Choices and Judgements

I’m going to start this post with a little bit of a caution.  I’m in Momma Bear mode.  So, if you dare, read on.

My family is pretty open about our lives and we know with that comes a risk-  a risk people will judge – a risk people will criticize.  We know that and we accept that…but sometimes things happen or are said that I think need to be addressed.  Today I am addressing one of those things.

Throughout Kramer’s illness, and passing and even to this day, we get comments in regards to Kramer smoking and other members of our family smoking.  I’d like say this to anyone who has ever said anything in regards to people in my family smoking and that they should quit…your comment is not helpful.

My husband Kramer smoked.  Yes he died of lung cancer.  Would he have died from lung cancer if he hadn’t smoked?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We don’t know for positive.  Likely he would have.  The type of cancer he had is more common in people who smoke but people…it was his life and his choice.  (I know a whole bunch of you are rolling your eyes and are chiming in about second hand smoke.  You’re all ready to tell me that his choice could be forced on me because of second hand smoke.  Not the case with Kramer.  If I asked him not to smoke he didn’t.  He never smoked in the house….also, I had two legs that worked and I could walk away from him at any moment.  This is my circumstance.  I realize others of you might not be able to walk away but this is about my family..so that’s who I am referring to in all of this).

When Kramer died we had his celebration of life.  We were at the party for Kramer and someone our family knows walked up to one of my kids and started saying things like this, “It’s to bad your Dad smoked.  You’d have thought he knew better.  I told him that is wasn’t good for him.  He really should have listened.”

My kid, who the lady told that to, stayed really composed.  They didn’t say:
-this is none of your business
-this is not the time or place for you to say this
-we really could care less about your opinion
-You are not helpful
-Look in the mirror and when your life is perfect, let’s talk
But when my child got home from burying their father…after all the other people had left.  They told me what happened.  They had a good cry.  Several of us were crying over her willingness to interject her opinion into our lives.  Thanks lady.  You missed your target audience.  Your target audience is dead and in the grave.

Well things have gone on from there….People have started to make comments in regards to others in our family who smoke and still do.  We’ve heard things like “after his father in law passed away Craig should know better that to smoke”….or this one “maybe Craig should consider quitting smoking”.  Things have been said to Jason and Buck too.  Things have been said to all of us about all of them.  People have no filter.  Yes.  They all smoke….and do you know what?  It’s their business if they do or don’t.

I would like to ask the people who say these things…
-have you ever had an addiction
-have you ever been nagged
-have you ever looked in the mirror

Kramer smoked when we got married.  I did too.  I quit and started and quit and started.  I didn’t smoke while I was pregnant but did when I wasn’t until I quit for good when I found out I was pregnant with Buck.  I remember trying to quit.  I remember how hard it was not to start after Buck was born.


I married a smoker.  I picked him.  I’d pick him again and again and again…even knowing the ending…even knowing I’d be a widow at 53.

Cigarettes are addictive.   If you haven’t had an addiction yourself, you may have known someone with one….you may have a family member with an addiction.  Addictions never end…they are on going.  If you would talk to someone who has quit smoking for 5 years, they will tell you they are still tempted…even me 30 some years later.  The time has been right, the situation perfect..and the thought that “I could go for a cigarette” still pops in my brain.

Through our 32 years together Kramer tried to quit smoking about a dozen times.  One time he quit for over a year.  He started again.  I was so angry.  We had the talks about him quitting smoking about every other month.  I told him I loved him.  I told him I didn’t want him to risk his health.  I told him I wanted our grandkids to have a grandpa.  I told him about lung cancer.  Guess what?  IT DIDN’T WORK.  Nagging doesn’t work.  Nagging just took me away from him. Nagging just made me look like a bag.  Kramer wasn’t ready to quit. Nagging didn’t work.

I ask you…how responsive are you to nagging?  Does nagging make you want to jump up and do whatever you’ve been nagged about?  NO.


After Kramer was diagnosed with Lung Cancer someone close to me decided to stop smoking.  They tried.  They failed.  One day they were on the phone talking to me about it crying.  The person was crying because they knew better.  They knew they should quit smoking.  They knew that there was a chance they could get lung cancer.  They knew it was expensive.  They were crying because they knew all of this and still couldn’t quit.  After the call Kramer asked who it was.  I told him and told him about the crying and the situation.  Kramer just shrugged and said, “They aren’t ready and if they aren’t ready, it won’t work.”  Kramer spoke the truth.  This is addiction.

