Food, Sweet Machine

Notes toward an elegy: In praise of food

First rule of nutrition: eat or die.

Second rule of nutrition: there are no other rules.

My mother died two weeks ago. She had been deeply ill — dying for so long, so slowly. What we knew would one day happen did: she lost the ability to eat. She had a stroke that made it difficult for her to swallow, to make all those muscles in the mouth and throat cooperate; eating made her so tired — it took so much work — that she would fall asleep after half a cup of yogurt or ice cream. Her body would then work so hard to digest that tiny amount of food that she’d run a fever, every resource she had working at doing what we all try to do every day: eat enough to live. She had food available; she had trained medical help; it was just that her body faced that rule, eat or die, and made a different choice than it had before.

What food she could eat, for those few moments of wakefulness, clearly gave her pleasure. Her diet in her last weeks was ice cream, yogurt, pie filling, milkshakes — anything smooth enough to swallow easily and sugary enough to make it fun. She liked the sweet tastes on her tongue. The food she ate wasn’t to stay alive but rather to provide bodily pleasure as she slipped away. Food, like the liquid morphine she took several times a day, gave her relief from the work of dying. Eat, or die.

My mom was one of the few people in my life who never made me feel ashamed to like food. She taught me and my brothers how to bake cookies and always let us lick the bowl and wooden spoon afterwards. When I was 12 and had my tonsils out, she put me on the aforementioned ice-cream-and-milkshake regimen and read Nancy Drew books to me when I was too tired to read them myself. She knew that food was something that made us live and gave us joy: we eat, and we die, so eat well.

She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally. There are no other rules.

225 thoughts on “Notes toward an elegy: In praise of food”

  1. Btw, if anyone ever doubts the absolute fucking viciousness of fat-haters and misogynists out there — not that you should — I’ve already banned one, who would have been the second comment on this thread, who called me a cunt and also said nasty things about my mom. Because they’re just concerned for our health and all.

  2. My comment was riddled with issues. I’m sorry for your loss. Also, your writing was beautiful, not any other way that comment might have been construed. Sheesh.

  3. To the haters of the world who come here to leave nasty comments on a beautiful post about someone’s mom, I shake my head in sorrow at the smallness that is your mean and horrible world.

    And to SM, I offer my deepest condolences. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. How lucky she was to have one such as you for a daughter.

  4. Sorry to hear that, SM, I have just been through this with my lovely MIL. She had cancer but she too could not eat in her last weeks except for custard and soup and other liquids. Even her beloved cuppa’s of tea became too much for her. We did our best to make it nice for her, but it became too much of a chore for her. The lesson is, you never do know when you suddenly won’t be able to eat the things you love any more, so do it while you can.

    As to the hater, well what a horrible life they must have to need to hurt someone who is already so down. People like that never have a nice day and never will, and they do it to themselves without any help from us. That is our revenge and our comfort.

    My thoughts are with you, SM. I know how hard the holiday time is after something like this. Oh boy do I know. (((((HUGS))))))

  5. SM, my condolences on your loss. Thank you for writing this post – one small bit of commemmoration for all of us to read, enjoy, smile and feel sorrow..

    On a personal note… this post hurt. I watched my dad “not eat” and die, too. I remember the last thing he ate – a plum. He ate it like a baby, but slower – very messy, with clear relish for the taste, but disinterest in the fuel or the sustenance. His not eating in his last days (I was with him throughout) made quite an impression on me. This post reminded me of that.

    My dad was a healthy and accomplished long-distance runner who still died before his “time” (whatever that means). Just, you know, for the “FAT=DEATH” concern trolls. Not that they listen.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I hope it’s okay to share a story. One of the things I remember most about my grandpa is when dessert time came around. I was a thin child but still learning that a love of food was something to be ashamed of. Whenever my grandpa caught me eyeing a second piece of pie, he would smile at me and tell me to have it. Frequently he would go in for seconds himself. The hardest part of watching him die of cancer was watching him waste away into skin and bones.

    *hugs Sweet Machine*

  7. Deep sympathies and condolences to you, Sweet Machine.
    Thanks for sharing this story with us; you were blessed with a great mom.

