Seattle storyteller learns to breathe through the smoke of his past | KNKX

Seattle storyteller learns to breathe through the smoke of his past

Jun 6, 2020

This story originally aired on June 29, 2019.

Sitting in an emergency room, trying to catch his breath, Paul Currington had one thought playing over and over in his mind: “Please, God, please don’t let my last thoughts on Earth be of my mother.”

They weren’t his last thoughts, especially of his mother.

Growing up, Currington’s mother smoked two to three packs a day — always enveloped in clouds of smoke. She had a volcanic temper, he says: “I would do anything to not have to go home so I wouldn’t have to show up in her crosshairs.”

But he couldn’t hide from the smoke. “What I hated most,” he told an audience at a live storytelling event earlier this month, “was I knew she was killing herself.”

Cancer took his mother’s voice, and soon after her life.

“In the month and a half it took her to die, my mother didn’t say a word,” Currington said. “It was the scariest, and strangely the calmest, month and a half of my life.”

He won every argument with his mom after that, he says. “Until that night in the ER, where her spirit rose up,” he said. “As I sat there gasping for breath I could smell those cigarettes, and I could hear her coughing, and I could hear all of those things that she used to say to me.”

In the decade that followed, Currington worked hard to avoid feeling that way again: he lifted weights, did cardio, ran a half marathon. And every time he was short of breath, the smoke and the voice returned. 

Hear Currington share his story, including how meditation and a “bad air day” helped him discover something unexpected about the voice speaking to him all those years.

This story was featured in a live event co-produced by Sound Effect and the Seattle-based storytelling series Fresh Ground Stories. Listen to more stories from the event in this episode, and in future installments of Sound Effect.