Another point I’d like to make in all of this:  Before people decided to give their “friendly” advice PLEASE LOOK IN THE MIRROR.  Everywhere, everyday we are warned:
-don’t text and drive.  People still take the risk and do.
-wear sunscreen. People still take the risk and don’t.
-drink water and water and water.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-drive the speed limit.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-eat fruits and veggies.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-read to your kids so they’ll be readers.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-don’t work too much.  People still take the risk and do.
-exercise. People still take the risk and don’t.
-we’re ruining our planet.  People still don’t manage their footprint.
-manage your stress.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-get the recommended amount of sleep.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-change the batteries in your smoke alarm.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-wear your seatbelt.  People still take the rick and don’t.
-get a regular physical.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-keep a good body image.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-be kinder to a spouse.  People still risk divorce and don’t.
-manage your mental health.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-don’t drink too much pop.  People still take the risk and do.
-get along with your family.  People still take the risk and don’t.
-manage your weight.  People still take the risk and don’t.

The list could go on and on for forever.

For me, high on the list is take better care of yourself with your diabetes.  I still have treats.  I’m adore to chocolate.  I have a small piece most nights.  I know the risks.  I know I could end up on insulin.  I also know how good bread tastes to me.  I also am willing from time to time to spin the wheel and take the risk.  I play the odds…I think what can this one piece of pizza do to my blood sugar…and do I really care….Or I think, I’ll do better tomorrow.  I’ll write down what I eat.  I’ll balance it with exercise. I’ll eat more fruits and veggies.  But do I?  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.  It’s my body.  It’s my brain.  It’s my risk.  Leave me to it.  It’s my business.

I think we all have something in our lives that we are trying to manage whether it’s smoking, drugs, not managing our stress, or diabetes.  Sometimes it goes good.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  These are some of the big things we risk that we can almost see the results of in front of our eyes and for some reason, people feel the need to judge others about rather than look in the mirror and see what they themselves should be managing in their own life.  Someone will be quick to ask me “should you really have that dessert”.  In reality we all have something of our own we should be managing rather than Craig’s smoking or my eating a dessert.  We all have room for improvement….EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US…me included.

About four years ago, I quit nagging Kramer about his smoking.  I decided it was his life…it was his business.  I decided unless I was willing to let him nag me about any of the issues I have, I had no business nagging him.  I’m so glad I did.

…but back to my diabetes.  A few days after Kramer passed away, I had a doctor’s appointment.  I have my A1C take and my blood sugar was high and went into the unmanaged category.  My doctor didn’t lecture me.  She didn’t make me feel bad.  She said, “You had a lot going on and it’s perfectly understandable that you did what you had to do when Roger was sick.  How about you take a chance to do a little better and we’ll check you in 3 months.”  We did….  Sweetness and understanding go so much further than nagging.  Judgemental opinions would have not been effective at all.  I would have railed against it.  My blood sugar is back in the managed category.  Sweetness and understanding from my doctor made a lot of difference.

When Kramer was diagnosed, we were all sad but not one of us blamed him.  Not one of us made him feel terrible for ever smoking.  He did that to himself.  He did that often.  He spun the wheel.  He took the risk and it got him.  He paid the consequence.  That’s his business.  We could have blamed him.  We could have been rude to him for shortening our time with him.  But there is no way we would have done that.  We all loved him unconditionally…smoking included.


So please….when you are tempted to interject your opinion on who does or doesn’t smoke in our family….if you are ever tempted to pass along some “friendly” smoking advice to educate us, trust me, we don’t need it.  We have lived this.  I lost my husband.  My kids lost their dad.  My grandchildren lost their grandpa.  Even knowing this…EVERY SINGLE DAY WE ALL WOULD PICK Kramer AGAIN…and again…and again.  The life we had with him was so good it is worth the pain we feel now.  We know first hand the risk of smoking.  We have lived the consequences.  Every single day, we live the consequences.  So, instead of telling us what we should do, what we should say, how we should encourage to get our remaining loved ones to quit smoking, please walk to your bathroom and look in the mirror and take care yourself…I’m sure, if you’re human, you have something that you need to be working on about yourself.  Your chance of fixing what is needing to be fixed in you, is so much more possible than you fixing what is wrong with someone in my family.

P.S.  Kramer was diagnosed with cancer at the end of January 2019.  He smoked for about two more weeks.  His surgeon told him that he would recover more quickly from surgery if he quit smoking.  He quit about five days before the surgery.  He didn’t smoke again.  He didn’t complain about it.  He wasn’t tempted.  It took facing death head on to get him to quit.  That is addiction.  I pray you never know an addiction like this.

