Two Left watched my mother’s three-pack-a-day habit rob her bit by bit over the years. Shortness of breath. Not being able to walk more than a block or two. Coughing fits that sounded like being strangled. Oxygen tubing snaking through the house. Gasping for air. Then, mercifully, considering the death by slow suffocation possibly in store for her, my mother succumbed suddenly at home when her heart gave out.

That was nineteen years ago. My mother was 71. Just this week, my brother Dave died in much the same way at age 65. He was a good man, generous, funny, with the proverbial heart of gold.

My eldest brother and I spoke the day after about a lot of things. At some point, I asked him if he was still smoking. Yes, came the answer. My brother said he had two cigarettes left before he had to buy another pack, and he wasn’t yet sure what he was going to do. I jotted down this little thing, somewhere between a poem and a plea, and sent it to him.

Two Left
Smoke one for Mom
Smoke one for Dave
Don’t follow them.
Don’t buy another pack.
Stay here, with me.
We are the two left.


6 thoughts on “Two Left

  1. Two years ago my son and I caused a HUGE family fight when we told a (then) 17 year old relative that he was crazy for smoking, especially after losing my father-in-law to smoking related throat cancer. Could our delivery have been different? Perhaps, but no one else in the family said a word to him about it; they didn’t want to upset him. And frankly it is crazy to smoke! I was a 1-1 1/2 pack a day smoker in the 1970’s. One of the best things I did was to quit back then. Another was to lose 55 lbs. but that is another story.

    • Thanks, Heidi. These things are always dicey, particularly since it’s so hard to know whether saying something will help, or engender stronger determination to keep right on going. What did your relative do? At any rate, I’m glad you were able to quit. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I also lost a bunch of weight and have kept most of it off for 13 years. Not easy, and if anyone was ever so foolish to say I should lose weight, it always made me want to head straight for the Haagen-Dazs. We are wondrous and defiant creatures!

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