A Mother’s Last Words

By Garrett Mathews

Garrett Mathews was the longtime metro columnist for the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana—he wrote more than 6,500 columns on everything from mail-order brides to Appalachian snakehandlers. He wrote this column after his mother died of lung cancer—he said he wanted to get the word out that smoking only a few cigarettes a day can be fatal.

Watching Mom Die

You smoke.

Oh, not a lot. Seven, maybe 8 a day.

Mom was like that.

If necessary, you can go two or three hours between puffs. A movie. A dinner party. A Little League game.

Mom was like that.

You don’t smoke in the house, a nod to your spouse who quit cigarettes under surgeon’s orders after his heart attack.

Mom was like that.

You mostly light up outside. In the garden. On the porch. In the rocking chair beside the bird feeder.

Mom was like that.

You’re much too polite to smoke in the car, or around family members who don’t have the addiction. You tell people that, yes, even one cigarette is bad, but at least you’re not like those huddled wretches who fill their lungs inside smoking booths at airports and rail stations.

Mom was like that.

Betsy Mathews started smoking in 1944, her freshman year in college. She kept it up for 70 years until X-rays revealed two large, fast-growing tumors in her lungs.

She quit in the fall, but the doctor doubts it was discipline. More likely, he said, she inhaled one day and it felt like the devil breathing fire.

Death came two days after Christmas, six weeks after the diagnosis.

Mom was an active, vibrant person who ate the right foods and kept her weight down. Smoking-induced cancer stole her too soon from the grandchildren and the little great-grandbaby she loved so much.

Betsy Mathews didn’t smoke like a fiend.

Not a lot at all. Seven, maybe 8 a day.

But they added up and now she’s dead.

When Mom still had enough strength to talk, I said I’d like to write about cigarettes and lung cancer.

Is there anything you’d like to share? I wanted to know.

She whispered, “Tell them not to be like me.”
———
Garret’s email address is [email protected] More of his work can be seen at  pluggerpublishing.com.

Speak Your Mind

*