My late grandmother has one surviving younger sister, R. R is 85 years old and has two children, son L and daughter S.
Son L spent the first forty-odd years of his life accumulating wealth and losing it. He was a drunk and probably had other problems too...he didn't keep in touch. His children refuse to speak to him, I don't know why. I don't want to.
One day six or seven years ago, Son L had a stroke which, after intensive therapy, left him functional but impaired both physically and mentally. He was changed forever. Despite of, or perhaps because of this change, L became a different person. He stopped drinking, cleaned up his diet (mostly) and kept himself busy. He became cheerful and benevolent. He helped my grandmother and anyone else he thought he could and even though he was no longer capable of doing things that he was accustomed to doing, he did succeed in changing himself into a positive, loving and compassionate person.
Son L, though he didn't really need the money, was proud of his ability to work and was on his way to his new job at Sam's Club when his car swerved and side-swiped a couple of other vehicles on a Maryland highway. There was no serious damage or injury and all the cars involved pulled over.
The driver of one of the other cars found Son L dead behind the wheel. There was no impact injury and we are currently awaiting autopsy results, but it's quite likely he had a heart attack and died while driving. His last act on Earth was to pull over and stop his car, which likely spared injury or worse to other motorists.
Tomorrow morning my aunt is driving down and we are going to the Nursing Home to break the news to her mom. She has just lost her sister and now her son, 60, is dead. I am terrified that the shock will be too much for her to handle but she's a strong woman. We will be there for her, Daughter S and myself.
My father called to give me the initial news. Dad was drunk but at least he held it together long enough to call my brother and myself.
I don't know what happens next. My great-aunt R is a tough, determined woman and I'll trust her judgment regarding what her son would want. There's really not much I can do except keep her company but I guess that all anyone can do. My immediate family is tiny and my two (now one) cousins and their mom are pretty much it as far as extended family. My dad is making self-pitying suicide talk again but he really doesn't have the balls to do it. He's gonna drink himself to death, which is not only a cowardly end, but an extremely painful one. I know because I tried. There's no honor in self-destruction.
Son L had been sober for many years and was happy just to be able to drive a car and hold a job again following his stroke. People liked him and he died an honorable man who will be remembered well by his family and friends.
Rest in peace.