last hurrahs

I thought I knew how crappy it was possible to feel. 
I wasn't even close.
Holding hands with someone who is dying has very little to do with holding hands. It is being keeper of the gate when a hundred other people want to hold her hand. It is running, and cleaning and wringing out towels, and answering phone calls. It's praying and not even being sure what you're praying for just knowing that someone who lived life with such dignity, should be allowed to keep it no matter what the cost. It's loving somebody so much that there is no right way for this to turn out.

My Grandma, the woman who raised me is so loved. There have been an easy two dozen people parading through her room tonight. None of them can believe this is happening - especially me. But there are no pretenses, no masquerading. Nobody is telling her they'll beat her at pinochle next week. They are just telling her how important she has been to them, how much she has given to this world, how empty it will feel without her.

Yoda got Gram's last great moment. The two of them visited last night in the hospital. Yoda was dressed to the nines. Gram opened her arms wide so they could snuggle in bed. "You have a beautiful dress on," Gram said.

"Thank you."

"You look like a princess." (Another big smile from the four year old.) "But you are, aren't you? You really are my princess."

Yoda proceeded to stand up on the edge of the bed, so gram could get a better look, and ooooh and ahhh at her one last time. The very last moment that Dani will ever remember having a grandmother. By the time she returned with a picture she'd drawn, Gram was fast asleep, and there were no more smiles. No more sentences.

But today Punk and Kooka said their goodbyes in private. I am not sure what she said to Punk, but I do know that when Kooka sat down to hold her hand, Gram said, "Sing me that song."

Kooka looked to me.

"Which one?" I asked, "the one she sang for Pa?" Gram nodded. I tried to count her in while suppressing my sobs, and as I walked out of the room, I could hear her sweet little voice pushing through the tears, singing the same song she serenaded her grandpa with at his funeral just a year and a half ago:

"I got my ticket for the long way 'round, 
two bottle of wishin' for the way,
And I sure would like some sweet company,
So l'm leaving tomorrow whatdya say?
When I'm gone, when I'm gone
You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

I don't know where that little girl gets her strength -
I know exactly where she gets it.

I love you Gramma.