94 thoughts on “Choices and Judgements

  1. Jenny

    Hi my father died of a rare cancer he never smoked rarely drank ate healthy walked everyday I just look at people who comment and think cancer gets everybody please don’t judge as it could get you as you said it was his choice

  2. Daisy

    Jo I am so sorry you have had to deal with all that after what you all you’ve been thru this past year. My husband is 72 years old and has been smoking since he was 10. I don’t say anything any more either. He has so much wrong with him that is related to the smoking. He has about 7 specialists and they are all amazed he is still here. Taking a look in the mirror doesn’t hurt anyone. God has blessed you with wonderful children, grandchildren, and wonderful friends and family. I feel blessed to know you thru your blog and enjoy all your comments. Take care.

  3. Penny Holliday

    Bravo, Jo! Well said! I understand! I am overweight & have Diabetes 2. I am addicted to food & especially chocolate! Nagging does not help anyone yet I get too much nagging. I know that some of the nagging is from love & I think some is from a feeling of superiority towards me/others from the person doing the nagging! My very special grandmother was a smoker! Because she smoked she had several bouts of cancer & a stroke! I loved her very much & because I loved her I did not judge or nag her!

  4. Susan

    You said it well. Morbidly obese here, trying all the time. It’s hard. I hope my people would pick me again too. Hugs to you and the family.

  5. Brenda Fiedler

    Well Said, Jo !! I am a smoker, so I totally understand. It is so hard to quit. I quit one time for 5 years and could just beat myself for starting back again, but stress got to be too much when I had to start caring for my Alzheimer’s Dad. Now that he has passed, I need to quit again and it is even harder to quit. I don’t smoke in my home, and never have and it is sure getting cold outside. But like you, I sure hate to hear peoples comments when they see me smoking. I heard a lady comment about me messing up her air out in the open in a parking lot one day and I thought to myself, “REALLY”!!!!! But I realize it is a nasty habit, and I would like to stop. But when I am ready, not anyone else!!!
    Love and prayers to you and your family!!!

  6. Trish G

    Your family is loving, caring and kind and you hold this up to all of us like a beacon. I can only hope my family can be as supportive and accepting as you and your family are. Ignore those and feel pity for them who want to burst the happiness and joy in your loving family. You bring light into my life by sharing your life in this blog. Thank you.

  7. Jackie

    Smoking is like being overweight.If you are overweight (which I am) you are well aware of the fact and don’t need anyone to tell you. Smokers are well aware of the risks . My sister in law, who smoked for almost 50 years , said almost every morning she planned to quit then when she got up and her husband started nagging her about it she got stressed out and reached for a cigarette. She quit this year. So everyone knows the risks and berating people about their smoking is not helping them only adding more stress to their lives which in turn makes it harder to quit.

  8. Jill Klop

    Very well written. So true. I haven’t smoked, but can’t imagine how hard it would be to quit if I had. I’ve known people who have also tried to quit and couldn’t. I always try and compare it to not eating chocolate. I don’t think I could stop eating chocolate. I know it’s not the same, but it’s the only analogy that I can make. I’m sorry that people feel it’s OK for them to say things to you and your family about smoking. It’s a good lesson to all of us…think twice before you offer your unsolicited opinion.

    Thanks for your honesty!

  9. Annie

    Nowadays, people feel they don’t need a filter, that they can say anything without thinking about it first. I sincerely hope your excellent post will give folks food for thought. I too used to smoke. Thank God I have been off cigarettes for more than 40 years. The ONLY thing that keeps me from starting again is the memory of how difficult it was to quit in the first place, well after five tries. Hang in there, Jo. Non illegitimati carborundum.

  10. Lori Douglas

    Well said Mama Bear! Thanks for sharing your insight. Some people don’t think.

    Glad you have your own plan for cancer treatment. Enjoy time with your family!

  11. Terri

    Well said, I’ve admired the way you’ve handled all of your heartbreak. This is right on. Blessings to you andyour family. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Anne

    vVery well said. Something that needs to be said again and again in many situations. Everyone needs to just SHUT UP and mind their own business instead of trying to live other peoples lives for them. I might not been as kind as your child was People need to be called out when they behave like that. As for your diabetes it sounds like you are aware and trying . I believe in the concept of living till you die otherwise there is no joy in living. Have that piece of chocolate. and enjoy it. I’m guessing maybe Kramer thought that about smoking. I smoked most of my life- I have some lung problems now but I don’t regret smoking. I needed it at the time and I enjoyed it. It is what it is none of us will get out of this life alive. Best wishes to you and yours.

  13. Cindy F

    Excellent post. I hope that people in your family’s life quit commenting on things they don’t need to be. Life is hard enough without someone telling you how you need to change. People need to focus on the changes needed in their own lives.