  8. I missed seeing you and your writing around, Sweet Machine, and I’m sorry that your reason for being away is such a sad one for you. I’ll be thinking of you and your mom.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. I enjoyed the beauty of this post (as well as the previous link about your Mom’s health and “death panels”). Peace.

  10. What a lovely (and very moving) tribute to someone who you obviously love very much. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

    *sends hugs if you’ll accept them from a stranger*

  11. This post was lovely. I still think watching my Mom die of cancer is what finally broke through my own eating disordered haze – nothing like watching someone be unable to eat to put things in perspective. It’s the most hearthbreaking thing in the world, watching someone slip away, seeing them want to eat but just not be able to.

    Hope you’re OK.

  12. SM–thank you for sharing this. I am sorry. I’m glad Kate is plying you with turkey and vodka and bowling pins, and I want you to know that the rest of us love you, too, and would also be happy to ply you with turkey and vodka and bowling pins (virtual) and chocolate truffles (actual).

  13. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m watching my grandmother slowly lose her appetite and her energy, and, yeah. There are no words. (((SM)))

  14. This made me cry, partly because I’ve been drinking various things with Jim Beam in them all night, partly because it’s Chrimmastime, but mostly because this made me think of both of my parents.

    My fat-shaming father (who was otherwise a good, loving man, but was a tall, lanky SOB married to a short ZOMGZDETHFATZ woman, who sprouted a tall, moderately DETHFATSBUTSTILLZOMGZFAT daughter) slowly slipped away from us when I was 18. Well, it had been going on for years, but I remember his last few months… he’d never really watched his diet before, but I remember him saying “Eff off” to his doctors and eating as much salt and candy as he wanted to, and he love-love-loved it when mum and I did the same.

    My mom died last year from complications related to a bone marrow transplant in response to some bizarre mutant cancer that she had. She died on a Wednesday, but the weekend before she’d been demanding that my aunt bring her chicken fingers, chocolate ice cream, and pot. The doctors knew that she probably wasn’t gonna make it much longer, so they let the first two in (mum was pissed that the pot wasn’t allowed in the hospital). She couldn’t really eat anything (she’d been on a feeding tube for the entirity of January and February because her mouth and throat were ravaged from the chemo), and the chemo had also destroyed her taste buds, but she was gonna try, damnit, because she wanted those fuckin’ chicken fingers. She and I (and my cousin, who also died from cancer last year) would spend hours on the phone discussing things we saw on Food Network… she would usually demand that I try to cook some of the things and give her a full report, or tell my stepdad so he could make them for her.

    You’re in our hearts and in my prayers, SM. It’s hard, but you’ve got tons (ha! weight! ha!) of people who care about you. *hugs hugs hugs*

  15. I’m very sorry for your loss, and even more sorry that the world contains people so hateful that they would have to say things like that in a post like this.

  16. SweetMachine, I am so sorry for your loss. I send you the best, comforting purrs of my cat, Harvey, who is in my arms as I type, purring his little heart out.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear this, but glad that your mother could find some pleasure and relief from that hard, hard work of dying. All my sympathies to you and everyone else who loved her.

  18. My condolences to you and your family, SM. I put together my mother’s funeral a few years ago; it sounds like you’re well on your way to having the elegy put together.

    Please be gentle with yourself as you are going through this difficult time.

    *hugs offered*

  19. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. I think I shall go have some yummy frozen yoghurt in her honour right now.

  20. My condolences, SM.

    I am never a fan of welcoming anyone to The Club, but I do so w/ the warmest offer of hugs.

    I am so incredibly happy to read that you have those fond memories. I love that some people grew up w/ positive messages about food, learning to be able to enjoy it and not feel guilty about what they put in their mouths.

    Thank you for sharing that. It is important to hear it, as a mother myself.

  21. Many blessings to you in the coming months SM. It is so hard to watch someone slowly die, there is such grief and the confusing mix of relief that it is over. Be easy with yourself.

  22. My condolences to you and your family SM, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    And how a pathetic a human being one must be to leave hateful comments on a post like this. :\

  23. Sweetmachine – truly very sorry for you and your family, it must be incredibly tough for you. Sending you my thoughts, and your mother my admiration. Loving unconditionally is to me the highest achievement we can reach, (and often the hardest).

