I smoke sometimes. Sometimes I smoke a lot. I also go for weeks without. This isn't a post about whether i'm an 'addicted' chain smoker or not. But i do get a few stares every now and then from people. One of the recent starers was a young thing at work. As i inhaled deeply while trying to solve the problems of the world in my mind by looking out of a grimy window, she said, "You mustn't smoke. It's not good for you." Usually i respond with a "I know. I'll stop soon." But that day, i actually envied her her whole assurance that she knew the answers, that she knew for certain that some things are good and some things are bad and there can be no compromise. I hated the fact that i used to be her at some point, and now i wasn't, and no matter how hard i try, i never will be.
So I asked her why she felt smoking was so bad. She looked surprised that in today's day and age, any educated person would even dare question that axiom of life. Her entire expression communicated 'what an idiot' - her judgement of me. I don't blame her. But she was young and i'm almost her boss, so she seemed hesitant about stating the obvious.
I said, "Do you smoke?
Do you drink?
Do you drive rashly?
No, i don't even drive! (giggle)
Do you eat red meat?
I am a vegetarian
Very good. Do you do drugs?
Not even combiflam? (i was smiling)
Ohh.. like that.. i thought you know....
Yes, I know. You are right. You live a clean, healthy, perfect life.
She nodded vigorously.
And yet, you too shall die.
The change of her expression is usually the stuff that the best jokes are made of. But as she stared at me as if I was some crazy woman who had poured my hopelessness into her, i felt bad. I laughed, and she laughed too, and i went back to smoking, and she went back indoors to her computer, but i know that there was no need for me to dump on her like that.
Yesterday i attended my uncle's funeral. It's the first funeral i have ever been a part of. We weren't very close, but he was a warm person in whose company i have spent a few blissful hours. I am infact very close to his sisters and his kids - my cousins - which would explain my presence there (apart from the usual "family" thing). He smoked heavily for the last 45 years of his life. Predictably, his lungs gave up on him. There is a ring of 'karmic bells' but then i've seen my grandfather die - a healthy man who, at the age of 75, was stronger than most people my age - of throat cancer. I also have a friend who had a heart attack when he was 27, and another person i almost knew who died while mountain climbing.
My point? When it's time, it's time. There's not much one can do about that, despite age miracles and stem-cell whatchamacallits. But we can do a lot for the living. At my uncle's funeral, there was deep grief, many tears, AND rolling-on-the-floor-telling-hysterical-jokes-and-laughing. It's probably due to the fact that my family's average IQ is in the 140s, or probably because it was too soon for us to really react 'appropriately'. Whatever be the case, what was fantastic was that we were all in this together, for better or worse. I am not kidding, my family is who i would want around me if the sky fell on my head.
Because when i die - be it of lung cancer, or breast cancer (now, that would be ironic), liver disease or chronic old age - i hope it's in my sleep and that i leave behind a family that would get drunk and laugh that day and stiff my credit card company for it.