Friday, March 20, 2009
No Smoking At The Funeral Home
“When You Are Engulfed In Flames” is a book by David Sedaris that I love. It is about inappropriate, brilliant things including cigarettes and the way a smoker’s life revolves around this habit. It is also about quitting. As Sedaris put it, he “finished smoking” some time after his mother died of lung cancer. I reread this book while my father was in the hospital, winding down after his four pack a day habit that began when he was 9 years old.
As a smoker, I can tell you exactly why they are bad for me because I can read the Surgeon General’s vigorous warning every time I unravel a fresh, neat pack of magically delicious smoky treats. Oh my dear, cigarettes will steal your pride and kill you dead, but I am not finished with them yet.
I was going over Dad’s hospice information this evening and talking with my Mom on the phone. She said, “Someone from hospice could care for Dad at home, but I told them I don’t want them around here unless they can rake my yard and plant my garden.” Ok, so we will move Dad into the hospice facility by April because Mom has no use for a harp-player in scrubs. No problem.
My mother isn’t an unsentimental woman. Let me explain: First, Mom doesn’t want to have a stranger in the house eyeballing the bear lamps and coveting her Lladros. Second, for all Mom knows, this hospice person might be unable to resist the siren call of Darvocet in her medicine cabinet and she will not tolerate that kind of behavior. Third and last, what can anyone tell her about grieving a husband of 59 years that she doesn’t already know? Right or wrong, it is that simple. “Also, you can’t be seen smoking at the funeral home,” she said.
I haven’t talked to my sisters and brothers about our smoking yet, or the politics of funeral home behavior. I was thinking about this subject the day Mom and I went shopping to buy Dad a new shirt and tie for when he passes on (his suit is fine), to make sure he won’t look like a greeter at Applebee’s. Regardless, I was at Bon Ton thinking about how not to smoke when Dad dies. I don’t see me bringing this up with my siblings any time soon, so I will pack nicotine lozenges and patches in my handbag when the times comes and figure it out later.
If my father were in his right mind, and just to make Mom crazy, he would distribute cartons of cigarettes to everyone at the funeral home. I know because when I saw him last July he told me he would give anything to smoke one more time.