Two months ago, my mother-in-law died. Nineteen months before that, my father-in-law died. His death, while hard, was not entirely unexpected; hers was. It was too fast and too soon.

I was blessed to help care for her in her final days. The first of those days…the ones where hospice was being brought in but we still thought we had months, were mainly just me and her. We did have a caregiver help a bit, but it was primarily me because she didn’t want a stranger with her. And so we spent hours talking…she had lots of instructions and lots to say in between the immense pain she was in. She wanted to know she had made a difference, she wanted me to talk to her, she wanted to know everything about every one of her children and grandchildren.

I sat with her while she suffered so very, very much. In the end, it was more peaceful, and that helped, but I am finding that I just can’t escape the sadness…and the questions. Did I do enough? Should I have talked more? Read more to her? Should I have started the big meds earlier, so she didn’t have to be in so much pain? Should I have forced her to eat when she said enough, should I have found a way to get her to drink more, take more pills, fight harder? In the end, I relive that last dose of medicine. I wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep. I cry. A lot.

I believe in God. I have no doubt about his timing. I have no doubt that she is whole and healed and most importantly, she is in the same place as her beloved husband. I believe.

But I am grieving. I think and cry. And cry and think. And cry and think some more. She loved my children so much. Unconditional love, through all their bumps and imperfections…she just loved them. I am sad for them, my beautiful sons. I am sad for my husband, who has lost both his parents in such a short period of time. I am sad for me, who lost someone who taught me so much.

Through it all, there was beauty. The family she created…her children, who really like each other. Love is a given…but to watch them is to see that added gift of actually liking each other. We all gathered throughout her final week and at one point had a massive sleep over. My sister-in-law who handled all the hard and ugly logistics while grieving so much, my other sister-in-law who made sure I wasn’t alone throughout those last nights, the laughter at really odd times, the singing and praying…it truly was a team effort.

In the end, my mother-in-law said all she wanted to say. She said told us she was ready and she said goodbye. What a gift that was to us all.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. In time healing and closure will come, but right now it feels far away.