The Death Certificate

Susan and her husband, Joe. Susan

Losing someone to a smoking-related disease is often a painfully slow and tormented process. We are angry at Big Tobacco, angry at addiction and heartbroken at the senseless devastation tobacco inflicts on those we love.

The statistics are harsh. Five million people lose their lives to tobacco worldwide annually. Broken down, that amounts to a death 8 every seconds somewhere in the world, or 13,700 people dying a tobacco-related death every single day, 365 days a year. Smoking Cessation forum member Susan (phoebemagnolia) lost her dear husband to tobacco.  She wrote this account as a way to begin healing from that loss, and hopefully to help others find a way to stop smoking before it's too late.

Thank you, Susan. Reaching out to share your husband's story was a generous gesture that will help everyone who reads it.

From Susan:

I chose to write a milestone post at my two year, eight month victory over nicotine. I have been attending a Grief and Recovery class to cope with my husband’s death this past October. I have titled it, “The Death Certificate”.

Line 30 of the Certificate of Death asks:

Did tobacco use contribute to death?

The certifier chose to place an X in the unknown box. I looked at the Death Certificate and gave a sarcastic groan. I am well informed enough to know that an aneurysm is a blood filled, balloon-like bulge in the wall of an artery or blood vessel and a risk factor is tobacco use.

My husband had four prior aneurysms until the last cerebral bleed ended his life. He told me once that he would never survive another aneurysm. The answer to Line 30 should have been a YES. Smoking was indeed a contributing factor to my husband’s death.

He was a smoker for fifty-six years, a Marlboro Man switching later to Winston Lights to appease me.

He would laugh and tell how he began smoking as a 13-year-old farmhand working in the fields during the summer months.

For thirty years, my husband battled lupus and other autoimmune disorders. His first aortic aneurysm surgery was followed by congestive heart failure, a thoracic aneurysm and two popliteal aneurysms.

He was aware of what smoking was doing to his health and yet he continued to smoke. In later years, the vascular surgeon would only briefly touch on the danger of smoking. The doctors realized that their advice would be ignored.

In November 2009 with his upcoming aneurysm surgery looming, I took it upon myself to be an inspiration and to quit smoking. I found the forum and typed for days/weeks/months on end. My husband quit for only a very brief time and resumed smoking after his surgery.

As the dots and stars accumulated for me and friendships were established, I regained a sense of normalcy. Later, I could stand back and SEE what nicotine addiction did to him. I hated the smell.

I hated when he came in from outside reeking of stale cigarette smoke. I tried to understand WHY he could not quit. If I could do this, why couldn’t he? I became angry at the cigarettes, the addiction and the tobacco companies.

During the last ten months, I have come to the conclusion that it is all about the word ADDICTION and its strength or hold upon each one of us. I attribute the forum and my forum friends to my recovery and will be grateful all of my life.

This may not be an uplifting milestone post to many, but it is one of healing for me. It is written so that I may share the pain of losing someone who was unable to stop smoking. I lost a man I loved after forty-two years of marriage.

Yes, I am angry at cigarettes. I am angry that I did not see the “light” sooner for my own well-being. May his death be a “call out” to just ONE person who reads this with the hope they will begin a journey with us where they will find “freedom” away from the addiction.


Two years, eight months, one week, five days. 19,689 ciggies not smoked.

Continue Reading