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Early in the dark and depressing morning of Saturday September 30, 2006, my mom slowly walked to my bed, and gently shook me, waking me up. I looked at her, droopy eyed, and she quietly told me, "She's gone." Which meant my grandmother, Yaya, had passed away. I slowly rolled out of bed and took a hot thirty-minute shower. We packed some clothes for my dad, brother (Dale), and sister (Bradee) because they had gone down Friday night.

The night before I had played a football game in Big Fork. My mom and her mom came up to watch us beat the Vikings, during their homecoming. After the game, I rode home with my mom and thought about Yaya the whole way home. When we got home, my mom said she was too tired to drive to Arlee to see Yaya, and she thought we would make it in the morning.

After packing we started to head towards Arlee, stopping for breakfast at McDonald's, in silence. We knew as a family that this day was getting near, but no one thought it was going to happen. I always thought she was too strong for the cancer to bring her to the heavenly gates.

We, my mom and I, got to the house about seven or eight, the cold dew was still on the lush green lawn, and my dad met us at the car. He was wearing his dark sunglasses, he didn't want anybody to see him crying, and gave my mom a long, long, long hug. Then he gave me a long hug. I found Auntie Onie (Ellen) and Auntie Deb were outside by the old rusted brown Ford (Ol' Brownie). They were hugging and crying (not crying because they were laughing too hard), I assumed they were remembering their mom, not wanting to let go. I walked up the squeaky wooden steps that led to the beautiful, small blue house that my dad grew up in with his three sisters (Debbie, Ellen, and Gwen) and brother (Brian). I walked through the dark hallways, the smell of sweet-grass in the air, to her room in the back. Papa was sitting by the bed holding her limp hand. I slowly and quietly crawled up on the bed to say my last goodbyes.

In the room next door, my brother and younger cousin (Mansy) were playing an intense, they didn't even notice me as I walked in, game of Madden 07. Dale was getting worked, I don't remember the score, but he was being dominated. Dale is always the Packers and Mans' is always the Eagles. I sat between them on the bed, they didn't notice the bed squeak and fold in. The game ended when Mans' through a bomb to Terrell Owens for a touchdown. Mans' asked me to play him, but I said it was too early and he agreed.

The three of us went outside and sat at the old wooden picnic table on the porch and sat, for what felt like an eternity, in a subdued silence. My plump baby cousin, Patrick, came waddling out to break the silence. I could tell by his sadden and confused face he knew something was wrong but didn't know what. He strolled up to me and asked me why everybody was crying. I felt it wasn't my place to tell him his Yaya had passed away so I said, "Something’s wrong with Yaya." He asked if she would be OK. I told him, "I don't know. I hope so." Deep down I knew she was in a better place than we were and that she wasn't suffering anymore and that was the only reason I didn't cry as much as I should have.

Just then, the door slowly creaked open and my dad and uncle were pushing a stretcher with Yaya on it out on the porch, shortly followed by a plump, balding big white man. I quietly followed them down the steps and into the hearse. The hearse slowly pulled away leaving us standing there in a cloud of dust. Papa got in Ol' Brownie and followed the strange white man to the morgue.

Dad told me get Dale and Mans' and load them up in the van so we could go set up the Arlee Community Center for the wake and the funeral. When we got there the lady behind the counter told us where we could find the chairs and gave us the big gold key to every door in the Center. The six of us, Dale, Mans', Dad, Uncle Brian, Chad and me, set the chairs side by side twenty chairs in a row and fifteen rows, you do the math.

For the next three or four days we stayed well fed. Every four hours we were woken up to eat a full meal with meat, potatoes. fruit and vegetables.

For the next three or four days I learned Yaya liked to listen to country music, but mostly Brad Paisley. We listened to it the twenty-four seven. I learned Yaya said she was going to runoff and marry Brad Paisley.

Over the next three or four days I met a lot of my family. I met my dad's aunts, uncles, and cousins that I didn't know existed.

On the last day at the Center I learned something. I learned that my dad is one of the strongest people in the world, not physically but emotionally. During the funeral service I watched my dad, he never cried a tear, in front of any body. Instead he kept to himself and when the service was over he went on a walk and let it all out, he cried for the first time I ever saw, and he talked to his mom. Later I talked to him about it and he said, "Being the oldest boy in his family, I had to protect my younger brother and sisters and I have to be strong for them." He asked me, very quietly yet sternly, if I could do the same. I told him, "I would try."