His Last Cigarette

Usually at around 7-8 pm in the evening, the same man across the street comes outside of his apartment to sit out on the stoop and smoke a cigarette. He’s probably in his late 30’s, receding blondish hairline, attractive face and slim build. I can see him sitting there, arms folded upon his bended knees, deep in thought. Sometimes I wonder if he just needs to get away from his wife and family or if he’s not allowed to smoke in his apartment. Other times, I think he’s most likely hiding the fact that he still smokes while promising the wife he had quit a long time ago. Whatever the reason may be: this is his time. Maybe this is his only time to just sit in peace and stare out into space thinking about what could have been or what should have been, or even, how very lucky he is right now. The last option is usually not the case.

I find myself doing the same thing right outside my own deck.  I stare out into space, but my thoughts are full of gratitude.  I don’t have much, but what I do have is worth all the gold in the world to me. I’ve always wanted a wife who I could call my best friend.  I’ve always wanted to live in a busy community right in the center of everything.  I don’t prefer living in seclusion.  I did it all my life.  It was beautiful, but not for me.  

I think about my past and how it has helped me grow and learn so I could become a better person today. I’m still not there yet, and still have so much to learn. I’m thankful for every single person that has come in and out of my life - even if they are no longer with me. It’s nice to know there was a ‘time when’ we used to share our time together. I prefer to look at the positive side of every relationship and friendship I have ever had. What if I didn’t go through this or that-- would I be different today? If that didn’t happen to me, what would my life be like right now? I’m a firm believer in the cliche that everything happens for a reason. It’s not a cliche - it’s a fact, in my opinion...which could be an oxymoron altogether.

Think about your life: where would you be right now if you hadn’t gone through a few of your most challenging times? All of the trials and struggles we go through are all to help us develop better character. Do you believe that or do you just get angry at God or the universe for giving you a bad hand?

Post traumatic stress is very common among many people. Some people have it and don’t even know it. Our bodies protect us - it’s the fight or flight response that enables us to hang in there the best we could. People handle and cope with things differently, depending on their fight or flight responses. You may ask yourself, “How can he or she do that to me?” or “how dare he or she say that to me?” Whatever the reasons are, it’s the way they cope with it all. To lash out is the fight response. To ignore you and flee is the flight response. To do both is a very confusing response.

Sometimes we don’t get closure. That’s “okay”. We don’t need closure in order to wish someone well and to move on. I had to learn later on in life. I’m glad I did because I’m content knowing that my prayers and well wishes are received, regardless if they don’t have a clue I’m doing just that. I have faith in God and my thoughts, words, prayers, heartfelt cries all go to Him. I don’t look to other people to handle my strife any longer. I don’t expect anything anymore from anyone.  So, I sit out on my deck on a warm evening and think how incredibly lucky I am to have gotten to this stage of my life: acceptance and contentment. Contentment, not being a negative word, but being a word of confidence in my lot in life. I like where I am. Would I love to improve? There is always room for improvement. I’m working on it.

While sitting on my deck, watching my neighbor smoke his last cigarette, I said a prayer that while he was staring out into space, he was also thanking God for his lot in life. I know the prayer was received - I have faith in that.   And one day, maybe he’ll sense all of those prayers and well wishes were sent to him from a complete stranger that evening.