My mom died young, at age 42, when I was 16. She had a long-term, chronic illness.
Because of her illness, my parents were very honest with us kids from a young age, and let us know that she likely wasn't going to live very long.
It sounds morbid and macabre, but it really wasn't like that. Just every once in a blue moon, my dad or mom would pull me aside in a quiet moment and mention it, making sure that I understood the situation.
As a kid, I was like "yeah, yeah, whatever, sure" and probably didn't really believe it, but at some level it did sink in. And her slow decline over the years was undeniable evidence that it was going to happen.
So when it finally did happen, I was as prepared for it as I possibly could have been, The thing that I'd been told pretty much all my life was going to happen, finally happened.
My mother's illness and death was such an integral part of my childhood that I can't even begin to fathom her living longer than she did. That would have been a completely different life, not the life I ever knew. Any other scenario is impossible for me to wrap my head around.
When I was younger, I remember feeling extreme disdain for celebrities that made a huge, public spectacle of their mothers dying when they were young, i.e. Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, and especially Oscar De La Hoya. I'd been so well prepared for my mom's early death that I couldn't understand why other people were so torn up over their own mother's death. I felt like they were just milking it for sympathy and publicity, I didn't get that their experiences were probably different than my own.
Since so much of my childhood and my family's existence revolved around my mom's illness, when she died, the family pretty much fell apart. We'd been so prepared for her inevitable death, but not for the day after, or the day after that. We all just sort of drifted away from each other, especially me.
My dad and I had a lot of conflict in my teens, and weren't close. With Mom gone, we became like two strangers living under the same roof...like roommates who didn't like each other and avoided each other whenever possible. He remarried after a couple of years to a bitch with two bratty younger teens, and like a lot of men who remarry, he prioritized his new stepkids and shoved his actual kids aside. I'd been told my whole life that I was going to go to college, then when I got to college, he explained to me that he couldn't afford it, because of the new wife and kids. I was beyond furious, and that, along with another serious betrayal I won't go into here, was the final straw that broke our relationship for good. I moved away and never looked back. We remained estranged for decades, and when I say estranged, I mean really estranged.
We eventually mended fences somewhat, a few years before he died. He came down with dementia, and had a slow, sad decline, so his death was a relief for all involved. I do regret not reconciling earlier. I'd gotten over my anger at him probably a good 10 years before we reconciled, and if he'd tried to contact me I would have been open to it, but I was too stubborn and too proud to even consider making the first move myself. Plus at the time I really didn't care that much. I didn't need him for anything, he was never somebody I turned to for advice or emotional support, his absence in my life really didn't impact me negatively in any way...but I owed him at least a cordial, superficially friendly relationship for having raised me, even though he fumbled really badly at the end. I should have been the bigger man and reached out, it would have made him happy, and would have spared me the slight guilt I carry now.