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The hands he held in his own felt so weak, too weak. With eyes closed and head bowed he recollected. The embrace he had felt as a child, strong arms folding over him, and the slight scent of a shirt just a few days too late to the wash.

Now, only the medicinal and sterile washed his senses. The only arms he had felt around him, an old lover, had long since moved on to warmer embraces. The man kneeling and holding the withered bones of his parent could do nothing but think.

The retreat into his mind was total. Unbroken by any nurse or doctor who gently touched his shoulder. Their hands, cold, warm, clammy, or moist went unfelt and completely ignored. The tears must have followed his mind, as none appeared on his face or made their ways to any duct. And over time the medical team stepped away to let the grief begin.

It was as if a dam had been erected the moment he felt that weakened hand clench his tightly, then slip away as the pulse of a machine ceased its rhythmic beeping. The sight of an arm that once had been twice the thickness of his own reduced to a quarter of itself shook his vision. Blackness swept his senses briefly, returning only for a stoic glance at the face in front of him before it scattered into a thousand stars.

It was a half hour before the doctors realized the man had fainted while kneeling there at the bedside.

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