I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. Not a single puff. I think they’re gross. Trust me when I say that I have plenty of addictions and things I need to give up in my life. They’ve just never taken the form of nicotine products.
Vance, on the other hand, struggled with this addiction for almost 30 years. He started smoking to help him stay awake in submariners’ school. After that, the habit was formed and he was never quite able to shake it, despite trying many, many times.
In our relationship, smoking was often a point of contention. He’d promise me he was done but he never quite could give them up for good.
I hated those cigarettes. So much.
On an official death certificate, there’s a box that asks if this is a tobacco related death. The box on my husband’s is checked “yes.” All those years of smoking Marlboro Lights contributed to his heart attack.
I really, really hate those cigarettes.
When he died, I immediately collected them from around the house and gave them away. I didn’t want them in my house. Ever.
But a while back it snowed and my little guys wanted me to take them sledding. So I put on a pair of Vance’s coveralls and there in the pocket was an almost empty pack of Marlboros. I shoved them back in the pocket and held back my tears in front of the boys.
At our house, these were exclusively Vance’s. No one else smoked. So finding this pack, that was like finding a little piece of him. I didn’t give them away or throw them out. This little pack of cancer sticks, they were a connection to a life that’s gone now. And right now, I’m holding on to every bit of connection I can find.
Over a month later, the pack is still in my van. Just hanging out in the door, waiting for me to decide its fate.
I still hate these cigarettes.
But I can’t throw them out, not just yet.