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Man who died of lung cancer wrote his own obit begging others not to smoke

Geoffrey Turner was diagnosed with lung cancer late last year and knew smoking robbed him of living a longer life.
/ Source: TODAY

Geoffrey Turner may no longer be with us, but he still has something to say.

The 66-year-old man from Latham, New York, who died on February 13, wrote his own obituary, which he used as a warning to others not to smoke.

Turner, whose obituary appeared in the Times Union newspaper, had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last November and harbored no illusions about his death.

In the obituary he wrote, Geoffrey Turner begged people to avoid his mistakes and stop smoking.
In the obituary he wrote, Geoffrey Turner begged people to avoid his mistakes and stop smoking.Sarah Huiest

"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 said in the obituary’s opening.

Turner said lighting up came at a cost to him and his loved ones.

“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.”

And while Turner, who left behind a wife of 41 years, along with five children and four grandchildren, acknowledged the positive aspects of his life, he readily admitted smoking deprived him a chance to experience even more.

“I did many good things, helped lots of people, and even made a decent living,” he wrote. “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. 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, life is good — don't let it go up in smoke," he added.

Turner's daughter, Sarah Huiest, says she and her siblings did not know their father would pen this kind of obituary and are amazed at the response.

"Many people, friends and strangers, have reached out to us regarding his words," she tells TODAY. "For some, it is the words they wish they had heard from loved ones passed — family members that could never admit their smoking led to their illnesses. I heard from someone who said that they may be one of those reached before it’s too late. And I have seen hundreds of times that it has been shared in the hopes of compelling someone to quit."

Huiest says that family legend has it her dad first grabbed one of his mother's cigarettes when he was 2 years old and he recalled smoking as early as 4. "He smoked from then until age 24 when he married my mother."

Turner would pick up the habit again during a business trip to London in the 1990s, although he never smoked in his house and often told his loved ones not to follow his lead.

"He knew how much the family did not like it, and he was vocal while we were growing up that smoking was bad and to never start," Huiest said.

She also says while her father knew the dangers of smoking, he never made a true attempt to quit.

"He discussed trying to quit last summer with my mom (before his diagnosis), but didn't put forth much effort at all," she said. "She tried to get him to quit smoking often, but he was very headstrong and there was very little discussion in the matter."

In the end, Huiest believes her dad's last words are a gift that outshine anything else he may have accomplished.

"My father prided himself on his many entrepreneurial ventures, various business successes, and world travels," she said. "Those are the things I expected to read in his obituary. I never expected it to be what it was and it is this single act from his life that I am most proud of. Someone told me he was changing his legacy with this obituary, and I couldn't agree more."