Saturday, April 23, 2011

Life, Food, Death

My mother and me serving cake. I think I was 7.. excuse the bad haircut.

I haven't been able to blog for the passed week because my mother passed away last week from of all things a lack of nutrition because of Dementia.

I never thought that my mother's life would end that way. My mother was a survivor of the Aushwitz concentration camps in Germany during the war and survived on eating very little while she was in the war and afterward but made a point to make sure we always had a fridge full of food and was always trying to offer food to friends and family. My mother was a little forgetful and then a lot more forgetful over the past 5 years and then last year we had to put her into a nursing home because she needed care 24/7 for her safety. I guess my first indication should have been the reduction of the things she would cook or bake. After my mother retired she would bake cookies when she was bored. Then she stopped baking cookies and switched to frying wontons and adding powdered sugar on them and would go to the neighbourhood bank, pharmacy and her doctors office and hand out wontons to whoever wanted them. Then it stopped. The only thing she would make was instant coffee and that started to become confusing. Freezer food would end up in the fridge and fridge food would end up in the freezer. I suppose that should have been clues to the progression of her illness. Before she went into the home she went to a day program where they supplied meals 3 times a day so all she would eat at home was snacks of bananas, yoghurts, mandarin oranges and any chocolates or treats I would leave on hand for her to grab. Everything had to be simplified for her to be able to maintain independence on what she chose to eat.

January of 2010 she was placed in a home where they provided the not so great meals. Myself and my mother's friend would bring her chocolate treats when we visited. Everything changed this past January though. She went into the Hospital for pneumonia and somewhere toward the end of her 2 week stay she started refusing food. They discharged her only to return to the home with a c-difficile virus which would further aggravate her condition. She became very week after her 2 week hospital stay and started eating less and less. She was so week that she fell a couple of times and went back and forth to the hospital for xrays. By the time she went back to the home after all of that she could no longer walk due to swelling of her ankles and then she had more difficulty swallowing and eating food. Thus began the decent. She became dehydrated and her blood pressure dropped and she still had the c-difficile infection so they had to send her back to the hospital. I insisted that she be sent to Sunnybrook Hospital this time. She spend 2 more weeks in the hospital and had the infection cleared up and was placed on an iv drip and rehydrated but the problem was that she refused food more and more until the only thing she would eat was pudding. The doctors told me that there was nothing they could do if she refused food and they had done all that they could do medically so they had to send her back to the home. My mother wasn't happy being in the hospital tied to a bed so I agreed to send her back. I knew that if she didn't eat that she wouldn't have long to live after that. She returned to the home and I would bring her strawberry applesauce and puddings just to get her to eat something. Until she even refused that. There was nothing anyone could do to force her to eat so she just wasted away until her body couldn't support her anymore. My mother was a survivor and fighter all her life but I think this time she stopped fighting and wanted to go on her terms with food being the only thing she could control in her life. It is heartbreaking to watch someone die that way because there is nothing you can do to help change it. So my mother ended her long life of survival at 88 years old. I hope wherever she is there is an abundance of food that she is enjoying again.

This experience made me realize that when we are born the first thing we do is eat to sustain life and we spend our whole life eating for pleasure, pain, nutrition, control and to help or hinder our health.

For a foodie like me it's unbelievable how much damage eating badly or forced starvation can do to your body. I know what foods are good for me but I don't always prefer to eat them. There is a whole mind/body/food connection that is very complex and I don't know if we will ever really just eat to support maximum nutrition for our bodies. There is always a lot more things going on in connection to food.

So my thoughts about this are that we are born, we eat, we live and then we die, so we might as well enjoy every bite of food while we can while not letting food take over our lives. We need to Eat to Live and not Live to Eat.


  1. so true and your mom is finally at peace.

  2. What a great way to honour the memory of your mother Linda. May she rest in eternal peace.


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