US man writes his own obituary to warn others against smoking

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Courtesy Sarah Huiest

A 66-year-old man in New York state took it upon himself to write his own obituary as a cautionary tale warning others against smoking.

Geoffrey Turner died of lung cancer on 13 February after decades of smoking.

“I was an idiot who made the same stupid decision, day-after-day,” Mr Turner wrote. “If you’re a smoker – quit – now – your life depends on it.”

His daughter, Sarah, told the BBC she was extremely proud of her father’s last “selfless” act.

“I was a smoker and even though I knew it may eventually kill me, I chose to deny the truth to myself,” Mr Turner’s obituary in the Albany Times Union reads.

Mr Turner was diagnosed in November with stage four lung cancer that his doctor said was a direct result of his years of smoking.

“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.

“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.

“Remember, life is good – don’t let it go up in smoke.”

Daughter Sarah Huiest told the BBC she was shocked when her father showed her the obituary.

“I told him that it was incredibly self-deprecating,” Mrs Huiest says. “He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘it’s all true’.”

The response to the honest obituary has been very positive, according to his daughter.

“Friends and strangers have reached out to me to say how his words were what they wished they had heard from their own loved one,” Mrs Huiest says.

She told the BBC her grandmother first caught Mr Turner smoking cigarettes when he was just two-years-old – and her father himself remembered picking up the habit at age four.

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Media captionHave decades of anti-smoking campaigns had an effect?

Mr Turner initially stopped smoking after marrying Mrs Huiest’s mother, but once he picked it up again in the mid-90s during a business trip to London, he did not quit until his cancer diagnosis last year.

But he never smoked in front of his children, his daughter says.

“All while we grew up in the 80s and early 90s, he would speak out against smoking and urge us to never start.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US say that cigarette smoking is the top cause of preventable disease and death in the country, with around half a million people dying from smoking-related conditions each year.

Mrs Huiest describes her father’s obituary as “by far the most significant thing he did in his life”.

“He always wanted ‘to do something big.’ I am extremely proud of the selfless act of this obituary. This is what he will be most widely known for and it is a great thing.”

Mr Turner is survived by his wife, four children and four grandchildren.

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