I think God rigged the contest

Tuesday, May 18, at 11:19 pm, my mom woke up from her heavy, labored sleep. I took her hand and her eyes found mine. I said, “Mom, it’s okay. I’m here and I love you.” And a minute later, she was looking into the face of Jesus.

It is a moment I will never forget. The tragic and miraculous wrapped into one. A blessing and a curse intermingled.

I wont go into the details, but the hours that followed in the middle of the night were even more tragic and traumatic. The crushing finality of it all nearly suffocating. By 2 am, I felt as if I had aged thirty years.

At 4 am, my dad cooked he and my husband a gigantic breakfast. Their way of coping. Of breathing. Of functioning.

When my daughters woke up, I took them into my mom’s bedroom and showed them the empty bed. It had been made up nicely, and a red valentines bear (given to my mom from my dad in 2006) was propped up against the pillows. I said, “Last night, Jesus took grandma home to heaven.”

Izzy frowned. “Why didn’t you wake me up? I wanted to see Jesus.”

I answered, “Well, I didn’t see Him. He was invisible.”

Her reply? “I would have seen Him.”

She was worried about the empty bed and who would sleep in it. And about the red bear that belonged in heaven with grandma. I told her that the hospital would take the bed and that grandpa would take care of the bear. She seemed satisfied for a while.

Then my sisters came home and we told them. They cried.

Then the phone calls started. There were more people to tell. Some people cried with us. Others were angry that they were not told sooner. All I can say is that truthfully, we weren’t thinking about anyone or anything other than my mother and what had happened to her. We were in the after hours shock.

The house was flooded with my sister’s friends, food, flowers, and somehow, laughter.  When it was time to sleep again, I finally cried. I cried for the same reason I had cried when it happened. Yes, I missed her… but I had been missing her for months. I cried because of the trauma of it all.  I was beginning to realize that I had gone through something that God never wanted me to experience.

And in the midst of processing through it all… I remembered something from my childhood. Before I proceed, let me just say that some of you will not appreciate this memory. You might be offended. You might think I am morbid. But anyone who has lost a close loved one will get it and will understand.

When I was 8 years old, I won a county art contest. I had constructed a hamburger, yes a hamburger, from paper and the judges were so impressed with it that they crowned me first place winner.  My prize? The honor of having a replica of my hamburger painted on the wall of a local grocery store. For an 8 year old, there was no higher honor than walking into that grocery store surrounded by my family and seeing a GIANT picture of mine up there.

Not long after my hamburger was put on the wall, the building was sold to a funeral home. The walls were painted over and gates were put up in front of the property in respect for the somber events that would take place there. Never again did I see my drawing, but I do recall attending a few funerals there and soberly remembering how foolishly happy I had been about such a silly thing. My hamburger was an insignificant remnant of my childhood, of when innocence was bliss.

On Tuesday night, around 1:30 in the morning, they came for my mom. Of course, her spirit was already dancing with Jesus. But the tent that I had hugged and loved all my life, and sang over in the last few hours of her life, left with a stranger, and went to that little funeral home in Palo Cedro. Where, under layers of primer, is my own painting. A huge hamburger and a little yellow sun, with my name and age underneath.

From my little kid memory, it seemed like it was five feet tall

I cannot explain to you why this matters so much, but it does. And it brought great comfort to this 28 year old woman knowing that there was something of myself in that building with my mother. Yes, I know she’s not really there. Like I said, I can’t explain it. It just is what it is.

So now… one day at a time.


16 thoughts on “I think God rigged the contest

  1. Oh Katie, I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you made me feel a bit less anxious inside. To be able to write the story that you did, so soon after your mom was gone, just amazes me.
    About 3 months after my wonderful husband, Mike had his acute M.I. that took him from me, I was still having so much trouble with my life and understanding “Why”. A grief theropist that I was seeing, said to me “Write it all down, and that will help.” That very night I started my website chapter with the story of his death and I kept adding to it as time went on. it was posted on line for years, before Yahoo/Geocities took alll the websites down in October of 2009. I think God that my website was still up there when Nick was looking for Stephen and was able to find him through my website. Now I feel that my losing my Mike at such a young age, was not for nothing. It helped in the finding of my grandson Nick, and his family Katie, Izzy and Eva. Oh thank you God.

    1. Joyce… I am reading this for the second time… and all I can say is that I don’t understand why things happen to us. But I am grateful that God can use all the yucky and make something good out of it. It is not all for nothing.

  2. I can honestly say I know what your going through. I lived it five years ago. All day today I’ve felt like I have been in a dream for the last five years and it can’t possibly be true that my mom and your mom are both gone from us. Thanks for sharing your burger story.

