When I was growing up, my mom was a smoker and coffee drinker. Whenever we would be getting ready to do anything, her standard response was, “Let me just have one more cup of coffee and a cigarette before we go”. We would joke that those would be the last words she said before she died. But, in the end, that’s not how it turned out at all.
In 1999, while volunteering at the elementary school, mom caught epiglottitis. This respiratory condition, which can close the airway, can be fatal in adults if not treated quickly. Children get this disease more commonly than adults and it’s not quite as dangerous. Epiglottitis landed mom in the hospital for quite a while. While she was there, she couldn’t smoke. She was medicated while hospitalized so she didn’t really notice any withdrawal from the tobacco and by the time she was released, she hadn’t smoked for quite some time. I told her she would be foolish to start again given how she had gotten through the withdrawal without realizing it.
Right around that time, Geoff had to write a paper for his eighth grade class about why people shouldn’t smoke. He wrote, in this paper, that his grandma had quit smoking and how happy he was about that. Mom put this story on her refrigerator and while there were many times when she felt the tug of desire for a cigarette, all she had to do was look at Geoff’s paper and see the reason why she really didn’t want to have that cigarette after all. Mom said that when she was 93 she would start smoking again.
About two years ago, the endometrial cancer that mom had thought she was clear of recurred. After seven years, she was pretty surprised but decided to do what she needed to do to treat it. She went through chemo and then some very pointed radiation. One of the results of this treatment was that she lost her taste for coffee.
Now that’s something that I thought would never happen. Mom was able to drink coffee from sun up until right before she went to bed with no ill effects. She drank more coffee than anyone I ever knew. I went to stay with her for the last month of her life. She tried to have some coffee with me here and there and I could see that she really wanted to like it but I think she could have left it just as easily.
Mom went to be with the Lord early on the morning of October 29, 2009. I had gone with the CNA to make some coffee after giving her a kiss on the forehead and telling her that I loved her and would be right back. Although she never had another cup of coffee or another cigarette before she went, that saying stays with me, a reminder of the strong, independent woman who raised me to be the strong, independent woman that I am.