Paul Buursma

September 13, 1983 - December 20, 2015
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, December 22, 2015
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST
Zaagman Memorial Chapel
2800 Burton SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
12:00 PM to 2:00 PM EST
Zaagman Memorial Chapel
2800 Burton SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546


Wednesday, December 23, 2015
5:00 PM to 6:00 PM EST
Calvin College Chapel
3201 Burton SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Life Story / Obituary



September 13, 1983 – December 20, 2015

Paul’s Life Story

“God loves me. And I love him. Great is his faithfulness. He gives me strength day by day, moment by moment. I just want to talk to my friends.”

If Paul Buursma were to summarize his thirty-two years and three months of life on earth, this would be his testimony. Oh, and his testimony wouldn’t end there. He would just be getting started! He would testify that he was knit together in his mother’s womb in a most extraordinary way and that he was created to be an ambassador of Jesus who would, through his fragile body and tender spirit, reflect the light of the glory of Jesus to everyone he would meet. He would testify that worshiping God and singing his praises were his favorite things to do. He would testify that his family meant the world to him. He loved his mom and dad and brother and sister with every bone in his body. And that’s the way he loved his entire extended family and his hundreds of friends. He was a dispenser of love—a love that knew no limits.

Paul’s life story began on September 13, 1983, at 12:50 p.m. His birth appeared routine, but quickly became anything but. Within minutes of his birth, he was whisked away. The diagnosis came a few hours later: a hole in the diaphragm that required immediate surgery and resulted in a battle for survival that lasted for weeks. The miracle of Paul’s story would begin and never end. Even today, as Paul’s earthly life is remembered and celebrated, his life as God’s child continues into eternity, in that place where, together at last in perfect peace, there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death.

In defiance of medical odds (yes, the odds of surviving this birth defect were 2 percent), God had a lifetime of service for Paul to fulfill in his thirty-two short years on earth before being summoned to his eternal rest.

Paul’s life was filled with love and laughter and light and joy and suffering and pain and ups and downs and God and family and friends and stuff to do and places to go. He was enveloped in a family committed to his full inclusion in the life of the community in which they lived. He entered the special educational system at the age of two at Ken-o-sha, where he continued until the age of eleven. He moved into the Christian Learning Center (CLC Network) system in fourth grade, receiving special services at Seymour and Millbrook Christian Schools, pioneering the CLC program at Dutton Christian Middle School, and enhancing an already fabulous South Christian High School CLC program. After leaving South Christian, he received services at the Ottawa Hills transition program for several years before moving onto the campus at Calvin College, where he enjoyed several years in the Ready for Life program.

All of these special education services prepared Paul for the next phase after the age of twenty-six, when he served the Lord in a number of volunteer experiences that included odd jobs at Goodwill Industries and greeting customers at Russ’ restaurant, shoppers at New Life Thrift Store, and hungry college students at Calvin College’s dining halls.

His volunteer experiences were only getting started. He greeted the crowds entering the Frederick Meijer Gardens. He greeted the rambunctious kids coming into the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. He greeted the college students trudging into the Campus Store to purchase their textbooks. He waved to the patrons at the Metro Health Farmers Market. He handed out brochures at the entrance to the John Ball Park Zoo. This guy was a greeter extraordinaire. He was especially proud of his Mr. Popular Award from the Children’s Museum. He would have been honored beyond belief, had he known he was going to receive, shortly after his departure from this earth, the Calvin College Honorary Alumnus Award. Paul has been touted as “Calvin’s Number One Fan,” and it is true. He loved Calvin, as his almost-daily Calvin attire would attest.

During his high school years, Paul’s already diminished respiratory structure began to start a downward decline that would dominate the last twelve years of his life. He faced these challenges with bravery, determination, and a steadfast unwillingness to complain. Not only that, he continued to practice the gospel advice of his biblical namesake the apostle Paul: “Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” In a way that was quite remarkable, Paul’s chief concern upon getting to know another person was, “How are you doing? I’ll pray for you.” And of course, invariably moving on to, “Can we FaceTime [or Skype] today? Can you come and see me today?”

Paul threw himself completely into living the life God had given him to live. It was a life filled with challenges he refused to dwell on. It was a blessed life. He was blessed, and he knew that. And he was a blessing. I think he knew that too. He was given an impact far beyond that of many of us twice his age. His earthly spark began to diminish in the last year of his life, but his light still shone brightly. One only needs to look at the testimonies of those who knew Paul to see the influence of Christ in him, the hope of glory.

This isn’t your typical life story. But then, Paul didn’t lead a typical life. He led the life God gave him. And it was a remarkable life indeed.

To God be the glory.

Paul William Buursma, beloved child of God, owner of a dazzling smile that lit every room he occupied, bearer of God’s grace and love to all he knew, took his final breath on this earth and now delights to see his good Shepherd face-to-face. Though weak in body from the day of his birth on, Paul had a sparkling spirit and empathetic heart that endeared him to all he met. As he fought the good fight secure in God’s love, upheld by God’s grace, Paul loved unconditionally and lived exuberantly and joyfully; he gave of himself unreservedly and sacrificially. He loved telling friends he was praying for them. He never tired of worshiping the faithful Father. Paul was preceded in death by grandparents William and Althea Buursma, and Bert Kranenborg. Paul is survived by father and mother, Dirk and Harriet Buursma; brother and sister Nathan and Abigail Buursma, along with grandmother Ann Kranenborg; several aunts, uncles, and cousins; as well as several great-aunts and uncles. Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, December 22, from 6–8pm and Wednesday, December 23, from noon until 2pm at Zaagman Memorial Chapel, 2800 Burton SE. A service of worship will be held on Wednesday at 5pm at the Calvin College Chapel. Paul loved the ministries of Joni and Friends Chicago, Friendship Ministries, and Calvin College’s Campus Ministries, and gifts in his memory are cherished. To read about Paul’s life and sign his online guestbook, please visit his website at www.lifestorynet.com.