The phone rang early on Dec 29, 2001.
Mom: I think we're going to lose her.
Me: I'll be there as soon as I can.
Her voice was soft. Like a whisper. It seemed like she feared that if she spoke any louder that she might falter. I knew that since she called that I had to hurry.
Me: Honey, I'm going to have to go.
Hubby: I know. Do you want to start checking flights now?
I was able to get a 10am flight the next morning. Since my hubby had to work, I brought the Princess with me. She was 15 months old. Because I was in a rush, I picked the first flight that had a seat. Unfortunately, it was at prime morning naptime.
As we waited for the flight, I gave the Princess a snack. I sang to her. I chatted with her. I walked her around the terminal while she sat in the umbrella stroller. She was in good spirits. But that quickly changed once we boarded the plane. It was only an hour flying time but it felt like an eternity. She cried as we taxi'd down the runway. She wanted to be in her crib. She wanted to sleep. But no! I had her sitting confined on my lap. She couldn't roam. She couldn't get comfortable. Her crying only got more intense as we took off. I held her close. I made soothing noises to her. I rocked her back and forth.
"You're okay. You're okay. Sh-sh-sh. You're okay. Sh-sh-sh."
As she cried in my arms, I was crying inside.
"I can't believe this is happening. I can't believe this is happening."
30 minutes later she was asleep. The exhaustion took over. She lay peacefully in my arms. I can still remember the tear marks down her face as she lay there. Once she fell asleep, I didn't want to move. I didn't want to disturb her sleep. I couldn't brush those angry tears off her face. How she looked was how I felt inside.
My younger sister picked us up from the airport. She drove us straight there.
I couldn't believe it when I saw her. She looked so frail. So tiny. I couldn't believe how much she'd changed in a month. We'd just seen her at Thanksgiving. She was fine then. Now? She lay there unconscious on the bed. I felt so numb. This couldn't be her! But I knew it was. My family seemed to all be in the room and outside in the hallway.
I walked to her bedside. The Princess was still in my arms. She was busily checking out everyone in the room. I sat on the edge of the bed. I stroked her arm. I told her we were right there. I told her that she was a wonderful woman. That we loved her. No matter what. The Princess sensed my sadness and looked at me. I gave the Princess a weak smile. I took one of the Princess' hands and put it on her shoulder. I wanted her to feel the Princess' touch too. I told her that no matter what we'd have her in our hearts. If she was in pain, then she could let it go. We would understand. I didn't cry either. I don't know how long we sat there.
The next thing I recall was that my oldest sister arrived with her family. It was probably about 6pm. They had driven non-stop down from Wyoming. My oldest sister went to her favorite. Everyone knew that. Ever since my oldest sister was born. The day was my sister's birthday. My sister went to her bedside and talked to her. Held her hand.
We all took turns sitting next to her. If we weren't in the room, we were out in the hallway. My younger sister would take walks with me and the Princess around the place. What gave me some joy was how the Princess would smile and wave and say "HI" to everyone we saw. I think it gave those folks some joy to see this little 15-month-old waltzing happily through the halls. I don't think many of the residents had regular visitors. I think it surprised the staff at how many people were in her room (at all times of the day).
We (me, the Princess, & my younger sister) spent the night at my 2nd sister's house. My oldest sister and her family stayed at my parents' house. We all planned to converge the next morning. My younger sister and I decided to go to Dunkin Donuts drive-thru to grab some breakfast for everyone. We finally got to the place and circled the parking lot trying to find a spot. My sister got a call.
[pausing for a moment]
She had just passed away. It was December 31st about 9am.
She had hung on until we were all there. She had hung on until we were all able to hold her hand. She hung on until we were all able to tell her that we loved her. She hung on until AFTER my sister's birthday.
My Grandma. My Nana. She was a wonderful woman. So selfless. So strong. Such a peaceful woman. So content in the person that she was. So loving to everyone she met. She had this knowing look. This twinkle in her eye. A hug from her could make me cry because I felt so much joy. Love in her touch.
I still miss her.