When My Mom Died
Please know that no one asked me to write this blog post.
This story is mine and no one could buy it … not even my son, a client, and a friend who saved my life.
I always thought it was very cool that I was the same age when I had my son as my mother was when she had me. That meant the whole time he was growing up I could look at him and look me and think “Oh, so when I was his age this how old my mom was.” It gave me a new kind of perspective on my life and hers.
Maybe that was more important to me because we never had that close mother-daughter thing, though I think we both tried. I was never quite sure I belonged. She could never quite connect to my dots.
I had followed a girl baby who had lived nine days before she died. The longer I live, the longer I try to understand what that loss must have been, the more I realize it would have to be inside our relationship — how could it not?
As much as I’m like my father, anyone who knew my mother would say I am her too. Yet, all through my teens and twenties I went out of my way to deny any similarity. She kind of did too. Whenever anyone would remark on how much my face is hers, she would say I look like my father.
So, because my mom smoked BOTH filterless and menthol cigarettes — she kept a pack of each in three strategic places: in her purse, on the kitchen table, and by her place in the living room — I made it a point never to go near a cigarette.
Then when I was 25, I was living with a keyboard player in a rock band — which meant whole weekends in smoke-filled bars with smokers. We often become what we look at most. I became a weekend smoker.
Ironically, a few months later my mom was diagnosed with oat cell carcinoma — the fastest growing cancer they said. It started in her lungs and moved up to her brain. There was no point in her giving up her cigarettes.
The first week that I visited her in the hospital, she kept telling me to go back to work. My boss said stay with her.
The second week, she started ordering foods I like from the hospital menus so that she could share.
The third week, we started telling real stories about ourselves.
One afternoon she said …
You know, you were the best thing that ever happened to me. I went into the hospital to have one baby and three years later I came home with you. You saved my life. I love you.
That short speech recast the entire story of my life.
It was also the first time, I heard her say, “I love you.”
We had that conversation and others like it over a cigarette. I was 26 when she died … the same age my son is now.
Who Saved My Life
My son doesn’t smoke, but until 3 weeks ago I still did. And for a while I’ve been thinking that …
If history repeats itself this could be the last year my son would see me alive.
… I wondered whether my son was thinking that too.
Then a few weeks after my son’s 26th birthday, he and I were having a conversation with Angel Djambazov at SOBCon NW. We talked late into the night about everything from movie scenes to chocolate to Dungeons & Dragons. I asked Angel to tell my son about how he met John Cameron — Hollywood executive and younger brother of James Cameron [Avatar, Titanic]. John had hired Angel to work with an impressive team on a product called the SafeCig.
In the course of that conversation, Angel explained the tobacco-less electronics, the delivery of nicotine in water vapor without acetone, carbon monoxide, tar, ash etc, and offered to send me a sample. What flavor would I like? My son and I engaged in the idea of choosing between spicy, sweet, woody, and one other. My son offered his mischievous take on which would most fit my personality and why. The repartee was both fun and affectionate. Angel said, “I’ll send you more than one. See if you like it.”
Then I met John at BlogWorldExpo and immediately took to him as well.
I was already using SafeCig. I had already decided to work with him. But after hearing his stories, I realized his cause is mine. He’s client and a friend, but that’s not why I’m telling you this story.
I’m telling you because I believe my son, John, and Angel saved my life.
My son is delighted that I have removed those carcinogens from my life.
And every time I think of him, my mother, or the rest of my life, I am too.
If you have a story, please share it.
If you want to lose your tobacco or know someone who does … watch, like, and share John’s YouTube conversation about it.
If you that’s not you either, you can always go read The Top 10 Ways to Start Living Your Life.
Be irresistible and stay alive.
If you want to know more of John’s story and why he decided to do this …
If you want to know how the device works, this is the one …
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
Lin-Lee Aspin says
I found your blog from Whitney Johnson’s tweet. Her tweets often resonate with me – today was not an exception.
Your words have made me cry for all the right reasons. I can only imagine what you must have felt like to wait ’til you’re in your mid twenties to hear your Mum telling you that she loved you and that you saved her life. I’m so happy your were able to share that moment together.
I understand your comparisons with your relationship with you son & the timelines. I do the same with my Mum & myself & my son. My Mum is fantastic and loving and open & always has been. I’m so fortunate to have her.
My Aunt was diagnosed with Type 2 lung cancer last year. She’s been so fortunate and is now in remission & she’s stopped smoking.
I’m going to tell her about the Safecig & tweet about it too.
ME Liz Strauss says
Happy to meet you. I so admire Whitney and know exactly what you mean about how her words resonate.
Thank you for sharing your story and your voice here. I’m lucky in so many ways and being able to share stories is one most cherish … because with each person and each story I grow in some way. 🙂
Phil Gerbyshak says
Glad you stopped smoking Liz. The world is a better place with you in it.
Happy belated birthday to Eric too!! Big 2-6! Wow!!