  14. Donna T

    My beloved mother smoked for over 30 years but had quit for over 20 years before she was diagnosed and died of lung cancer. She said quitting smoking was the hardest thing she ever did. I agree with everything you wrote.

  15. Marilyn

    KRAMER STRONG yes we all need to look in the mirror. Thank you for sharing a powerful message. I need to stop nagging and your words brought many things to my attention. God bless you a d your family

  16. Stephanie Johnson

    That is so well said! I’m so proud of you!
    Everyone thinks they know what is best for others but have no real clue. I hate little comments of you should have done…. you shouldn’t do…. I’m so glad that their life is perfect and make no mistakes or have no stress.
    Your family is awesome!! Thank you for being you!!

  17. Debbie

    You are a brave and kind woman. You loved a man despite his imperfections…isn’t that what we all want? WE live in a society where we just dispose of imperfections…divorce, abortion…. Those who felt they needed to enlighten you or your family with their warped wisdom need your prayers. You have given your family the greatest gift of all….the knowledge that you loved your husband…their father …unconditionally!!!

  18. Donna Pheneger

    Thank you for your honesty. I know I’m guilty of giving unsolicited advice – just ask my adult kids.
    You know, I went to the doctor yesterday. Full check up. I’m ok except for being fat. They’re going to run the blood test gamut that they normally do with an emphasis on diabetes. So, I made the decision to start eating healthier. When I got home and told hubby, he told me he likes what he eats and won’t change. That’s his decision. And I won’t say I word.
    Thank you for the heads up on speaking out of turn or just keep it zipped. ;-)
    Love and prayers

  19. Stearns Carol

    Thank you JO! Well said. Would a person walk up to the casket of an extremely overweight person and say, “oh, if only he would have quit eating” . I never smoked and had breast cancer. My mother never smoked and had leukemia. Cancer comes in all different forms and who knows what causes it. And you have a good doctor! Hugs and thank you.

  20. Helenanne

    You are one powerful and articulate Mama Bear. Every heartfelt word you wrote is wise and fitly spoken and it’s very difficult to do that even when speaking the truth in love.
    So very proud of you that you were able to make wise choices regarding your own care during those first
    difficult months of widowhood and bring your blood sugars back into the manageable range. That is an ongoing challenge under the best of circumstances.
    Your words to each of us challenging us to look in the mirror and choose what we’d like to fix first about the person we see there and about how kindness and gentleness can work where nagging only separates us from those we love are wise words indeed.
    Thank you from sharing from your heart, this is a powerful message.

  21. Susan V

    Well, said. You know that question, if you found a bottle with a magic genie who would grant you one wish, what would it be? My answer always is for God to help anyone who wants to quit smoking to have the strength to do so. But, you have to want it. So, I pray for those people who want it. I failed at quitting three times till I finally succeeded. I wish for other people to feel the comfort that I enjoyed after that. But, believe me, I have other addictions and bad habits I am still working on, sometimes with success, sometimes not. And no, nagging would not do a thing for me. My heart is with your family.

  22. Debbie B

    Well said, Jo! I’m sorry you have had to deal with this. You are right, some people just have no filter. Keep on taking care of business. You are a strong and have a beautiful, loving family. Take care.

  23. Karen

    That’s why I love reading your column!! When you have something to say, you say it with both barrels and you tell it like it is!! This is exactly how I feel, but I have never heard it said so well!! Your children are so lucky to have you as a role model! We all are!

  24. Betty Woodlee

    Very well said. It would be frightening if I had to list all the things I need to change and I’m sure 99% of all other people have close to the same number.

  25. Ellie

    Well said Jo! Perhaps the people who have so much advice to offer are addicted to the sound of their own wisdom.! My closest friend was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at about the same time as Kramer. She had quit more than 20 years ago but it still got her. And she was a nurse! My husband and I quit nearly 50 years ago but I still wonder if it will get one of us. Nagging is useless and just adds to the stress. A person will successfully quit when they are ready. Something many don’t think about is that the quitting isn’t a one day choice. It is a choice made every day for the rest of your life.

  26. LindaL

    My late husband smoked too. I agree with you, I knew when I married him so it wasn’t up to me to change him. One thing I’ve tried to do in my grieving process is to not have regrets. You seem to be doing well in that respect. Blessings to you and your family.