    I love you and continue to pray for peace and comfort for you, your dad, and your sisters.

    I am gut wrenchingly sorry.

  3. Katie,
    I have had my heart break with you as you go through this. I know you are hurting, and although you know where your mom is, you miss her and your family hurts. I loved your burger story and I know your mom is smiling thinking about it. I will continue to pray for you and your family daily to heal and continually seek the peace that Christ only can give you. God bless and keep you little sister. Jim

    1. Thank you Jim for these kind words. When I wrote them, I was in shock. But I look back now and I see how good God is.

  4. Exquisite picture of faith in something larger than the saddness and lose of death. Very much understand dear one…thank you so much for letting us in on this miraculous, yet painful time. Love your heart….

  5. Hi Katie,
    I loved this story~! I am so sorry your being overwhelmed at such a difficult time. After I read your story the only thing I could think of was this~ THE VEGGIE TALES Cheese burger song: It made me smile. I remember that big Cheeseburger in the store too! I was so proud that I knew the Picasso of it. What a great memory, also a beautiful moment to share with your mother. I hope I can be there for my mom when she gets to go see Jesus. Linda McAbee wrote the best mothers song ever…Called Mothers Are A Lot Like Jesus. I love you bunches~

    (Spoken) (verse 1)
    Ehem.. And now it’s time for love songs with Mr.Lunt,
    The part of the show where Mr.Lunt comes out,
    and Sings a love song.

    He said to her “I’d like a cheeseburger,
    And i might like a milkshake as well”,
    She said to him “i cant give you either”,
    And he said “isn’t this this burger bell?”,
    She said “yes it is, but were closed now,
    But we open tommorow at ten!”,
    But i guess i can wait until then……”

    Coz’ your his Cheeseburger,
    His yummy Cheeseburger,
    He’ll wait for you-ooo,
    YAH! He’ll wait for you-ooo,
    Oh, You are his Cheeseburger,
    His tasty Cheeseburger,
    He’ll wait for you-ooo,
    Oh, he will wait for you.

    (verse 2)
    He stayed at the drive-thru till sunrise,
    He may have dozed of once or twice,
    when he spotted a billboard for ‘Denny’s’,
    Bacon and Eggs for half price,
    How could he resist such an offer?
    He REALLY needed somthing to munch!
    Cheeseburger please do not get angry!
    He’ll eat and be back here for lunch!

    Coz’ your his Cheeseburger,
    He’s priceless Cheeseburger,
    Be back for you-ooo,
    He’ll be back for you-ooo,
    Won’t be so long Cheeseburger,
    Oh lovely Cheeseburger,
    Be back for you-ooo,
    Oh he’ll be back for you!

    Coz’ he loves his Cheeseburger with all his heart,
    And there ain’t nothing gonna tear you two-oo apart,
    And if the world suddenly ran out of cheese,
    He would get down on his hands and knees,
    To see if someone accidenly dropped some cheese in the dirt,
    Then he would wash it up for you,
    Wipe it up for you,
    Clean that dirty cheese up just for YOU!!!!!!

    You are his Cheese-bur-GER!!

  6. Wow sweetheart I had forgotten all about that hamburger! But yes how wonderful my dear that God did rig the contest all the way! I love you keep it up my dear!

  7. I don’t think that is morbid at all. I think God in His sweetness arranged all that so that you would be comforted in a small way. Thank you for sharing! Which is what you were saying by your title, I am a little slow sometimes! 🙂 I love how you are giving Him so much glory in such a hard time…

  8. I am so sorry about your Mom,i to have been there loosing my Mom in 75 at age 54 and Dad in 90 at age 71.I kno wit has been a comfort to you to be abel to write the letter and for your pitcure to be there at the funeral home.I am sure it brought many smiles to your Mom.I am Joyce sister in law and i think its wonderful that yall have been brought together.May God bless and give you all strength ,peace and comfort in your loss. Love Helen Lovell

  9. Katie, what a beautiful story. I remember that hamburger and how I went into that store after it was closed (because we had failed to get a picture sooner) and they had started remodeling. I explained to the workers why I wanted to take a picture of the wall and they moved away so I could take that picture. I remember being so proud that my granddaughter had painted it. I think of that hamburger when I pass Allen and Dahl many times. I love you! g’ma gabby

  10. oh, my dear friend…

    i can only say, yet again, how much i am still praying for you and your family. i can’t even begin to fully understand it all, the immense sadness mixed with graceful joy. but i ache for all that you’re going through, katie. i love you, my dear… ❤

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