I love you, eat
Verla couldn’t eat the chicken soup her daughter Darlene made special from scratch; she choked with each weak attempt at swallowing. So Darlene drew up the broth in a syringe (meant for pain medication) and dripped it into her dying mother’s mouth, slowly, one drop at a time. As I walked in, I heard an exasperated Darlene say, “I love you mom, eat!”
As we grew up, most of us learned to nurture with food, we have learned to show affection by cooking for the people we care about. Sometimes this is the only way people know how to express love. When the dying no longer can accept food or water, some family members/caregivers are at a very stressful loss.
When the dying body no longer requires food or water, the sense of hunger and thirst disappears. At this point the dying are not hungry or thirsty! There is a blessing to dehydration, it promotes a deep sleep and eventual coma; this is not uncomfortable like it would be for you or me.
If we force food and water, the dying body doesn’t know what to do with it. Food can sit in the gut causing cramping, nausea or vomiting. Because of choking, fluid can find its way into the lungs causing a host of uncomfortable complications.
What I suggest is that we offer food and water. If the dying are willing and able to accept it, keep offering. If they don’t want it or choke, stop offering. Sometimes it’s the most loving thing we can do.