  24. I’m so sad for your loss, not that that comes close to being an adequate thing to say. Thank you for sharing this with us; that last line is so beautiful, and so profoundly true and wise.

  25. Please let me add my condolences. I am glad you were able to spend some of those last days together and you did a beautiful job describing a wonderful person and relationship. May you and she find peace.

  26. SM, I hold you and your family in my hearts.

    I watched my Dad, a big fatty food lover, lose his ability to swallow as well. He died of ALS at 53. That man loved to eat. I miss his latkes very much.

  27. I’m sorry you had to experience such a loss around the holidays. There have been times when seeing other people enjoying their families — or even complaining about being cooped up with them — has caused me such pain and envy and resentment. And there have been other times where it caused me to count my blessings, and feel that the ability to count my blessings — which includes the self-knowledge I earned that lets me know when to count, and, of course, actual blessings available to count — is a gift my family gave me, even when sometimes I would’ve rather had a normal, happy life with far less sobbing involved instead of a whole basket of blessings to bittersweetly count.

    I’m really bad at condolences. I just mean to say, what a sucky complicated thing full of pain and joy: having a mom, having to watch her die, loving her and knowing she’s not in pain anymore, and still having to face another month or so of unceasing TV dramas about families during the holidays. That’s a lot of shit to quietly deal with rolled into the one month of the year that everybody’s going to ask you how your holidays were, and I’m sorry, but I’m also glad you were able to be there and see what it means to die surrounded by love. That’s a wonderful gift.

  28. I am sorry for your loss. She knew was cherished and loved through her whole dying. She sounds like a wonderful mother to have.

  29. Thank you so very much for sharing that with us. You were very lucky, and incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful woman as your mother. I send my love to you and your family at this time. *hugz* *hearts*

  30. My condolences on your loss, SM. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about her. I too lost my mom around the holidays (17 years ago) and I know how it is to both grieve and yet remember with warmth.

    Thank you for such a touching post. *smile*

  31. I’m so sorry, Sweet Machine. I wish there were something I could do to help–if you require someone to holler at with impunity or a cheesy casserole, drop me a line! :) In the meantime, lots of love to all y’all.

  32. Sweet Machine,

    I am so sorry for your loss. This must be an especially difficult time of year to lose a loved one.

    My father had a rather protracted death as well, and I took some small comfort in the fact that his suffering was over, when he finally died. I hope you can find comfort also, and that you come to remember your mother more and more at her most alive, rather than with the illness she struggled with towards the end of her life.

  33. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you have some time to be gentle with yourself and let yourself grieve however you need to.

  34. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you live in a place where friends and family are bringing you casseroles and lasagnas and trays of cookies and bars because as hokey as I used to think that sounded, that really is love and caring: what a better way to show love than to feed someone who is in mourning?

  35. My grandfather was living with us as he was dying and died around the holidays too. It was hard to see him slip away, but it is so wonderful to remember him. I hope that you can keep all the wonderful memories of your mother alive.

  36. Sweet Machine — my sincerest condolences…. That was also the most moving eulogy I have ever heard. My prayers for peace for her and your entire family.

    –Andy Jo–

  37. My deepest sympathies to you SM. I lost my Mom two years ago, right before Thanksgiving. This year was easier than last, which was easier than the year before. I don’t know if there’s any consolation in that, but there it is. Thank you for sharing a bit of her spirit and life with us.

  38. SM, I am so glad that you’ve shared these things with us – your mom was an incredible person, and I really appreciate getting to know parts of her through your posts.

    My best thoughts to you and your family – I hope that you’re all surrounded by love and support through all of this.

  39. Delurking to send you my condolences, SM. It sounds like you have many wonderful memories of your mom, and I hope that you and your family will keep them close during this time. My thoughts will be with you and your family.

  40. I’m so sorry. I remember the worst part of losing my mother was much the same-watching her will to eat leave her. Near the end, she couldn’t taste anything, and it felt so horrid eating whatever I could and watching her swallow yet another can of tasteless nothing. It was the double insult of taking appetite and taste away…

    This was a wonderful tribute to a mother and her love. Thank you for it.