  27. Lori Ebneter

    I am sitting here thinking about myself having made that same comment a number of years back and I have kicked myself thousands of times since. It wasn’t made in malice it just was an absent minded observation. Now I wonder if I should apologize to the widow or hope she either doesn’t remember the comment or has forgiven me. I come from a long line of people with various addictions and smoked myself (3 packs a day 30 years ago) I quit twice and was lucky to be able to stop the second time. I can say for a fact that the cigarette manufacturers have upped their game with additives to make it brutal to quit. I was hooked again after that first cigarette that I was so sure would taste horrible and I wouldn’t finish it. Wrong! It tasted just as good as the last one I had put out years before and it had me in its grips again. Now I struggle with horrible eating habits not because I quit smoking but because I have an additive personality. I am always one slip away from the candy bowl.

  28. JustGail

    “They aren’t ready and if they aren’t ready, it won’t work.” SO true, I also know from personal experience. It took me many attempts over a few years for it to finally stick. I’m sad DS is a smoker/vaper, but restrict my comments to asking if he still does. I know nagging will only kick in his “not the boss of me!!” attitude like DH’s nagging did for me. I’m not tempted to smoke, but I suspect the reason I hate the smell of cigarette smoke is fear. Fear that if it stops being revolting, it will start smelling good and I *will* start again.

    Now, if I could find the key to give me the same determination to drop my excess weight. I think that’s even harder, because you still need food in your life.

  29. Connie

    Dave is a smoker, he watched my dad die of lung cancer. Dad looked 90 the day we buried him at age 55. He too, went through some bad hospital days. I sure thought that was enough to make Dave quit. NOT! I read every post during Roger’s experience , out loud, and we sat on our stoop at night and talked and prayed for you all. I prayed for him also. No matter what I have ever said, no matter how nice or how frustrated I have said anything, its still bitching. He knows. He says enjoys smoking. And like you said its his choice.

  30. Anita

    St Augustine said, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. ”
    I try to remember this when I start to think that a person “ should know better ” when it comes to their “bad habits.” We all have our battles, whether it is smoking, drinking, eating poorly. We are all human, aren’t we!
    Thank you for sharing your feelings. It helps us all who read your blog daily. God bless you and your loved ones.

  31. Lorid

    I’m an ex smoker and the nicest thing someone said to me (A quilter friend) when I smoked, is, “If I can ever do anything to help, I’m here, You are important to me”
    The breaking point was when my 25yo son he would pay for chantix if I would try to stop smoking. I paid for it and stopped. It is horrible how truly additive it is!
    Much love to you and your family.

  32. Gayle Shumaker

    Well said. My parents were both smokers. Whenever anyone said something to my mom about quitting smoking she always said “you are going to die of something it might as well be lung cancer “, she did at 59 and my dad at 61. Both my husband and I were smokers but quit when I got pregnant for our oldest son. He grew up with non-smoking parents but became a smoker anyway. I nagged him and our daughter-in-law to quit and finally quit when I realized they couldn’t (many failed attempts by both of them). I know how I feel about remarks about my weight and autoimmune disease. Thank you for sharing your family with us. Hugs. Oh yeah Kalissa had a wonderful educational blog yesterday!

  33. Roxanne

    If only everyone could read this. How could they be untouched by it? People need prayers and love, not criticism and advice, no matter how well meaning the giver thinks it is.

  34. Kim LeMere

    Jo, I want to apologize to your family for all the unkindness they have faced over Kramers cancer. Lots of people have no filter. My husband smoked when I married him, I too tried years of nagging and one day I decided I did not like ME with all the nagging, so I just quit and accepted that this is his choice and there is so much to love him for, and I still do. You have stated it so well and I love your “mama bear warning”.
    Kramer Strong! and hugs to all

  35. Mary Ann Mettler

    Jo – Love your posts and wish I had known Kramer – Love to you and your family. When one points a finger – there are three pointing back at theirselves.

  36. Caroline C

    Very well said! I have learned not to judge anyone. We all have our demons… Every. Single. One. of. Us. I love reading your blog every day, and also now, The Pink Shoelaces. Keep doing You! Thank you!

  37. Jean Stein

    I was a smoker for 45 years, knowing the possible consequences, and now I’m 71 and suffering from COPD. I quit smoking 8 years ago, and it was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. Now I will confess that I’m not even slightly tempted to start smoking again, finally. Here’s what I used to say when people, even strangers, confronted me with their opinions about smoking — I used to ask them, “Do you love me?” That used to confuse them, because they didn’t figure love fit into it at all. They would usually say, “No, but . . .” and express the usual concerns. I used to reply, “I’d allow you to criticize my choices only if you love me, so let’s talk about something else.” It was slightly more polite than “Mind your own damn business,” which I also used to say occasionally. Until you’ve walked some miles in my shoes, you’re not allowed to have an opinion. Thanks for stating it so clearly.

