Some people, here and elsewhere, had some actually useful words of advice, some of which i have an easier time believing than others.
Multiple people have said some variant of the theory that terminal patients often wait until their loved ones have left before finally "deciding" to die, or letting themselves go, or whatever it is that causes the process, whether it's because they don't want their loved ones to have to go through that or because they want to do it in private or whatever. But whatever the mechanism or reason it's because it's what they wanted to happen. It's a nice theory, and i'd like to believe it, but i have trouble with it because she was brain dead, at least at the the higher levels, so how could she know if i was there or not?
Of course admittedly that inevitable leads to the idea of "well if she was brain dead that absolutely nothing you did during the last week mattered to her, including whether or not you were there when she died."
I don't really have an answer to that one, other than possibly just claiming that "it mattered to me," but it mattered to me because at least in part because i felt like i'd let her down.
I guess even though i don't think we go anywhere after we die, i still feel the need to be spiritual enough to imagine that we're still here for as long as our bodies are still alive, even if the brain is so damaged that we can never be well again. I can't think of any logical reason for that being true, it's probably just a "pleasant" fantasy inspired by our inability to observe what's going on inside someone else's head directly.
On a more practical note, her step-mom told me that the average lifespan of someone after diagnosis of "end stage renal disease" is almost exactly five years, which is almost exactly how long shelleycat lasted. (She was diagnosed sometime in 2007, a few months before we met i believe.) Of course given that this is shelleycat we're talking about, this may have been the first time she was ever average about anything in her entire life.
She also said that she and the rest of the family were surprised about how good a job shelleycat did about sticking to the dialysis in general, given her personality type and past behaviour in relation to medical stuff, and they thought that was entirely due to my influence. That's certainly something that's nice to believe, though obviously there's no way to prove or disprove it at this point.
Finally, i had dinner with thumbie and shamiksan last night, and they pointed out/helped me understand that it may be true that if i'd dragged shelleycat kicking and screaming to her dialysis treatment that saturday she might very well be alive and "fine" right now. But since it seems to be a progressive disease (none of her friends and family are doctors, but we all think that's the way it works, though we're not sure of the exact mechanism of what's being used up/worn out/whatever. But it sure seems to fit her pattern of health now that i look back over the last four and a half years.) that it would just mean that i would then have to be eternally vigilant for the entire foreseeable future, because from that point on any time she missed a session or two might have resulted in the exact same thing. Regardless of how tired or sick she felt and no matter how much she told me she didn't want to go and tried to insist on staying home, i would have to convince or cajole or literally force her to go, or the exact same thing might very well have happened a couple weeks or a couple months later.
Which isn't to say that i wouldn't have wanted to have that time or wouldn't have been willing to go through that much effort on my part, but there's a very real question of exactly how much longer the relationship would have lasted after the first time i was forced to ignore what she was saying and tried to just literally pick her up against her will and carry her out to the car.