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A Piece of My Mind
October 13, 2015

Armchairs and Bow Ties

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine, University of California-San Francisco
JAMA. 2015;314(14):1451-1452. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.7651

I sat across from my grandmother as she struggled to eat her birthday cake. The neurons that controlled her ability to lead her fork to her mouth were hijacked. It seemed like such a simple action, one I took for granted. The cake was too pretty to eat anyway: delicate, round, speckled with her favorite lily of the valley buds. I heard her hands shake rhythmically in her lap—swish swish—against the fabric of her floral dress.

“Here, Mum.” My mother took a small chunk of cake and attempted to gently coax her. Crumbs fell onto the wooden dining table. My grandmother vocalized something unintelligible, sorrowful, but eventually opened her mouth in defeat.

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