  38. judy thompson

    Hey my adopted daughter from way backkkkk I am soooooo PROUD of you ……awesome ………you hit the nail on the head couldn’t of said it better ………..LOVE IT

  39. Carolyn

    Amen.
    You said exactly how I feel being married to a smoker.. he quits, he starts again. My attitude about it is as you stated. I need to lose weight and struggle so until I can manage what I put in my mouth, I have no right to criticize his choices in life. He knows better, I know better but…. addictions are something that very few understand.

  40. Linda White

    Ah, Jo, I am so sorry to hear that you are having to deal with peoples’ well meaning, but poorly thought out, criticisms and advice. It is always easier to see and comment on what is wrong in someone else’s life than to take a good look at our own.
    I quit smoking when I became pregnant with my first child and just never started up again. My husband’s parents were heavy smokers… there was always a cloud of smoke hanging in their home. Neither of them died from lung cancer. My husband once quit smoking for 4 years, then started again. Like you, I was so angry with him, and like you I soon learned that nagging was not going to help, so I stopped. He finally quit smoking when HE was ready, and not a moment before that.
    All three of my children smoked, two still do. They know the risks as you said. Nagging them isn’t going to help. My oldest son and his wife have both tried everything to quit, and so far they haven’t been able to. Now they are trying vaping instead of cigarettes… ugg, I’m not sure which is worse.
    I was a nurse, and like you, I know the perils and pitfalls… but so do they and it’s my job to love them and support them but I have to let them live their own lives and make their own choices.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and you are a wonderful example of women doing what needs to be done!!! Holding you close in my heart as always!
    PS: Have you thought of reacting to this unwanted and unneeded advice with a shocked expression and saying, “Really?!! I never knew that before! Duh!!”. Hope that made you smile just a little!

  41. Kristi

    My Dad quit smoking about 30 years before he died, but always said there were days if someone offered him a Winston, he would start again. While most people are well-intentioned, that doesn’t excuse their lack of consideration of your feelings, or your family’s feelings. As you said, you’re painfully aware of the consequences of smoking. My younger son passed away when he was 3 months old–someone at the funeral told me I should be glad it wasn’t my older son as I was probably more attached to him, since he’d been around longer. 30 years later and I still shake my head at some people’s lack of sensitivity. God bless and comfort you and your family.

  42. PamS

    Well said Jo! There are all kinds of addictions, most people have something they are addicted to that is bad for them. It does no good to tell a family member there loved one should have quit doing what they were addicted to.

  43. Robin Boggan

    WELL SAID JO! A friend told me her Mom always said “We all have are warts ” I love that saying because it is so true! Take care Jo!

  44. Elle

    I’m sorry that you go through this again and again. I understand. My Dad died on lung cancer (he smoked 124 pack years). About 3 weeks before he died he said to me “I wish people could understand how I feel today, but I know that’s not possible”. He knew I still smoked and I continued another 15 months after he died. It was simply a “I will not smoke anymore” moment. I also know if I ever have 1 puff, I’ll be smoking fulltime again. That was 25 years ago.

    To anyone who thinks it’s easy? Jo is right. Mind your own business. It is painful enough to deal with the loss of someone you love. Give support not a lecture.

  45. Andi

    Dear Jo,
    As a former smoker, I can also attest to how hard it is to quit, and no one can do it until the time is right for them. I am so sorry, I don’t know what has gotten into folks these days with insensitive remarks. Good for you for speaking up, and what you said was very well stated. Wishing you and your whole family the very best!!!

  46. Dianna

    I just read your post and was really touched.
    I am so sorry for your loss and the insensitive comments made to you and your family. It is not his fault he fell sick. It is not your fault he died.
    My husband died recently of cancer and he had the healthiest lifestyle of anyone I know. Still people tried to find a reason, something he had done wrong, anything except really feel their hurt and vulnerability. We want to imagine we are immune to death and in the process hurt those who only need love and support.
    I read your earlier post also, holding on and letting go. I saw myself in that post and the struggle to stay present and the pull to stay in the past where my husband was still alive.
    Thank you for speaking out. Our lives are all so different but all of us will share loss and a wish to be happy.
    Dianna

  47. Kathy Wilson

    My Ex smoked. Promised me he’d quit. got fed up with his lies, smoking and drinking. He died from throat cancer. Missed our kids’ weddings and first granddaughter. Husband #2 smoked 25 yrs and quit before he met me. 25 yrs later, he died from lung cancer. I have never smoked but am overweight and on medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

    Jo-your post today is eye opening and I thank you for giving me something to think about. Love your blog and hearing about your lovely family, warts and all!