  41. My condolences SM. Big thanks for sharing this with us. Please do what’s needed to take care of yourself

  42. She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally. There are no other rules.

    The entire piece was beautifully written, particularly this last part. Lovely.

  43. SM, my sympathy for your loss. How lucky you were to have her as your mom, and I’m sure she felt the same about having you as her daughter.

  44. SM, I’m very sorry for your loss. I just wanted to say, it sounds like the two of you had an awesome relationship, and what you wrote was very beautiful. Thank you for putting in the effort to write it at this time.

  45. Very eloquent. Sorry for your loss, SM. My mom died about a year ago, after a series of strokes, and this brought a lot back.

    She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally. There are no other rules.


  46. My condolences, SM. That was a beautiful post and I thank you for sharing it with us.

    I lost my Mom last spring after a long fight with cancer, and I still pick up the phone about once a week to call her before I remember. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  47. I watched my mom waste away from cancer, and . . . yeah. With the food thing. I don’t need to talk specifics. So I will just say that I wish I could hug you and offer you some of my world-class ginger cookies and sit down with you and listen to you tell me about your mom. She sounds like a really wonderful lady.

  48. I’m very sorry for your loss, Sweet, but I’m glad she’s at peace. I promise that before having Hypothetical Kids, Hypothetical Wife and I will sign a contract never to make them feel bad or anxious about their appearances, especially weight.

  49. I’m so sorry for your loss, SM.

    One of my good friends also lost her mother recently, and I was so sad that I couldn’t make it into town for the service. I’ll get to see her tomorrow and hug her and let her know that I meant every word I sent her over the internet. (Which I’m sure she knows.)

  50. I just wanted to join everyone in extending my sympathy to you and your family, SM. That was a lovely and moving post; thank you for sharing it with us.

  51. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Sweet Machine. Thank you for such a beautiful post, I lost both my parents around this time of year as well. My mother had polio as a baby & in addition to losing the use of her left arm, it also weakened the muscles in her chest. She spent the last 5 years before her death on a ventilator in a nursing home. She couldn’t get out of bed, could never go outside but she could still eat, although the doctors were always concerned about her diet due to diverticulitis and various other conditions. Each Sunday I would visit her and bring her whatever food she requested – Chinese, fried chicken, pizza, anything she wanted. She wasn’t always able to eat all of it but she ate what she could with great joy. There was so little I could do for her otherwise that I was glad to bring her little treats.

  52. God, this sucks. My mother died about ten months ago, from a comparatively quick but deeply miserable cancer, and I’m so sorry for you, and for me, and for all the other Shapelings who are in this same shitty boat. One thing that has been sort of useful to me in my Molotov cocktail of messed-up emotions is this series by Meghan O’Rourke in Slate about the process of her mother’s death under similar circumstances. It contains a lot less bullshit than most of the crap people try to tell you about losing a parent. All my love to you, SM. Hang in there.

  53. Sweet Machine, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I’ve lost both my parents and they both just wasted away before they died. I associate weight loss with death.

    Your mom sounds wonderful. I’m so glad that you got to have her for your mother.

    I hope that you can feel our sympathy, our support, our hugs even if you know us only through cyberspace.

  54. Sweet Machine, I’m so very sorry to hear about your mom. Thank you for sharing your memories of her. She sounds like she was absolutely lovely. My condolences to you and your family.

  55. I’m so sorry for your loss, SM. I had a somewhat similar experience with my dad last spring, and…yeah. I hope you are finding comfort right now.

  56. I am very sorry to hear your sad news. Like Harriet Jacobs, I am glad your mom died surrounded by people who loved her and who she also loved. We should all be so lucky to get a tribute like the one you wrote here.

  57. I’m very sorry for your loss and that there are people out there who lack even the most basic compassion. New rule: Be a human being.

    Take care of yourself, SM.

  58. I am so sorry for your loss. I went through something similar with my mom when she died of stomach cancer some years back. It’s very hard to deal with, but it’s a comfort to be with them and help them through their last days here.

  59. This hit me hard because my mom is getting close to going through the same process and has always been a food lover, particularly sweet things. Big hugs to you, SM. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  60. Sending you lots of prayers and love. May your mom’s love and passion for food (and other things too!) live on through you, your siblings and everyone she came into contact with.

