Considering everything that had already gone wrong that day, no one would have blamed Laura Burdick ’10 if she hadn’t followed through on her plans — particularly the risk she wanted to take.
This was Burdick’s first appearance in public in her motorized wheelchair, 10 months after the horrific accident that nearly killed her and left her mostly paralyzed. Yet as Clare Brady’s maid of honor at her wedding in March 2021, Burdick had promised herself to do everything she could to make the day amazing for her friend, one of the most important people in her life since they became close during their freshman year at Notre Dame.
Burdick kept that promise even when the driver of the vehicle taking her to the church pushed her legs into a tight spot on an access ramp, cutting her heel badly. Still, in the rush to get her foot bandaged before her last-second arrival with her parents, Burdick focused on Brady ’10 and the groom, Scott Lauber.
The challenges continued when it was Burdick’s turn to give her toast before 200 wedding guests. She had a copy of her toast on a music stand and was ready to read it. But the lights were too low, and she couldn’t get close enough to the stand.
Undaunted, Burdick smiled and began to speak from memory what she had practiced for so long. Comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the splendor of the reception, she deadpanned, “It’s no surprise that after all the fancy events we’ve been to in the past year, the Bradys kept it nice and casual.” As everyone laughed, she added, “So, I’m just going to stay seated for my toast.”
When the crowd roared and cheered at that line, Burdick knew she had pulled off the risk she had needed to take: to let people know she was still Laura Burdick and not a woman defined by her injuries or her wheelchair. Doing so let her shift the spotlight off herself and shine it on her friends. From that moment, she shared poignant memories with Clare, tributes to the couple’s love and some gentle pokes of humor at her friend.
Originally published by Notre Dame Magazine at magazine.nd.edu in its Autumn 2023 issue.