Michele Price (@prosperitygal) says
Liz thanks for sharing this heartfelt story. I have too been having some interested conversations with my Mother this past year. I started committing Sat mornings to her and taking her to farmers market after she had a difficult knee surgery and needed help.
While my Mother and I had been close growing up, we had a difficult transition when I was a teen and leaving home. We have had an on and off again strained relationship through out my adult years.
I realized though that like my Mother if I expected my son to want to spend time with me as an adult I needed to learn what was needed to make peace with my Mother. (there was an important lesson there)
Oddly enough it is has been a big piece of my authentic leadership development journey. If you can have authentic conversations with you Mother (usually one of the people who can push your buttons) then you are indeed moving forward and evolving in your growth.
What I appreciate about your post LIz is that now I have another reason to look at you with loving eyes as I recognize we share something in common-we are mothers of adult sons who are learning what it means to be a Mother when they are grown. How that relationship is no longer a caregiver’s role. How much we can learn and accept from them now, if we allow ourselves that blessing.
ME Liz Strauss says
Thank you, Michelle,
Your insights are right in keeping with my own. I see you shine. 🙂
Thank you for pouring your heart out and sharing a few pages from your story with your readers. I’m glad to know you a little better.
This post was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and I hope it will cause people to not only consider their relationship with tobacco, but to hold their families a little closer and be grateful for the time they have together. Life is precious, and being real with each other is awesome.
ME Liz Strauss says
You said it so much better than I might. You explained what I was going for. Thank you deeply.
Chris Eh Young says
My wife and I were both smokers for many years. She quit when she was pregnant with our second daughter and I continued to smoke a pack a day for years after. When my wife was pregnant with our son (9 years ago) I toyed with the idea of quitting. Then one day after watching a Disney movie with my daughters (4+6), my oldest turned to me and said “Daddy, I hope you’re still alive when I get married. I really want you to be there.” I quit the next day.
Lezley Davidson says
When my father was diagnosed with cancer, we all quit as well. It was difficult and uncomfortable and I relapsed several times over the 4 years it took me to completely quit. I’ve been totally cigarette free for almost 3 years.
Sadly, my father has been dead for 2. Like you, he saved my life.
Thank you for sharing Liz. You are courageous and give yourself every bit of credit you deserve for taking this step. It’s scary and life changing and wonderful and congratulations!
ME Liz Strauss says
I’ve loved you since the day we met and I plan on being around to bug you for a long time too! 🙂
ME Liz Strauss says
Wow, Chris, just wow. Thank you for sharing your story.
ME Liz Strauss says
You are an inspiration in your own right. What a wonderful family you have that you all made such a show of support for your dad. Thank you for sharing that with me and thank you for your lovely words about courage.
Gail Gardner says
Although I am struggling with what to write here, I thank you for sharing this. My Mother smoked three packs a day until she was down to about 64 pounds and 25% oxygen saturation and couldn’t breath one day while taking a shower. From that day she was so scared of suffocating that she wore oxygen every minute waking or sleeping – and even in the shower.
Apparently the fear of the oxygen exploding did what nothing else did – she just quit cold turkey one day and never smoked again. I am glad you got to have the conversation with your Mother I never had with mine. A couple of my sisters did though, and I am glad for them, too. I was the oldest and the one who handled what she couldn’t cope with – maybe that’s why. We buried her before she turned 64.
My Father smoked two packs a day all the time I was growing up – except when he smoked cigars which was worse. Cigarette smoke makes me cough and turn green and the smell of a cigar that isn’t even present gives me an instant headache.
Back in the day when people could still smoke in company meetings, even one IBM co-worker who said, “no one is going to tell ME where I can and can’t smoke” understood when I told him I really wanted to talk with him but if he was going to smoke I just couldn’t be around him. I can’t even ride in a car someone has smoked in who isn’t smoking at the time.
I know many smokers think people like me just want to control them. We don’t. I don’t want to control anyone. I want them to know their smoke really does affect some of us. I was in an IBM class in a small room where 11 of the 14 in the class were smoking. Maybe fifteen minutes after we came back from a break the instructor called another break, walked straight to me and asked me if I was going to be ill. I told him it was the smoke. From that day on he called frequent smoke breaks and didn’t let anyone smoke in class even though I didn’t ask him to – I must have looked that bad.
I am so glad that you switched to electronic cigarettes. I have wondered if they might be the solution. The world IS a better place with you in it and I thank you for sharing this so now I know more about SafeCigs. I know just what the few friends I know who still smoke need from me. I have never given them anything before, but that is the best thing I can do for them and for everyone around them.
ME Liz Strauss says
Your story brings you even closer to my heart. Sending you so many thoughts and memories and feelings I can’t type.