  61. What a beautiful tribute to your mother, SM. I am so sorry for your loss, my thoughts are with you and your family.

  62. A thousand of bread
    A thousand of beer
    A thousand of every good thing.
    May she ascend.

    (This is a Kemetic Pagan prayer for the dead, derived from tomb inscriptions. It seems particularly fitting here, with its framing of bread and beer as good things.)


  63. I’m not a frequent reader of your blog, but I pop on every once in a while and completely related to you in this post. My mom passed away in November from breast cancer and had many of the same issues your mom had as time went. Inability to eat solids, difficulty talking, and later on inability to eat period. But in those times she did eat, she ate vanilla pudding, icecream shakes, mango lassi (which my father lovingly made for her daily), pureed soup, and tea. Your post reminded me of the times I would sit in the room with her and watch TV, drink the remainder of her milk shake, and laugh about nothing in particular. My prayers are with you and everyone that has lost someone.

  64. So sorry for your loss SM. It’s clear that you were loved by your Mother…and that she loved you. Thank you for sharing this with us….sometimes hearing the heartfelt words of others can reaffirm the love of others. Rest, remember, and regroup.

  65. I am left with a new perspective on my religion’s traditional prayer for the dead, which goes, “A thousand of bread, a thousand of beer, a thousand of every good thing.”

    I am sorry for your loss; may you be comforted.

    (Reading comments… whoa, hey Sunflower. Heh.)

  66. SM, I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom a few weeks ago too, and I know that even after a long suffering that made me wish for peace for her, it hurts terribly. My mom dealt with disordered eating and body hate her whole life, but as I grew up she loved my fat self unconditionally, rolls and all, and finding that acceptance when I needed it most meant all the world to me. I want you to know how much your beautiful post has helped me to realize this, and to thank you for sharing your story so beautifully. I hope that you have loving and supportive people around you, and I send every good thought and wish your way.

  67. Please accept my condolences for your loss, SM.

    (And I hope you told the troll to go play with a coconut crab.)

    It never ceases to floor me how many of these fat-panic stories just assume that none of us are going to live to be old. Or that if we are, there shouldn’t be any major changes as long as we live the perfect upper-middle-class goody-two-shoes lifestyle and are the “right” weight. Wasting illnesses and malnutrition and anorexia-without-nervosa (the word “anorexia” alone just means “lack of desire for food”) and dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and serious gastrointestinal problems are very very VERY common problems in people over 60 (and sometimes younger), and they are NOT minor at all. They kill people. And they can happen to anyone.

  68. In times such as this, there are few words to be said.
    I hope the virtual hugs and support of this community, and the physical arms and shoulders of your family and friends give you comfort in your time of need, and the times to come.
    Thankyou for sharing the joy your mother brought to your life, and giving us the chance to celebrate her life with you.
    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  69. Oh, Sweet Machine. I’m so sorry for your loss, even while I’m glad your mother’s suffering is over. This was absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing it.

  70. Sweet Machine, I’m really sorry for your loss. That post was a beautiful and very sweet tribute to your mom.

  71. Dear Sweet Machine, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman. This was a beautiful tribute to her.

  72. I’m so very sorry. I watched my father go through the same thing because of metastasized lung cancer pressing on various bits of his brain – he just couldn’t eat. Be good to yourself and your family, and you’ll all come through this.

    A note: My main emotion when Dad died was relief. We’d been watching him drift away, mentally and physically, and near the end he didn’t recognize us or understand why he was in so very much pain. And I felt guilty for the relief – as if a loving family would have fought to tether him to a failing body and mind. You feel whatever you feel, and you don’t have to justify it or feel guilty about it.

  73. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a wonderful woman, and I’m happy for you that you had her in your life.

  74. It’s been said, but truly, I am very sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is not a sadness I have yet to suffer, but it pains me to see others go through that. Hopefully her memory will remain with you and your family for the rest of your lives, as a wonderful and blessed woman.

  75. SM, I am sorry for your loss. I remember a similar situation when my father died twenty years ago. He went much more quickly, but there was still a period of wasting away. I remember a sense of relief mixed in with the sorrow. Relief that his pain was finally at an end. If you are feeling a similar sense of relief, remember that it is normal and healthy. I will be thinking of you and your family as we all end this year and begin the next. Hugs if you want them.

