Content warning: this may be offensive to smokers, or triggering to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
You should know: this is a dark one. After watching my Mother succumb to a vicious battle with COPD three days before her 63rd birthday, I only wished one thing for her: that she had been able to quit smoking the first time she tried.
This piece just came pouring out of me on her 64th birthday, as I contemplated all of the reasons she wasn’t here and all of the ways it could have gone differently.
I don’t expect this to be an actual public service announcement. But if I had a magic wand, the first thing I would do is break free every person on the planet free who is imprisoned by their own addictions. Oh, and I would totally bring my Momma back.
Imagine you wake up, alone in the dark.
You are not young, but you are not old.
You are not weak, but you have no strength.
You are unable, but you are not disabled.
You live amongst the crippling in-between.
Being alone makes you anxious.
Being anxious shortens your breath.
Being short of breath fogs your thoughts.
You are suddenly confused.
You are suddenly disoriented.
You are suddenly scared.
And cold, without comfort. And alone.
Deep breaths, they say. Inhale, exhale.
Meditation of the wise does not apply.
Take this, they say. Two, as needed.
Medication from the learned does not work.
There is no cure for your sinking ship.
You reach for the edge and desperately hold on.
But there will soon be a plunge
Into the deep, dark, unknown.
And you will be alone.
And you will be scared.
And none of this will matter,
because it will soon be time to let go.
You are unprepared, you’ve not made amends.
You are not sure, you have not prayed.
You are not willing, you fight the inevitable.
You wither in a state of confusion for weeks,
until finally, you are subdued.
Your family is near, but you cannot hug them.
Your eyes are open, but you cannot speak.
You must watch as they wipe you
and care for your frailties.
You must say goodbye
before you are ready to leave.
This was what death was like for my Mother.
…but her LIFE was beyond exceptional.
She was born, orphaned, and adopted.
She survived abused, neglect, and tragedy.
She traveled the world.
She raised six children.
She saved numerous lives.
But most tragically,
she was unable to save herself.
She took shortcuts and self-medicated.
She ignored advice of loved ones.
She let pride pave the way to her demise.
She died at her own hand, but it was no suicide.
Her life was taken, one deep drag at a time.
She loyally smoked her life away.
Yet, she inhaled it like it was her savior.
She died young,
in a way that was far less than dignified.
She begged me for a smoke,
when she couldn’t even raise her hand.
She was a memorable, fascinating Woman.
She was passionate in her every action.
A listening ear, a force of good.
A poet, a builder, a farmer, a medic.
A musician, a reader, a joker, a gardener.
A Mother, a friend, a sister, a Nana.
She could have continued those roles,
for decades to come,
if she had only
I am not ashamed to say,
I laid her to rest with a pack of her cigarettes.
After all of that pain,
she still would have wanted it that way.
[ Happy Birthday, Momma. 6-12-20 ]