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Swallowed, hollowed, Heavy about everything but my love

I wait for my mom's food to cool enough to try and feed her. Her swallowing reflexes have been getting worse and worse, and as I stare at the three bowls of supplemental pastes, and the way her hip bone protrudes from underneath her skin, I can't help but feel a sinking feeling somewhere between my heart and stomach.

How much longer can this go on, this never-ending disease that clearly will have an end, perhaps sooner than we've been wanting to admit? I equal parts want it to be easier to feed her and am furious that we are attempting this anymore. Each spoonful, no matter how carefully measured, feels arduous, desperate, dangerous, and I hold my breath with each effort, massaging her neck muscles to help them relax and accept a few more calories.

This goes against my end-of-life training, against the advice of just about any expert in this field, against the voice inside me that understands that food is not always the answer, despite cultural conditioning, biological inclinations, and the hopeless wishful thinking that maybe this gesture will truly be nourishing, healing, restorative. But these Knowings do not ease the pain of seeing her body dwindle away, more bone than flesh with each passing day. And so we stir thickened juice, spoon small tastes of gravy, and hope it will be enough to get us through another day.

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