  76. SM, thank you for sharing your beautiful elegy to your mother, and I wish all possible comfort to you and your family and loved ones during this time of loss.

    And I’m so sorry that you had to deal with an asshat right of the bat. That’s just horrible.

  77. Dear SM, sending you warm and loving hugs at this time of loss. Thank you for sharing your mother and her story with us, sweetheart.

  78. SM.
    This is an incredible piece of literature.

    It reminds me so much of my father, who because of his CPOD, has obtained a large belly in his old age. He fondly pats it though, and states that it is the result of much joy and pleasure and good food. It is his trophy of a life well lived.

    Although I cannot begin to know what you are going through, your post will inspire me to proudly touch his stomach the next time I see him… and treasure the moments I have left.

  79. I too am sorry for your loss, and send my condolences.

    Is there something about feminism that turns people into brilliant writers? I read three feminist blogs, and have dipped into others from time to time, and they’re all consistently excellent. And this piece is shockingly beautiful.


  80. So sorry for your loss.

    She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally.

    Speaking as a mother, this is an elegy I’d feel blessed to have inspired.

  81. Please accept my condolences. I can’t imagine what you and your family must be going through, but I am sending you all positive thoughts (and prayers, unless you don’t want those).

  82. I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now.

    My mom died two years ago, the week before Thanksgiving.

    Just before she died her mother told her that the upside was that the double mastectomy made her look thin. The fat hatred is in.fucking.sane.

  83. Sweet Machine, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your mother with us. Fuck the trolls. Miserable creatures who want everyone else to be unhappy too.

  84. I am sad for you.

    I envy your relationship with your mom; and I can only think how painful and sad it must be to lose her.

    I hope it is not inappropriate to say the following.

    Isn’t it weird how the only time in our society (well, mine) when it is “ok” to eat all you want, all you can, and all you need, is either when you are pregnant (and even that has its caveats) or when you are dying, and it is only gasps of food which are keeping you alive.

    Other than that, we must forever treat food as a foe. (I don’t mean that is what people here think; I mean that that is what the society I live in teaches me)

    Food = sin

    (unless you are pregnant when )Food = a necessary evil

    (or you are dying of cancer when) Food actually = nutrition, something good for your body, something necessary and desirable essential.

    Hmmmm. Our (my) society is so messed up about food and its meaning.

    None of this is meant to detract from your loss, sadness and suffering; and the huge loss you must feel since your mom has passed over.

    I realise that a bunch of faceless unknown people (I mean me) who leave comments on your blog can’t really provide comfort.

    But I do care, and I am sorry.

    And I appreciate very much your taking the time to put into words what you experienced.

    Hope this comes across the right way.

    With love


  85. I am so sorry for your loss. My father died at 47 the day before Thanksgiving almost twenty years ago. It was awful watching him wither away and lose so much weight so fast in the end. His last few meals were chocolate shakes from Burger King, as he couldn’t eat real food or swallow either. Horrible business.

  86. (Delurking briefly to say that( I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mom is a wonderful lady to have raised such a wonderful daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  87. Speaking of food and illness:

    The main symptom Dad had in the beginning was dizziness. He constantly felt like the room was spinning, and that wasn’t exactly conducive to eating and/or keeping food down. In the month or so between onset of symptoms and the diagnosis, he lost quite a bit of weight. His mother (who’s obsessive about food/weight and has no filter between her brain and mouth) complimented him several times on how much weight he’d lost, even when he’d moved from thin into gaunt.

    Once we had a diagnosis of small cell cancer, which has a five year survival rate comparable to that of pancreatic cancer, the number of people who called and told us (flat out ordered us) to put him on a macrobiotic diet was astounding. Well, appalling, actually. I finally lost with a cousin who called and emailed five or six times, telling her that if he wanted to eat nothing but chocolate pudding and drink heavy cream, that’s what he would fucking well get! I have no tolerance for people being judgey about food and weight under the best of circumstances, but the idea that my father being terminally ill was nothing but an opportunity for some to push their ideas of good or bad food choices on us really pissed me off.