  48. Ann S

    Hi Jo, My dad smoked from being a young lad to the day he died suddenly at the age of 64 and there was no mention of lung cancer on his death certificate. The smoking didn’t help but it wasn’t what killed him. I think Dad knew he was addicted to smoking and he warned me and my sister when we were very young never to start as he knew how hard it was to give up. Neither of us have ever smoked as a result of his honesty. I very much agree with you though that it isn’t helpful to nag people or even to make assumptions that people’s life choices will necessarily influence their fate. Family history, our genes and even working and living conditions all play their part in what happens to us in life. None of us come with a 100 year guarantee and while it’s all very well to try and be ‘sensible’ about everything we should also be free to enjoy the time we are given and not be made to feel guilty by other people’s insensitivity. Best wishes to you and your family.

  49. ColleenM

    Jo,
    People lack a couple of things: common sense and a filter. Think BEFORE you speak! The only people I give my opinion to are those that actually ask for it and the elected officials that “represent” (and work for) me.
    God bless you and your family, you have had one heck of a year.

  50. Carmela

    Dear Jo and Family – your blog today hit home! I’ve been having a pity party and doing the whoa is me dance and your blog smacked me up side the head! Thanks I needed that!! This morning I was so very angry at everything and everyone and I was praying for an attitude adjustment. THANK YOU JO! Your “sweetness and understanding” gave me the adjustment. You are a very wise person and everyone who is on the judgement train, get off before it crashes. There is an italian saying: who spits up in the sky, gets it back in their eye (sounds better in Italian). Judgement gets us no where. For those who must give us their advice (I’m one of those people too), take a step back and put yourself in that person’s shoes – do you want to hear your advice? We all need to be more compassionate and learn when you don’t know what to say to someone, say nothing. I’m sure if Kramer could do it over again, he might or might not have done things differently. But the truth of the matter is,there is no do over or undo. Instead let’s say Bless you Kramer for allowing Jo to share your story. Who knows when one of Jo’s readers may find themselves walking the same path and but Jo’s blog, now may handle things differently. Again thank you Jo (and family) for always sharing your UPS, DOWNS and the IN BETWEENS!! You all have grace that many of us lack!! Thank you!!

  51. Lace Faerie

    Amen! People seem to forget the pro-smoking propaganda machine. They had ads with DOCTORS recommending ASTHMA CIGERETTES! Nicotine is as addictive as heroin. And the tobacco companies knew it.

    My father was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer last week. My 79 year old father started smoking at 14. Quit several times, often for decades at a time. He started again after my Mama died, for 2 years. 6 years ago he quit again, cold turkey. I was there when he asked the doctor what caused it, the doctor told him flat out it was smoking. But…the doctor also said, “that’s done, it’s in the past and you can’t change that. So we go forward from here. You march forward and do what you decide needs to be done. Beating yourself up only tears you down more. Get up and go from here!

    As my late Mama always said, “Where, for the grace of God, go I. So before we step up onto our high horse, we do need to look in the mirror. And remember what my sister teaches in her 2nd grade class, Before we speak, is it helpful? Is it necessary? But mostly, is it KIND?

  52. Janet R

    People are thoughtless. Most of them mean well, they are just misplaced. I’m so glad you had the words to educate them.

    Many of my family members smoked, including my favorite sister. She drank, too. She died at the age of 55 and I still miss her. Those family members were in health care. They knew they shouldn’t…but they did. All we can do is love them.

  53. Janet B

    So sorry that your are faced with this kind of behavior. I love Ellen’s “be kind to one another” mantra. I, like you, have diabetes. It’s not fun. I’m a relatively intelligent person and I know what not to eat, but I love food. I pay the price with doctor visits and pharmacy costs. I don’t need anyone scolding me for eating a donut at church. People just need to remember, do unto others as you would have then do unto you.

  54. Terri in BC

    Well said, Jo! I lost my mother to lung cancer, definitely caused by her 44-year smoking habit. She had successfully quit just 8 months before her diagnosis. I often think in my head when I see or hear of someone smoking that they “should quit”, but I know from my mom’s experience how hard it is and keep my mouth shut. For the record, my sister threw her cigarettes out the day she heard of mom’s diagnosis and now, 20 years later she is still smoke-free. The three sons-in-law continued to smoke, but over the years, they have all gradually quit, in their own time and when it was right for them. All we can do as family members is support them and love them. My thoughts to you and your family as you continue to move through your journey of grief.

