"Kinsey? She's gone." My mother says calmly over the phone.
"Okay. I'm coming over." That's it.
I remember walking in to my grandmother's house, MY house, and floating by familiar faces and some faces I hadn't seen for ages. My mom comes to hug away my stoicism, but I stand firm.
"Can I see her?" I ask.
"Yes. She's in her bed, peaceful." She starts to walk me back to her room, the room I spent much of my recent days, and nearly all of my nights.
"Can I spend some time alone with her?" She nods and lets my hand slip out of hers.
I go into my grandmother's room and close the door. I turn to look at her, my sleeping baby grandmother. I walk around and crouch down between the two twin beds that we used to share. I touch her hair and start to cry. "Thank you" is all I can say. Over the past two years, I had accepted gratitude and respect for the care and time I gave to my ailing grandmother. I had often stood on my own little pedestal for this "sacrifice". But now, all I can do is say "Thank you. Thank you so much Mimi. Thank you. Thank you."
This woman completely changed the course of my life, my career, my marriage, and my family. The two years I spent caring for her were equally the best and worst years of my life so far. Of course I was thanking her for all of these things and for all the ways she blessed us growing up, but it was more than that. It was simpler than that. I was thanking Someone for giving me her. I was thanking her for being so wonderful, so easy to laugh, so generous.
I don't know how long I'm there. I can't stop playing with her hair and putting my cheek against her petal soft cheek that is growing ever cooler. At some point, my sister peeks into the room. I move aside to make room for her near Mimi. She sidles in and kneels down beside her. I sit on the bed and bow in silent reverence. After some time, I hear her whisper my thanks to Mimi. I suppose verbatim isn't such a coincidence when you are just saying "thank you" repeatedly. It's simple really, but it says something about this woman when the last words people leave her with is "thank you".
"Do you still believe in Heaven?" My sister asks me.
I answer without hesitation, "I do right now." My sister smiles and starts to tear up.
"I don't know about the place we learned of at church camp, but I know that Mimi IS. I know that she just still IS. That's all I need to know." Kristen is just nodding and nodding and nodding. We hold each other for awhile.
"I need to call and let my professors know I'm not going to clinicals tomorrow. I had to call last week because of our other family issue. They are going to think I make this stuff up."
Kristen smiles and adds in her best uppity voice, "Oh yeah, your grandma died this time. Didn't someone different ALMOST die last week? Is your dog gonna get sick next week?" We are both laughing.
"I could take a picture beside my dead grandmother holding up today's paper like the terrorists do. That would show 'em. But then I'd probably get kicked out for a whole other range of issues." We can't stop laughing and adding in other possibilities, becoming more and more inappropriate.
Kristen says, "Are we okay with this morbid humor because we are nurses?"
"I think we're okay with it because it's healthy for us. Mimi would be cracking up laughing at us right now too."
"She would. She so would. You're right."
"God I loved that woman." A pause. "I guess we should go mingle or whatever."
I ootch Kristen out the door first, and turned to Mimi and said, "You jipped me. I wanted to be here, sleeping beside you. You jipped me."