One of the best men I know left us behind tonight, and took the place reserved for him in Heaven. In my heart, I know he is better off; I believe that he’s whole now, healthy and happy. The only thing that hurts about it is that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. I know his family did, and that’s a good thing, but it still breaks my heart that I couldn’t.
Sam Young was well-known in the small town where my father and his family had grown up, and where I finished my school years. Sam owned a local restaurant, the “Busy Bee,” which had become famous in that area for his delicious hamburgers. People would come from all parts of the state, and surrounding states, to eat “Samburgers.” Trips would be planned so that fans could go through the tiny town of Hugo, OK, just to get their Samburger fix. Friends who were coaches would bring team buses full of players to enjoy a Samburger before some game in the area.
When I was 15—not even able to drive yet—I got a job there. I spent more hours than I care to remember making more hamburgers than I ever want to see again! I liked Sam, and liked working for him. His wife was also there most of the time, and his two youngest children, Richard and Susan, often worked there as well. Soon, his oldest son Boyd was showing up (coincidentally when I worked), and eventually we started dating.
Because of that relationship, I got to know Sam at home as well as at work. He always made me feel welcome, and never made me feel like a “guest.” He made me feel like family. He and Boyd and I spent lots of evenings at his house lounging around on the floor and watching TV. One year, I was even honored to be invited to the family Christmas at Grandmother Rachel’s—Sam’s mother. She was just like Sam, and made me feel just as much at home. She even found a last-minute gift for me among her flea market treasures, and I still have that vase.
Despite the fact that the relationship with Boyd didn’t last, I never really let go of my feelings for Sam. I always had a special place for him in my heart—I guess Boyd and I were together so long that I already thought of Sam as my “father-in-law,” and I just never got over that attachment. He was always one of my favorite people, and any time I got the opportunity to see him, I made it a point to give him a hug. I still remember the last time I ate with him at the Busy Bee, about a year ago. He was in his usual place at the end of the counter, and I sat by him and visited with him while I ate my burger. Somehow that always made them taste so much better!
The next time I ate there, Sam was in Houston, and the burgers just weren’t the same. I guess they never will be again. Not for me, anyway.