The Last Cigarette

The Last Cigarette

Jun 02, 2022

“When can I get a f-ing cigarette?”

In the hospital, she lay. Legs turning blue, immobile. Who cares?

She was on her way out and we all knew it. When the doctors, the “powers-that-be”, finally came to us and shared that she was close to checking out, to punching her card, and moving on, we felt annoyed. BGO—Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious. C’mon.

The 93-year-old rig was on her last legs—literally. 

What could we do? Take her to a better space…be with her…do our part…go through our own process…share some love…deal with our own mixed emotions…struggle with lack of understanding…seek to get it…when at the end of the day—you just can’t. 

Someone is dying and it’s flat out hard.

On some level—she knew it, too. And on the way out, what would anyone want? The same, the usual, the familiar—“I want what I want!”—and without a shadow of a doubt—at 93—she deserved it and would get it…hopefully.

We drove toward hospice care. 

Stop. A Publix parking lot. She just wanted a smoke.

And who were we to deny her? A smoke? Really?

We pulled in. We found a lonely parking space and turned off the engine. 

I will never forget her posture. We opened her door. She swung her tiny, largely dysfunctional legs out a little. She settled and I lit her cigarette. She leaned forward, took a long pull, and sat back—though her movement was so scarce because she herself, was so small. 

She sat back and smoked. She just smoked. And smiled. And sat there—self-satisfied…doing her thing. Smoking. Like a champ.

And we sat with her. What else could we do?

One cigarette turned into two and we never moved. She wanted to smoke and we wanted her to—no holds barred.

Eventually, ritual fulfilled, we drove to hospice and checked in. The folks there were used to our confusion, our pain, our what-do-I-do-now puzzled look. Compassionate and professional, they led us to her room, what we thought would be her final resting place.

She looked out the window and commented: “Can I go out there and smoke?”

Apparently not. 

The vigil began. A few days later, she announced that she wanted to go home, back to the nursing facility apartment that was hers. No argument. Back she went.

The feeling left her legs and they began to turn colors. Slowly, without much discomfort, her life-force drained. The all night watches forecasted the inevitable and a few days later, in the wee hours of the morning, she moved on.

I remember saying goodbye in my own, perhaps discombobulated way, the day before—with my hand on her ankle that no longer had much feeling.

“Love you, Grandma,” I thought to myself. “Safe journey.”

I will never forget the Publix parking lot…her tiny legs swinging out over the grey front seat as I sparked a lighter and the sheer delight of that last cigarette.

That's A View From The Ridge...

Best-selling author, Ridgely Goldsborough has written 19 books to date, 5 on emotional intelligence and has developed a phenomenal program called that you can get absolutely free as a member of the Groove community. Also, visit Mind Types for a FREE and fun quiz that will give you a new perspective!