meeting I received a text message from a friend of the family in Branson:
Praying for you, your mom, Mike and all the family… Bob was an awesome demonstration of God’s grace and love…
Was? Bob ‘was’?
I felt the color leave my face and chills instantly flooded every part of me. I knew Dad was having some struggles with his health, but I wasn’t expecting a text message like this.
I called Mom and she immediately asked, “Are you coming?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
What? How could this be? I drove home and parked in the driveway as Mom and I talked about what happened, what needed to happen, when we should drive down to Branson.
Then, suddenly, God did something very special for me—something I’ll never forget. He disconnected the call with my mom, it dropped in the middle of our conversation, and a moment later my phone rang and I saw my dad’s picture pop up on my phone. My dad’s cell phone was calling me.
I answered and the nurse was on the line. She said my dad wanted her to get me on the phone. “Ummm… OK.” I said.
The next voice was indeed my dad’s. His superpowers of joy and sense of humor touched me yet again. “I’m calling from Heaven.”
What? Dad? What’s going on?
He said, “I’m still among the living. There was a miscommunication regarding my condition, but it won’t be long.”
I said, “Dad, this is like the Twilight Zone! Wow. Should I come on out to see you?”
In his normal, selfless manner he said, “Nah, just pray.”
I told him I loved him and that was it. It was the end of a brief but precious phone call with the man who impacted my life more dramatically than I could ever explain.
We immediately packed and drove to Springfield to see him in the hospital.
By then he was not communicating very well, but he did say, “I love you.” He also said, several times, “Mom.” His tender heart, his superpowers of mercy and love, were still shining through. He wanted to ensure the love of his life here on the Earth, my mom, who had been mostly bed-ridden for over 30 years, would be very well taken care of.
I learned that his last phone call with my mom was filled with tears and he told her how sorry he was that he was leaving her. He was so sorry that he wouldn’t be there to care for her any more.
That was on April 1, 2010. April Fool’s day. It would have been an appropriate send off if this master of the superpower of humor departed on that day. However, I believe God wanted to make a larger statement about his life of consecration and surrender to the Lover of his soul, Jesus.
He held on and passed away the next morning—Good Friday.
Yes, superheroes do die. But the greatest heroes actually die well before they leave the Earth. As we take up our cross, die daily, surrender all and follow Jesus, many villains will be defeated and many special people will find the abundant life they so desperately desire.
Thanks Dad for your life. I can’t wait to see you again.
You can view a special website in honor of Bob Burton at www.johnburton.net/bobburton. Please submit any stories, testimonies, photos or other information about him by filling out a form on the site. You can also donate toward the care of Bob’s wife Barbara.