I 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.