First of all, thank you for your kind comments and emails.
The question most asked, so far, is 'Did I know it was going to happen?' And the answer, in a nutshell, is yes.
Mum had a history of suicide attempts, some half-arsed, and some serious, and by the time I was 14, I pretty much understood that this was how it was going to end. I was a rather sad, and troubled adolescent as a result, and spent a number of years in therapy trying (and failing) to come to terms with it.
I also spent a lot of time and energy trying to prevent it from happening. I kept a close eye on my mother, and became accomplished at knowing, intuitively, when she was at risk, cheering her up, and inventing ever more fun, exciting distractions for her, until the danger had passed. Not a particularly healthy dynamic.
The upside of this is that I was able to comfort myself, later, in the belief that I had done everything I possibly could, and that perhaps she lived longer than she might otherwise have, as a result. I don't really believe this anymore, I no longer believe that you can impose a will to live on another person, but it still makes me feel better.
The downside is that it was a grievous drain on my energy and emotional resources. I was a much lower achiever than I could have been, because at the first sign of trouble I would throw in a promising job, or a university degree, in order to concentrate on Mum. I dropped out of university six years in a row, until I finally gave up, and spent my 20s immensely burdened emotionally, suffering from intermittent bouts of deep depression. I didn't learn to really laugh, or have fun, until I was in my 30s. I believed myself to be responsible for my mother's life.
My sisters, on the other hand, didn't really know, and so were much less prepared than I. This was partly due to the fact that they were both considerably younger, and were regarded by both Mum and me as in need of protection. My role in their lives was largely parental. I didn't want to burden them, and on the rare occasions I did try to talk to them about it, they didn't want to know anyway, and refused to listen. As a result, Mum's death hit them very hard, indeed.
It also meant that, in knowing, I was perceived as being complicit in Mum's suicide. This was a problem I really hadn't expected. Never mind that I had fought tooth and nail to prevent it, I had failed to stop it, and that made some people very angry with me. Being in the know got me fucking crucified, at a time when I could least afford it.
And that was the hardest part of all.
In my defense, I would just like to say for the record, that if someone really and truly wants to die (and I'm not talking about those half-arsed attempts that are really about getting attention, or worse - revenge - that's a rave for another time), then they will do it, despite all your rational, reasonable, loving attempts to stop them. You do what you can, because you must, but really, it has nothing to do with you in the end. It's their call, and their responsibilty. I say this as a person who has charted the nethermost regions of her soul on the subject, and I believe it with all my heart.
Keep 'em coming. I'm on a roll.