Missing Mom: One smoker's daughter tells her sad story

December 03, 2005|By Donna Reiff

On Nov, 9, my Mom (Becky Humphrey) would have celebrated her 54th birthday. She isn't here to have another birthday because she lost her battle with emphysema on June 13. For the first time ever in my life, I can't wish her a happy birthday. My family and I are left behind to think of her every day, to miss her, to wish she hadn't ever picked up that first cigarette and to carry on her hopes of trying to get people to see what smoking can do to someone's life.

A year ago, Mom wrote an article to influence people not to smoke. Her words were published in various newspapers across the state. Hopefully, it made a difference in someone's life. I guess you could say I'm picking up where she left off. I'm saying words that she can't say anymore. I have to do that for her.

I know we can't change the past, but I sit and wonder sometimes what our life would have been if she had never smoked. I imagine her still being here with us to celebrate birthdays and holidays, especially this time of the year.


It hurts to know that she will not be here with us any more to see my kids grow up, go to their dance recitals and ballgames, watch them graduate and see what they end up doing with their lives.

I still need my mom's advice, and I want to tell her things that happen in my life. I still catch myself wanting to tell her things that my kids have done, stories from my job and other everyday happenings that I always shared with her.

I look back at pictures of my mom, and I see the physical changes she went through because of her illness and medications she had to take with so many side effects. It had been a long time since Mom truly felt like herself. She would bruise so easily and her features were changed because of the swelling from steroids she had to take in order to keep her lungs strong. The hardest thing on all of us, I believe, was when she felt like she was suffocating. She had terrible panic attacks, feeling as if she was going to die. It's horrible to feel so helpless when we couldn't do much to make her feel better. Many times, she would beg us to help her relax enough to catch her breath. It's something I'll never forget.

Mom used to dress up every day to work at the tax office, meet lots of people and loved to go out for coffee with her friends after work. She had to quit the job that she loved and was pretty much confined to her living room once her emphysema got worse.

Once in a great while, she would feel up to going out of the house. She loved that, but it was such a chore for her to get up the strength to do it. If we could wheel Mom into the kitchen or maybe onto the deck, it was a really good day!

After Mom died, I sat in her recliner and thought about what her life was like. Her whole world revolved around that recliner. All she could possibly need or want through the day was there within her reach.

Imagine sitting in one chair, day after day after day. Imagine having to do all of your personal care right there in your living room because you simply can't get enough air in your lungs to go anywhere else.

Other than trips to the bathroom to get in the bathtub as often as she could, she stayed in that chair. She had a telephone there, but because of her tracheotomy and ventilator, she could only listen to what we had to say, and then she would beep the keypad in response to us.

I used to try and make silly sentences out of what she was trying to get me to understand, by the way. That always made her smile. It still hurts, and probably always will, when I see moms and daughters together having fun. I never really had that chance because of her illness and now I never will.

I suppose all of us have known, in the back of our minds, that we would lose her one day. She would talk about it occasionally with me, but it hasn't made this any easier on me. If only she had known how cigarettes would take their toll, not only on her, but on the people who loved her the most.

Think about those who love you most instead of only thinking of yourself when you pick up that cigarette. They are the ones left, in the end, to deal with what it did to you. And take it from me, it hurts.

Encourage your loved ones to stop smoking. For more information about tobacco prevention, contact Donna Kuhn, RESA VIII Tobacco Prevention Specialist at

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