My sister inhaled sharply, gave a little cough, and lit the cigarette dangling from her lips. She’s not a smoker, but Mom is. Or, more precisely, was. My sister put the cigarette on Mom’s grave like a little solemn column, and we stood back in contemplation.
It was Mom’s 80th birthday celebration. We were doing our best to honor a promise made six years earlier at my father’s 80th birthday party. Mom, in playful pout, asked my sister–no, TOLD my sister–she expected an 80th party like Dad was getting. My sister said it would happen. And that’s why we were standing at her grave on a cool May day drinking champagne and watching a cigarette burn into ashes.
“If I see that thing start to puff like she’s inhaling the tobacco from the grave, I’m running!” said my husband. We, who knew her so well, smirked at the thought. Mom would absolutely make my husband miserable if she could, but more importantly another deep drag of a cigarette is what she lived for…and probably died from.
There were balloons, flowers, giggles, and memories. My brother shook the can of spray paint and brightened a metal stand that held an angel over her grave. I didn’t say anything, but an angel was not the first thought that came to my mind concerning Mom. She was more of a devil woman, but those figurines are harder to find at Graves-R-Us.
My sister placed a glass of champagne near the cigarette while we held our glasses high toasting the woman who gave us life, and then gave up hers too soon. We watched the cigarette burn down and my sister mentioned there were only four more left in the pack. “Where’d you get them” I asked. “After she died I stole them out of her purse when her partner wasn’t looking. Each year I burn one on her birthday.”
We returned to our vehicles and our lives. I think it was a glorious 80th birthday party, and far and away the best part of my day.