Everyone was ready for her to die, including herself.

In the last 10 years of her life, she had become very lonely from the death of her husband. The fact that my father lived in the same town and always took her out to lunch every Sunday helped a little, but that did not fill the void.

This loneliness, coupled with the awareness of the deterioration of her own body, led to paranoia. She soon developed conspiracy theories about us all. My mother was abusing my sister and I. My father was too whipped by her to do anything about it. My aunt still had a drinking problem, and covered it up with fake stories about going to Guatemala. My cousin was a failure. My other cousin was only working because she was in some weird government work-fare contract with a particular chain store.

Every time we spoke to her, it was one part family reunion, and one part interrogation from some old cop film. She would try to trip us up into supporting her theories. "Do you think your father is happy?" "Does your aunt seem any different to you lately?" Answering too quickly or slowly would only further her suspicions. It was worst when yet another part of her body would fail, and she would find herself blinded or unable to properly use the bathroom.

In a sense, her conspiracy theories became self-fulfilling, as the rest of us started coaching each other and comparing notes after every conversation so that we would have a handle on her mental state, and we would be ready for any trick questions that would come up. It sounds cruel as I write it up, but I think it would have been crueler for us to just ignore her and let her rot in her home. I know that some of us were tempted to do it sometimes. Instead, we conspired against her because we loved her.

At the very end, her mind had deteriorated to the point where she was unable to keep track of her conspiracy theories any more. I was in town for some reason during this time, and even though I was dreading the experience, I visited her with my sister at the home. She could not get up, or even hold a normal conversation, repeating her questions to me every 2 minutes or so. Still, talking to her like this was refreshing, because she only had love left for us. No more accusations or mind games. Only happiness at seeing us again, and pride at what we told her we had accomplished every 2 minutes.

A few days after I left, she died in her sleep. She was 92 years old. When she died, she had made peace with herself, and also with us. I suppose that's really all one can ask for.

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