I remember my brother hiding my dad's rim of Camel cigarettes in every nook and cranny in his innocent attempt to get him to stop smoking.
I remember being asked to light his next cigarette for him from the stove. Other days he would simply light his next cigarette from the last one.
All his photos at work showed a cigarette between his fingers or between his lips. He added the words "Bitching about" to signs that read "SMOKING is hazardous to your health".
I was in my last year of college when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. No surgery. No chemotherapy. They agreed to radiotherapy due to SVC syndrome, and to alleviate his pain from hip bone mets, liver mets, and brain mets. I watched him lose weight, unable to walk without assistance, and gnaw his teeth in pain, and have difficulty sleeping at night afraid that he might not wake up in the morning.
I took a leave of absence for a month off college to take care of him. I would rub his back at night when he would cry out in pain. I would coach him to breathe and pray when his bones hurt. That one Monday morning, through his hallucinations, we prayed the rosary and bid our final farewell. I watched his breathing become labored and his pupils start to dilate.
It was at that moment when I decided that I never want to feel that helpless ever again. I decided to take up medicine that year. My dad will forever be 47 years old. He never grew old because he died young. Forever young.
Each milestone we have, we whisper "daddy would have enjoyed this" or "I wish daddy were here..." I am undoubtedly daddy's girl, but it was his death that brought me and my mom together closer.
Treasure your health. Stop smoking. Don't even think about starting.
I started writing this post to share how tobacco changed our lives. I ended it with tears running down my cheeks. The pain of losing my dad is as fresh as that morning when I watched him breathe his last.