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Contest Winner: Allison J. Inga

Good-bye Grandma

It isn't old age that is taking my grandmother from me, but emphysema caused by 50 years of smoking cigarettes. I have seen pictures of me as a baby sitting with my grandmother. Grandma Rachel seems so lively in those pictures, so happy and full of life. Sadly, this is not the picture of her that I carry in my memories. My memories of Grandma for the last 6 years have been of her attached to an oxygen tank with tubes in her nose. She rarely gets out of her favorite chair, and then only with help. She has no energy or strength to move. She coughs up phlegm and blood. She is frail and frightened. She begs me to hold her hand when she has a panic attack caused by a lack of air. Her hands are so tiny now that they look like a child's. She is bony and shaky.

She has had lung hemorrhages and been in the hospital so often this last year that now we have come to say our good-byes. When she can breathe a bit, I sit on her footstool and she tells me wonderful stories about her childhood. I laugh and she smiles. I can imagine going down a hill on a sled with wooden runners just as she did when she was a child. I am delighted by the stories she tells me about how she  and her little brother, Uncle George, got into trouble. I can't imagine life without her. The doctors say she is now "hospice" status and her stories will soon be forever silenced. Sadly, I play her favorite tunes on the piano to cheer her up.

We live states apart, so we don't get to see her often, but every Sunday we call her to tell her our news. Sometimes it is too hard for her to talk, so she just listens. She is proud of my poems, blue ribbons and my accomplishments. I know that my parents are proud of me too, but Grandma Rachel is someone extra special. I am angry that she is dying. I am angry that she is suffering. I wish the government had not let the tobacco companies cover up the damage that smoking can do. Maybe if they had outlawed cigarettes at the turn of the century, maybe just maybe I could have had a little more time with my grandmother.

The truth came too late for her, but just in time for me. I promise on Grandma Rachel's grave that I will never cheat my children or my grandchildren of one possible minute. I will never make my loved ones suffer by having to watch me struggle for each breath; for I will never smoke cigarettes. Good-bye Grandma, your suffering has taught me well. I'll miss you forever.

Allison Inga | Britta Gerdes | Iyishia Floyd | Kelly Rahill | Leeanna Chipana | Manuel Guardado


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