My aunt was my support, my love, and my attention. When I think of her, I think about the authority she had. She never needed to raise her tone. When I think of her, I think about her modesty and how even the most ordinary flower could make her happy, regardless of the fact that she could afford everything she ever wanted.
A beauty, lush black hair and big dark eyes, she could go toe to toe with the most beautiful women in the world. Her eyes were filled with hope and tranquility, and her lips blossomed out of understanding, no matter how bad her life was.
Since she didn’t have her own children, I realized that she often thought of me as the daughter she never had. She gave her all to me and my life more than anyone else ever did.
She was a smoker and I watched how she seemed soothed every time she lit a cigarette. My aunt was always calm. Because of her, I believe that calm people, like herself, have the most problems because they keep everything to themselves in order to avoid being a burden on others.
As the years passed by, I felt, deep in my heart, that something was wrong.
It was in March of 2016 that my aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer. It had metastasized throughout her body. Her lungs were blackened from tobacco smoke. I remember being extremely unsettled during those days. I cried day and night. The feeling of learning that you’re losing that which is most important to you cannot be described. When I went to the hospital the doctors said that it was a matter of days, not months. I didn’t sleep at all during those days and nights. I was just looking at her and holding her thin frail hand.
She was getting weaker, which was horrible to watch. Cancer is a disgusting disease that humiliates a person so much that it makes it kneel before life, making it impossible to get up again.
The last day was the hardest. I remember sitting next to her in the hospital. She was almost delirious from the pain. That’s when I realized that death is near. She was uttering names of the people she once cared about from some half-dreamlike state. The people she once cared about were actually people that were no longer alive, which is why I’m mentioning this.
That’s the moment when I also found out that she had had a child who had died a long time ago as a baby. This news was a terrible shock to me. She managed to squeeze my hand once more and said to me: “Honey, give me a cigarette.“ I refused, and at that moment she raised her heavy eyelids and said: “My little babe, your auntie is going to heaven soon. Let her enjoy her final moments as much as she can.”
That is the day I realized what addiction is and what cigarettes are. Tears started to race down my cheeks. I lit her cigarette for her. She could not smoke it because she was so weak and frail, she was only inhaling the smoke. As I put out the cigarette, I felt as if my aunt’s life slowly fade away. She looked at me with her big eyes and whispered quietly, “Watch yourself, for you are the only one who’s worth it,” and then she withdrew into eternal sleep.
The pain I felt cannot be described. My hatred for bad habits, especially smoking, was stronger than anything else in that moment. Infuriated, I crushed all the cigarettes and swore on her body that I would never start smoking. To this day I am honoring that promise and I am vigorously fighting against cigarettes. I believe that smokers will understand one day that they have to appreciate their health because they need to be healthy for not only themselves but also for their loved ones.
This essay was submitted as part of the Klima Bez Dima Multimedia Contest. Klima Bez Dima is part of the “Reducing Health Risk Factors in BiH” project supported by the Government of Switzerland and implemented by the World Bank in BiH in partnership with entity Ministries of Health, entity Public Health Institutes, and other local stakeholders. To learn more about the Klima Bez Dima initiative visit bit.ly/klimabezdima and sign the petition to support a smoke-free BiH.