Karen Putz says
Wow, just wow. It must have taken a lot of willpower and courage to take this step and I’m so glad you did, Liz. We need you around forever! 🙂
ME Liz Strauss says
Thank you, Karen,
You are family to me. 🙂
Bret L Simmons (@drbret) says
Thanks for sharing this story, and good for you for deciding to stop smoking. My mother and father both smoked when I grew up. Both died when I was 24, my father of heart disease and my mother of lung cancer. The were both only about 52. Whenever I see someone smoking today in the presence of a child, I think to myself “you fool, you will probably never live to see your child’s children.” My only regret in life is that my mother never lived to see my kids, and they never got to meet her. Now I live my life for one big purpose, to live long enough to make an impact on my grandchildren. I want my kids to see me do that, so they too will try to do it for their children. BTW, I’ve never smoked, not even a single puff, and never will. I don’t think my kids will either. Thanks!
ME Liz Strauss says
Thank you for sharing your story. More and more I believe that these stories shared in kindness are the most powerful way of reaching out that we have.
Sheila Scarborough says
Gosh. Thanks for this post, Liz, and for toughing out what must be a very difficult process. I want you and Eric to both be around for a long time. Love you!
Britt Michaelian says
As I read your post, I began to cry. Touched by your connection with your mother, finally saying she loves you. How beautiful. What a gift this post is to your son as well.
My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer over a year and a half ago. She wasn’t a smoker (but for a few years in her 20s) . Fifteen pounds lighter, with her hair falling out… she still goes to the gym every single day (and has for over 30 years). Smoking didn’t have anything to do with the lung cancer she got. I wish we had something to blame it on. But, as much as it sucks, the cancer has been such a gift to our family.
I believe there is some way that my parents were raised that they believed that they shouldn’t tell us how much they loved us (really). It’s like they believed in tough love and not showing how you truly felt (good or bad). That is until death was knocking at my mom’s door.
It’s strange how something as ugly as cancer can bring people together and teach us lessons. It’s not so much about stopping smoking as it is choosing to live a healthy and happy life. Telling those you love how much they mean to you. Living without regret. If you stop smoking, you can still get hit by a car or suffer from a stroke, so live your life every day as if it were your last. Savor every moment because you never know when you may be the one sitting in that hospital bed, saying things that should have been said years before.
Thanks Liz for this beautiful post and for reminding us that it’s never too late to take care of and love ourselves.
I can just imagine the conversation among you three. FWIW, you are probably a little bit of all three “flavors.”
It would be a dim world without you in it. I’m so glad you wrote this today. You have helped many by sharing your story.
Thank you, and I love you too. 🙂
Josepf J Haslam says
thanks for the article. I tweeted you a poem about my dad who died 11 days after his 48th birthday from lung cancer from smoking…
We had a different story, with many similar elements. I never heard my Dad tell me that he loved me. And we did not stick with the conversation long enough to get much further past the “You should be at work”…
Many learnings came from this and I made sure to tell my various Aunts & Uncles that I loved them before they passed away. And I certainly make sure my children know, unambiguously.
Appreciate your message. Have a loved one who is a smoker… Perhaps your message and your influence will be what saves her life.
Glenda Watson Hyatt says
Liz, thank you for sharing such a personal story, but more importantly, thank you for taking the steps to stop smoking. I wish my Dad and three brothers would do the same, before “that call” comes.
Looking forward to having a healthy you around for years to come.
Sue Koch says
Liz your transparency and honesty is inspiring, and I hope brings great awareness to others.
If not for COPD brought on by years of smoking, I’m certain my Mother would have survived the surgery that ended up taking her from us.
There are so many other repercussions of smoking (& potential solutions) that even smokers are not aware of. Thank you for bringing more to light. I’ll be sharing these videos & I’m happy hear you are smoke free!
Erika Jurney says
What a powerful story, Liz. I’m glad to hear it!
Peter Wright says
Thanks for sharing your story Liz, as several commentators have already said, the world is a better place with you in it, so I am very glad to learn you stopped smoking.
For others still struggling to quit,this may help. My story was that I smoked on and off for years. I also played a lot of sport and ran ultra marathons, kept to a healthy diet, drank very little alcohol and lived in an unpolluted part of the world for most of my life.
Imagine my shock when at age 60, I had a heart attack. Lying on the operating table, with a catheter in my groin watching the dye illustrate the blocked artery and damage to my heart on a computer screen, made me very receptive to the cardiologists suggestion that I quit.
That was 13 months ago, I have not had the slightest desire to start again.
Just stop, it’s not worth the risk.
What a wonderful post! I too have quit with the help of Safe Cig and your story should help give confidence to those in need of quitting! Thanks again
Rosalind Fruchtman says
It’s interesting how our negatives inspire our BIGGEST positives and carve the image of our life’s purpose! ~Roz Fruchtman
Good luck and MUCH Congratulations!
This reminds me of when I was about 12 and my brother and I went to our Mom to make a deal … if she’d stop smoking, we wouldn’t start.
My Mom was a PR exec, and cigarettes were just part of that word, and they were all over our place (I sometimes wonder what’s become of all the smoking-related accessories of the day: the cigarette boxes, the lighters, the ashtrays).
I strongly suspect that bargain saved MY life, as with the rather “addictive” personality I have, I’d have probably been a several-packs-a-day smoker … and my Mom saw the value in that deal.
We lost her 7 years ago, at the age of 83, having survived all but one of her close friends from her days at JWT.