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Vilonia family has hope for April, despite heartache

During the month of April, paranoia reigns over one Vilonia family.   Mother and daughter Lisa and Haley Burt are praying this is the year their streak of bad luck ends.

At a Vilonia cemetery, last week, Lisa was pulling the weeds around the grave of her late husband, Randy. She was preparing it for a spray of flowers that was to be delivered for his birthday. He would have been 53.

Randy died, unexpectedly in April 2013. The family was staying in a motel in South Haven, Miss. They were there attending a “travel game” with their daughter, Haley, a member of the Little Rock Rebels softball team. It was April 13, and the second day of tournament play. Things were going well and “life was good,” Lisa said. The family loved softball. Haley had begun playing T-ball in Vilonia when she was six and her dad believed she had potential. He was her biggest supporter. They would drive to the earth’s end, Lisa said, to watch her play.

They also loved being a part of that team family and showed their support in other ways also, such as helping to buy snacks. On that particular day, Randy stayed in the room while Lisa went to a nearby Wal-Mart to purchase some soft drinks, cookies and chips for the team. When she came back, he grabbed a load out of their car, and headed back to their room. He never made it. Lisa went to look for him.

Opening the elevator door, she discovered him collapsed on the floor. She began CPR. An ambulance transported him to a nearby hospital and he lived until April 23, but he didn’t regain consciousness. His cause of death, she said, was a massive heart attack.

The death devastated the family. The couple had been married for 16 years and Haley was born in 2000. Lisa said both she and Haley went into a depressed state that lasted about eight months. Lisa said she couldn’t do much to help her daughter because she was also in a “bad way.”

“It took all we could do to get out of bed,” Lisa said. “It was really bad.”

At the time of Randy’s death, they had been living back in Vilonia for about six months. However, they called it home — even when they moved away for four years to start a business. When they gave up the business, they moved back to Vilonia and Randy went back to where he had worked for 33 years, Lisa explained. Working at that company, Lisa said, is also where the couple met and fell in love.

In January 2014, Lisa said, she realized she had to pull herself together for her daughter. She credits her church family at Beryl Baptist Church for standing beside her through the struggle.  

By April 2014, she said, things were “feeling” better. Mother and daughter were getting out some and going more places. In fact, they were gone and didn’t realize Vilonia was under a severe weather threat until it was almost too late to take cover.

On April 27, they had just walked into their house, she said, when she received a call from her sister telling her to take cover.

“I opened the door and it was right there,” Lisa said. “I hollered to Haley to flip the couch. We crawled under it. I could hear all the debris hitting. I could hear the trees breaking. I heard the roar. I was doing my best to talk so much to keep Haley from realizing what was going on. I kept telling her non-stop to hold onto the couch — not the cushions — but to hold onto the couch. I told her we probably aren’t going to make it. I’m not going to lie. We were scared. I wasn’t worried about not making it. I had peace about that because I knew we were both ready. I just didn’t want her to hear it.”

The mother and daughter didn’t lose their house but they were reminded of how lives can change in an instance, Lisa said. They are still battling depression, Lisa said, but they are channeling it to helping their neighbors pick up the pieces.

“My attitude has changed some but I just don’t like April,” Lisa said. “I will be happy to see it go. The quicker the better. ”


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