A boomer’s mom smoked. And died from it

When Garret Mathews, the retired metro columnist for the Evansville, Indiana Courier & Press sent us this poetic essay, we were touched. His mom died almost exactly five years ago and now he has decided to share the lesson of her death with us at BoomerCafé. It is an object lesson, really. It could be about some of our parents, and it could be about some of us.

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.

Betsy Mathews.

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 during her freshman year in college. She kept it up for more than 70 years until X-rays revealed two large, fast-growing tumors in her lungs.

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

Garret Mathews

Death came 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.

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 told her 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.”

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