Geoffrey Turner knows that his addiction to cigarettes killed him, but sadly the lesson came too late.
Turner, who claimed he began smoking at age four, wrote a moving open letter to other smokers urging them to drop the habit. And his message is especially meaningful - because it came from beyond the grave.
The 66-year-old New Yorker wrote his own eulogy before his death earlier this month, using it as a final warning to smokers not to make the same mistakes he did.
His obituary in the Albany Times Union described being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last November, and Turner put the blame for his condition squarely on his own shoulders.
"I was an idiot who made the same stupid decision, day-after-day, multiple times per day. I was a smoker and even though I knew it may eventually kill me, I chose to deny the truth to myself," he wrote.
"The pain and suffering I caused my family was not worth the perceived ‘satisfaction’ that really did nothing more than waste money, separate me from my family, and eventually destroyed my body."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a number of deadly health effects from regular smoking:
- Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable deaths in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths each year, or almost one in five deaths.
- Smoking increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer, or suffering a stroke.
- Smokers are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels, as well as respiratory diseases of the lungs. (Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America.)
- Smoking can damage almost any organ in the body, and can cause cancer in almost any part of the body.
Turner is survived by his wife of more than four decades, five children, and four grandchildren. And while they made his life better, Turner’s eulogy acknowledges how many moments with his family smoking took away from him.
"At 66 years old, I lived a decent life, but there are so many events and milestones I will not be able to share with my loved ones," he wrote.
"The moral of this story — don't be an idiot. If you're a smoker — quit — now — your life depends on it and those that you love depend upon your life."
"Remember," he signed off, "life is good - don’t let it go up in smoke."
Turner’s daughter Sarah Huiest told Today she was as surprised by her dad’s obituary as everyone else, but grateful for the many positive responses it received.
"Many people, friends and strangers, have reached out to us regarding his words," she said. "I heard from someone who said that they may be one of those reached before it’s too late."
She revealed that her father quit for some years before picking up the habit again in the ‘90s, and warned his family members to never adopt the habit.
"He knew how much the family did not like it," she said, "and he was vocal while we were growing up that smoking was bad and to never start."
Turner even made a half-hearted attempt to quit smoking just a few months before his fatal diagnosis. While his realization came too late, hopefully his words will inspire others to finally break their habit.