  88. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you are getting all the love and support you need at this difficult time.

  89. Thank you for this poignant post and for sharing with us. It must have been difficult to write. ((hugs)) I hope you are surrounded by loving family and friends at this trying time. My condolences.

  90. I’m so sorry, SM.

    My mom raised us to love egg salad sandwiches and cold M&Ms. What she hated most about chemo was that it somehow made everything taste like metal. We lost her a little over a year ago.

    I wrote something, back then…if it is of any use to you, I’m glad. If not, please ignore:

    (((baked mac & cheese))) in place of, or along with, (((hugs))).

  91. My condolences, Sweet Machine. I’ve had to write two elegys myself this year, and it’s never easy. I can only offer you all of the hugs and support that have been offered to me, and hope that it helps you as much as it helped me. *hugs*

  92. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this with us. My sister-in-law’s mother has inoperable cancer and while she’s doing fine at the moment, it’s utterly galling to see the “jokey” sign her husband put in the kitchen years ago saying “Please do not feed the wife” because ffs, food is not optional! Even at the Christmas meal he was going on about his recent weight loss and warning her not to eat too much cake. I wish I could show him this post.

  93. Condolences – a wonderful elegy though, and a wonderful way to remember someone who sounds like a wonderful person!

  94. I’m so sorry to hear about your and your family’s loss, but at the same time, incredibly moved by your post. It’s obvious you love your mom so much. (((SM)))

  95. I’m really sorry for your loss. Big hugs. My mother, too, has never made me feel ashamed of food. It’s a beautiful gift to give any child.

  96. SM, my condolences to you and your family. Take heart in the fact that you are continuing her holy work of giving people permission to eat and enjoy food.

  97. im grateful your mom made you!
    a/so i can read your writing and be inspired
    b/so you can LIVE and EAT and LOVE – and all that other juicy stuff.
    thank you for this beautiful post. lots of love to you and your family right now.

  98. I can only echo what so many others have said SM: thank you so much for sharing this beautiful piece with us all, and offering you the most deep condolences and love on your sad loss.

  99. Late but sincere condolences to you SweetMachine. I am GLAD that your mom, who didn’t shame you about food, profited by having you give her wonderful sweets as the work of dying and trouble in eating got harder. Your elegy is beautiful, it left me crying for your loss and I of course never met your mom. A million hugs if you want them, and a nice big bag of my special Penzey’s Spices Vanilla Cocoa Mix.

    My mom died a few hours after being kicked out of the hospital after a very long illness. It was a horrible shock after seeing her get well so painfully slowly. My kid brother was declared brain dead on my 20th birthday. I miss them both more than I can say, but I’m so glad they were in my life as long as they could be.

  100. Sweet Machine, reading this post about the loss of your mom has encouraged a very long-time lurker to de-lurk. I cannot express my sympathy for you in an effective way, but losing someone so wonderful can’t be easy.

    I know that culturally, we’re encouraged to grieve in a “healthy” way, to shove ourselves through the “stages of grief” as described by Dr. Kubler-Ross, and to keep our sadness tasteful, quiet, and discreet. I hope that there’s somebody in your life who can tell you that there’s no one way to cope with bereavement, and that the best thing to do is to do what YOU want to do. To paraphrase what Kate said in her Thanksgiving post, you’re a grown-up, it’s your fucking loss, do what you need to do. I pray to FSM that you’ve only had a good support system and that nobody’s been criticizing any expressions of your grief.

    About two months ago, I lost my father (my best friend), and, along with losing him, also lost my shit. Fucked up everything, couldn’t get my schoolwork done, didn’t clean the apartment, didn’t go outside for days at a time. I don’t expect to feel better for quite a long time, and every little thing, even writing this note to you, feels like an extraordinary triumph. I know that you’re also in graduate school, and I wish you luck garnering compassion from your department.

    Don’t let the people who say, “Go on pills! Cheer up! Take up jogging! Take vitamins! Quit smoking!” get under your skin. They just don’t know how to say that they care about you and love you and hope you feel better soon in any other way. They know not what they say; forgive them. And when grief hits them, as it hits everyone at some time, help them to learn how to comfort others.

