My mom died tonight. At the moment, it's 12:48am on Friday morning, her eightieth birthday. She died a little over four hours ago. For a year, she's been telling me that she's not going to be eighty. She was right. Like Mark Twain, who came in with Haley's Comet and insisted he was going out with Haley's Comet...and did...Mom was right. She had just about as horrific a prolonged death as possible but now she's free. I wonder, with my red eyeballs glancing around, if she's watching me now. I think my brother Ian and Charles the Man, my step dad, are at this moment showing her the ropes. There's a huge comfort to me that she's not alone, that they're there for her. When the nurse called me, I asked if she was alone when she died. The nurse was with her. Thank God. Her nursing home is in Illinois, I'm in New York, my sister's in Florida and my brother's in Texas. Poverty kept me here and maybe it was a good thing because I'm afraid I would have tried to kill her if I'd seen the shape she was in. A sort of assisted suicide. I called every day and the nurses told me that Mom was asking them to kill her for a week. "I know you know how to do it. Just give me a shot. I know you can do it." That's what she kept saying. Her death reminded me of the old Edgar Allen Poe story...I think it's called The Strange Case of Mr. Valdemar...where a soul is trapped inside a rotting corpse. People in the house could hear the soul wailing and screaming. Mom was like that, trapped inside a rotting shell as her blood turned to "pudding" in her veins. That's another quote from staff. So now she's free. My writing at the moment has little grace or lyrical feel to it, not that it does as a rule anyway. I'm usually as subtle as a sledge hammer. But I thank my mom for being my mom, ham-handed though she was at times. She was still my mother and I'll always love her.