I Quit Smoking Today

13 09 2013

Yes, I have officially declared out loud with my dog as my witness under the starry designs in the darkened sky, that I am going to no longer smoke cigarettes.

My aunt passed away this evening. She was my crazy aunt who I could always count on for honest, unedited advice; she was the one that would always make me laugh with her silly faces and her silly words; she understood things yet she still took chances and made changes and knew not to take life too seriously.

I was named after her. My middle name spelled just the same as her first name. Her daughter, only a few years older while her son a couple years younger spent summers and reunions together. I feel closer to them than I do my own brother, although there are days when I feel like he’s trying to maintain a sibling relationship.

I hate cancer. It killed my grandfather, it killed my grandmother just a month ago, it attacked my mom who is thankfully heading toward remission as I type this, and today it took my aunt away forever.

I know I’m going to research the hell out of cancer to see if I can get one up on it. I know there has been a lot of research done with this nasty disease so I shouldn’t have any problem finding information out about it. There needs to be some drastic changes for me. Starting with the cigarettes. Next, I’m going to be more conscious about my diet and I’m going to exercise twice as much as the minimal daily effort I normally put forth. I’m going to get in shape and beat this depression creeping up on me. There is too much that needs to be done.

When I went through my darker times with the person I no longer mention, I got to see firsthand what rock bottom really looked like. As I made what I hoped to be my final exit to that relationship (and later turned out that it was indeed the end) I fell in the arms of my parents of course, my biological mother, my aunt and my grandmother, all of whom took me in and got me back on my feet. I was stripped to the core and they mended me back together.

While I was staying with my grandmother, trying to find a job while saving some money from my unemployment checks, my aunt happened to be staying in town for a good chunk of time with my grandmother to do some mother-daughter bonding. They were taking a road trip for about a week and revisiting childhood places, old schools and neighborhoods along the way back home. I stayed by myself at my grandmother’s house, grieving over a failed abusive relationship, feeling completely vulnerable yet safe that I could sleep without worrying what was going to happen to me or what was going to set the bomb off today.

When they came back, we had several heart to heart talks about life and love and making the right decisions and having confidence in myself. There was this one particular day that my aunt and I spent the day running errands. She drove me around to get some errands run and then we made a few other stops during our outing.

We drove to the church that my grandmother attends and volunteers one day a week answering phones and doing office work. It’s the same church where my mom and my aunt were married at. It was in the afternoon in the middle of the week and nobody was in the sanctuary. They leave it open though for people to come inside to pray when they need to.

Inside the sanctuary, the sunlight shined through the stained glass windows that outlined the walls. The beautiful huge pipe organ that fills the air with music on Sundays. My aunt went up to the alter and began to pray. I remember this feeling I had while we were in there. It was like I was being hugged. I let my tears flow and got everything off my chest and out of my mind. At that time, my aunt had beat cancer and was on the road to healthiness and happiness. She knew how to prioritize and focus on the important elements of life. She had an awesome mission organization to help the orphaned children with HIV in Haiti. Together with her husband, they built hospitals, they taught, they nurtured, and they loved these kids as well as the many friends they encountered in Haiti.

When we were through saying everything we needed to say in the sanctuary, we then drove to the cemetery where my grandfather’s ashes were. My aunt lives on the west coast so it’s not like she gets to come visit every day. She loved and missed her father so much. She talked to his nameplate and told him about everything going on in her life with tears in her eyes. She talked about her grandchild and her kids and her daily endeavors. I thought that was so cool and it really touched my heart. We left some fresh flowers and headed back to my grandmother’s house.

My aunt told me how I looked better every new day. She told me that even though it was hard for me to get up out of bed in the mornings, and not because I was tired or hungover, but because I was depressed, still climbing up from rock bottom and I had a long way to go. But I was heading in the right direction. My aunt set some goals up with me and told me she was going to check in on me and see if I had made progress. We talked about me focusing on finding a job, my soccer coaching and my writing.

So, two months ago I watched my grandmother pass away on July 6th 2013, the day my grandfather was born and only a week shy from her 92nd birthday. My aunt was not able to come be by her mom’s side and with her brother and sisters due to her health. We Skyped with her so she could see her mom and tell her goodbye. There was about 15 minutes or so where it was just her in the room, on Skype, with the camera on the laptop facing my grandmother who’s breaths were already short with long intervals between them. We Skyped with her at the ash ceremony which she put together and carried out, the memorial service, and the reception that followed. We made sure she was there and as much a part of this celebration of her mother’s life as anybody else.

We just bought our first house and moved in the day before my grandmother’s service which was almost a month after she had passed. With siblings, family and friends coming from both the east coast and the west coast time was needed to make sure everyone could make it out. It was a beautiful celebration, just as my grandmother would want. We had so much family gathered in one place. We don’t get to see each other all together like that very often. So much has changed since the last reunion. My cousins all have children now for starters. It was a good time mixed in with the sadness.

Today is Thursday, September 12th, 2013. I was at work when I got the text from my mom that my aunt was in ICU going through her final stages. Having just watched my grandmother go through this I knew what that meant. At a little after 7pm eastern time, 4pm California time, my aunt passed away. She was surrounded by her daughter, her son, two of her sisters, one of which had just flown from Florida to spend her birthday with her, her devoted husband and his son from his previous marriage. His first wife died of cancer too. She was surrounded by love and for the ones like me that weren’t there physically, our thoughts were on her all day.

As I took a puff from my last cigarette before bed I knew that I needed to do something drastic. I’ve been in a funk lately and for good reason but I’ve got a lot of good going on in my life as well. I decided to quit smoking for my aunt. And my grandmother. And my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, my brother, my nephew, family, friends, people whose lives I’m going to touch in my lifetime, my dog, my bio-mom, and anybody who cares about me. It’s only dragging me down and I’ve been struggling with quitting. I’m ready to get out of my funk, start taking care of myself, finish editing my story which both my aunt and my grandmother loved, move toward my goals and just let myself be happy.

I declared this out loud. I made sure to get my dog’s attention and said it to her since she was the only one around. Today I quit smoking cigarettes.

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