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Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), Buffy the Vampire Slayer
How She Died: Suddenly, from a brain tumor
Why Her Death Is Heartbreaking: Inspired by the death of his own mother, creator Joss Whedon was able to capture the numbing grief of a son or daughter faced with becoming the adult and having a sustaining parental influence yanked away. Although the series dealt with all manner of supernatural death, Joyce's sudden transition from Buffy's vibrant mom to a mere, lifeless body drove home the fact that "normal" life also had its troubles and that Buffy's superhuman powers could not always save the day.