    You know what to do. Much love and compassion from this corner of the universe.

  101. Really late but truly felt condolences, Sweet Machine. Thank you (and through you, your mum) for all your hard work. I know there are some of us out here in the great wide internet who couldn’t do it without you.

  102. So sorry for your loss.
    My father’s dying was slow and hard, too, and he, too, lost the ability to eat, and at the end had a shunt directly into his stomach. It is almost ten years now, and I still think of him every day, many times. I remind myself that the last few awful months do not erase the lifetime of love that came before.

  103. Not saying anything that hasn’t been said, but I’m very sorry about your loss. Your mother sounded like a lovely person.

  104. I’m so sorry you have lost your mother, and that you experienced the lengthy grieving that often accompanies having a family member with dementia. And I want to thank you for the education – about Parkinson’s, neurological disorders, dementia, planning for death, etc. It’s hard enough to learn those lessons; it is generous of you to share the information so that others may learn.

  105. Sweet Machine, I’m so sorry. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

    When my grandfather was dying, one of the only things he wanted was honey — it tasted good and helped soothe his throat. There was always a jar and a spoon in his bedroom. The kind, amazing Hospice women told us that this was not the time to worry about vitamins or blood sugar — “give him what he wants and let him take pleasure in it.” I’m glad we did.

  106. Sweet Machine:
    I am so sorry for your loss and for the long journey toward her death that she and the rest of you had to go through.

    May her memory be always for a blessing.

  107. Skipping a bunch of other comments to tell you how sorry I am for your loss, and how lovely this post was. *hugs*

  108. I’m very sorry to hear about your mom, Sweet Machine. We lost my dear MIL to cancer earlier this year, and I know she was unable to eat and enjoy food near the end of her illness.

    What a beautifully written tribute to someone who sounds like a wonderful woman. I wish you and your family peace and blessings for the new year.

  109. I’m so sorry about your mum. And I’m sorry that your generous sharing of your experiences and hers make you a target. I hope you can carry your mother with you always, in all the ways that matter – it sounds like you will. Thinking thoughts of peace and healing for you and yours.

  110. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. Thanks for sharing some of the valued moments you and your sibs have had with her. She sounds like an amazing person.

  111. I lost my mom to a stroke too. Sorry to read of your loss. Mom really enjoyed her food, and she made sure we did too. Man do I miss helping her bake christmas cookies. It was a family affair. I really miss stealing lumps of sugar cookie dough from the fridge while we all worked on making the doggone things as thin as a potato chip. At the end, all she could do was drink liquids as well – and her last intake was of concord grape juice. She really had a sweet tooth.

    Mom was a christmas fanatic, and she also had her last stroke somewhere around christmas 5 years ago. Dad has left her christmas tree up this entire time – she loved decorating that tree.

    Dad recently became pretty ill as well, and now we are seeing him have no appetite.

    Sending a hug your way….

  112. :hugs: a friend just lost a brother. My new years resolution is to appreciate those I do have more.

    And I am sorry for your loss, Sweet Machine, wonderful writer.

  113. I’m so sorry for your loss, Sweet Machine, and grateful for the eloquence you’ve shared here.

    I spent my father’s last days and weeks trying to tempt him to eat, trying to keep him fed… in part because he needed the sustenance and, even more, because the pleasure itself was sustaining. I think of that often: how the pleasure of food and the pleasure of commensality nourish us, as surely as the food itself does.

  114. I’m so very sorry to hear about your mother, SM, but I think that it speaks to your relationship with her and your skill as a writer that the impression I was left with after reading your post was love-strong love. How lucky you were to have each other!

    Having lost a parent early to cancer (which of course makes me an expert on the grieving process), I just wanted to send my support and wish you comfort. It’s been 15 years, and I treasure all of the “lick the spoon” memories I have of my father, and oddly I still feel supported by the strong foundation of unconditional love he gave to me.

  115. I’m sorry for the loss of your beloved mother. My grandfather suffered the same fate as your mum , I can understand the pain you feel. I wish you love on your journey through mourning.

  116. Deepest condolences, somewhat belatedly. My grandfather died a little more than two weeks ago, and I greatly admire the strength and grace of your writing about your loss so soon after.

Comments are closed.