A little over two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. This disease is exactly what it sounds like, and simply put, it makes it hard to breathe. Not long after, it was confirmed she had Stage III Small Cell Lung Cancer. The reason why she was hit with a double whammy of lung disease? My mother had been smoking since her freshman year in college, the fall of 1956, and she continued to do so until she was put on oxygen in the fall of 2014. 58 years.
My mother died in May of 2015. A year and a half ago. And along with the difficult, uncomfortable emotions, the hardest thing of all, the thing that sticks with me nearly every hour of every day – awake or asleep – is not that she died. It is how she died.
So while I remain righteously angry at her at times for her unwillingness to quit 30, 15, even five years ago; while I find myself in deep grief over the unfairness that as the youngest child, I got the least amount of time with her; while I struggle with the heartache that my children lost their grandmother, I am most haunted by her final moments.
The image seared in my retinas of her lying on a bed in a morphine-induced coma, her eyes not quite closed, her head skewed unnaturally to one side.
The smell branded in my nose of the urine-soaked carpet mixed with cleaners that could never quite get it clean.
The sound scorching my ears as she gasped and gulped as her lungs tried their hardest to procure oxygen. But there was nowhere for air to go, the air her body so desperately craved. There was no going gently into that good night. No gradual fading until the last breath and then silence. I laid there on my mom and watched as she drowned, her decades-long addiction finally swallowing her in its waves.
She paid the price. You don’t have to.
If you are looking for help with quitting smoking, the resources are out there. A small sampling:
https://www.coquitline.org/ (Colorado resident)