I stood behind a man smoking at a crosswalk today, and it made me really mad. It’s not because the smell of cigarette smoke has become utterly foreign to me in the state of California and I’ve become accustomed to fresh air. No. It’s because today my dad’s best friend died of lung cancer, and this man in front of me was enjoying his cancer stick a little too much for my taste.
I just can’t understand it. As much as we know about the dangers of cigarette smoking, why do people continue to puff away? I get it for generations passed, because they didn’t know then what we know now. But now we just know too much to ignore the plain facts: SMOKING CAN KILL YOU!
And the rebuttal; “Well if this doesn’t get me, something else will” is a total cop out. And it’s selfish. Because it’s not just about you; it affects everyone else around you, most importantly, your family. And your friends.
I know it must be the hardest thing ever for someone to kick the habit. It’s an addiction. And the condition wouldn’t have thousands of programs and reality TV shows dedicated to it if it wasn’t a serious problem. But the reality is; it’s possible to quit. In fact, thousands of people do it every day. So it’s about a choice.
My dad made the choice to quit in his ‘20s when he was a chain smoking soldier in Vietnam. He said he quit “cold turkey – the only way to do it”. My brother recently quit as he took up running and realized that running and being healthy doesn’t jive with sucking tar into his lungs 12 times a day. The list of success stories that I know of goes on and on.
But not everyone made the choice. Or if they did, the damage had already been done. This is the unfortunate circumstance of Jon, my dad’s BFF and one of the nicest, sweetest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’ve known Jon most of my life and he’s one of those people that always had a smile on his face and a joke behind it. Let me emphasize; he was one hell of a jokester. If it wasn’t what he was saying, it was how he said it in that southern Indiana drawl that added the final effect to a well delivered punch line. I loved throwing back Bud Lights with Jon in the summertime, sitting on a picnic table behind his house in the southern town of Mitchell, Indiana, where most of my dad’s best high school buddies reside. Sadly now, Mitchell will never be the same to me. And it absolutely breaks my heart.
I wish everyone who curls that cigarette toward their mouth and takes a long euphoric drag could think about the very real scenario of leaving the party (of life) too early, while everyone you love is just getting their second wind. And you haven’t had a chance to do all that you wanted to do in life.
Don’t simply live in the here and now. You’ve got to make decisions that will impact your life in a positive way for the long haul. It’s never too late. I’m a firm believer that you can do anything you set your mind to. You never know what you’re capable of until you try. And try hard.
I just really needed to get that off my chest.
RIP Jon Allen. You will be forever missed.