My mother is gone. She can no longer speak. She doesn’t smile — I guess she hasn’t smiled in a long time. But the last time I saw her before this she was able to speak even if there wasn’t much meaning to it.

She was such a smart woman. Our relationship was complicated and a bit difficult, but she was an important person in my life. Then came the day when I took her home from tests at the hospital and she sounded like an old woman. She talked about my brothers’ deaths but nothing more. And there was the day when I dropped by to see her and she asked me to leave… and the months when I tried to make sure I left before that happened, even if it meant three minute visits. And the day I stayed with her and she said, “I think it’s time to pick up George” in her normal voice every few minutes, and talking to her was like talking to Toby the dog.

And now she is simply gone.

How can such a thing happen? Could we have done things to avoid it or even to stop it? Will that happen to me? These are the things I wonder about.