I woke early this morning cursing the tobacco barons - again ! My dear departed friend Audrey was on my mind as I awoke and my heart ached remembering how she had lived and how she had died.
Audrey was the kind of next door neighbour everyone prays for. She is the neighbour who drops her groceries and comes running when she hears you crying. She is the friend who, along with her husband, Pat, raised her children to respect others and to help them when they needed help. Her son delivered newspapers in all kinds of weather, and he mowed our lawn without charge when my husband had injured his hand. Audrey's children were taught to be more than polite, but also to be respectful and considerate.
We loved Pat and Audrey and we valued their friendship. We were so blessed to have them as neighbours. It was a joy to be in Audrey's presence. She was always cheerful. Always ! Oh! She could get frustrated and angry at times, and that Irish was impressive when voiced. But she was never mean or unfair. Her door was always open, the teapot was always hot, and a tasty meal was prepared to comfort you when you were scared or sad. Audrey's sparkling chatter lifted my heart in the most difficult times.
But there was a dark cloud - literally - a dark, ugly, brown cloud that filled our neighbours' home - and their lives - and their lungs. Cursed tobacco !
Audrey's house was inflicted with thick, acrid tobacco smoke. Audrey could not be without a cigarette. At first, I tried to persuade her to get help, but I learned it wasn't possible. She was addicted.
Audrey was a vivacious, spunky lady but, over the years, her frail frame suffered the effects of the tobacco - until, inevitably the cancer finally struck. I always knew it would come, but I was still so deeply wounded when I learned that she was in hospital and near the end of her life.
And still she was cheerful and loving. I visited my friend in her home a few days before she left us that hot summer a few short years ago. We sang Molly Malone and she hugged me and she told me that she felt blessed that I had been her neighbour. I can hardly keep from crying even now as I remember.
This should never have happened ! Audrey's children and her grandchildren - and this world - have been deprived of this precious lady too soon. The tobacco magnates robbed us all when they took Audrey's life.
Tobacco has killed more people than all the wars the earth has ever known. The civilized world battles against heroin and cocaine and marijuana, but it is still legal to sell tobacco. Why ?
I curse the tobacco barons who make their profit on the corpses of their victims, and I curse the politicians who know it's true but don't dare to outlaw tobacco because the profits from the tobacco industry - like the oil industry - spin the wheels of the economy. Our so-called civilized society values money above human life.
I have no power except the truth and you who read this know this is the truth.
Who will stop the cursed tobacco industry that now disguises itself by mingling with sweet, child-friendly products - like strawberry jam?
Barack Obama is at work trying to get world leaders to control nuclear weapons, but who has the courage to stop the industry that has already killed more people than all the wars man has ever waged?
I remember Audrey.