  55. jeanne anderson

    I am so proud of you!!…..there are too many busy bodies out there……………just remember all the nice people out there routing you and your wonderful family on!!! take care and hang in there

  56. gayle r tucker

    Jo, I see your point but I would like to point out these folks were not admonishing you. They were trying to comfort a grieving woman who just lost her husband to a monstrous killer. They were not blaming Kramer. They were blaming CANCER. And for you to say folks will choose their own times to make decisions for themselves is so wrong. If that is true, why do we preach to our children to avoid drugs, speeding, risk taking? We are using the benefit of our years or experience to give them a different view. The same as you telling someone a higher being(God/Jesus) is in control and would never give us more than we can handle. If you are speaking to someone who has not made up their minds on religion, they could interpret that as you trying to mind their business for them. You are simply passing on your belief they can survive and flourish through your savior. You have been through a terrifically difficult year and I understand reminding you of things that might have been is depressing.. But, most people mean well and try to find a common ground to console people with. Most of us are not good at it. Forgive us.

  57. Ginny Andersen

    Kudos, Jo, for your bravery and courage to stand up for yourself and your family! I am so often impressed with your eloquence and heart in your posts, even in the midst of such heartbreaking pain! Blessings and prayers for you and yours.

  58. Susan

    You are so right, Jo. Nagging or ultimatums will not change the behavior unless the person wants to change. People with addictions also may need help medically in making the needed changes. It makes me wonder what these people who make these comments are going to say to someone who has never smoked, but gets lung cancer. It happens. I also know people who have smoked all their life and never got lung cancer.

    I am sorry you have to deal with these rude and inconsiderate people.

  59. Becky Gilliam

    Oh, Jo, I am so sorry your daughters had to listen to rude folks like that. There is no excuse for rudeness and certainly that was neither the time nor place. I have met too many people who were former smokers who have become so obnoxious about others smoking, yet will readily admit they would never listen to the naggers. I am glad you had the love of a man you would choose again! Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you continue to learn to live without the love of your life.

  60. Dot Brooker

    Go Jo Mama Bear! So true, so difficult, so “kind” of well-meaning “friends” – do we need those people in our life? Having had a small stroke last week, I know what is right and I’m trying hard. But if my doctor says ‘told you so’ on next check up, I will not be happy. Encouragement is far more helpful than judgement indeed.
    All your family and all those (lucky) kiddo’s are on your side. Life is for living, we love you as you are.

  61. Susan the Farm Quilter

    You and I seem to have been raised the same way, and you have raised your children the same way…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Sometimes we need to overcome that training and tell people to stuff their stupid comments and opinions right back down their throat. In a nice way, of course! Occasionally my brain works fast enough, but most of the time I am so shocked by their comments that I am rendered speechless! Perhaps the proper response to all of these unbelievable comments is “Why would you say something like that?” If I could have a stock response and just pop off with it, it would be lovely. If I was a southern lady, I could always just say “Well, bless your heart” because everyone knows they are really saying “Wow, you are such an idiot”!! So many of us needed the reminder you just gave…we offer our opinions and advice, without being asked for them. We need to mind our own “beam” before we comment on someone else’s “mote”.

  62. Vicky in Bama

    I so wish people would think before they speak. Kramer was right. Unless someone is ready to quit they won’t quit until they are. You are right in saying it was all your choices. You don’t not love someone for their choices. Smoking is a terrible addiction. As proof by your replies most everyone knows personally someone that smoked or they themselves did. I did too at one time.
    There isn’t a one of us on this earth that doesn’t have some issue. My mama I guess had no filter. She said people like the one you opened your post about Jo should sweep around their own door before they go trying to sweep around mine,

  63. sue

    WELL SAID JO!!!!!, hope all is ok with all of you…..I smoked for almost 2 yrs in middle school/high school, ran track and cross country, cigs did not agree with me so I quit…..later in my 20’s I started up again, yeah, nope I quilt for good, not for me. I come from a family who chain smokes. Before my father died, I was with him and I had noticed that he was going through 2 packs a day, told my older sister and she noticed it too, yeah, we told him but did he listen, nope. He did not die of lung cancer, his health was going down hill, he got pneumonia, he was in his 60’s. I am sure he had other things wrong with him but I am sure smoking was not helping him at all….rest in peace to your husband and my father….
    take care, and DON’T listen to anyone………
    sue from wisconsin

  64. Judy

    I am sorry that you and your family have had to deal with such unkind comments from people. To paraphrase a verse from the bible, let him who is perfect give advice to others. We all have things we do that are not good for us and like I always say there are many people out there whose issues are hidden to us, If people are overweight or smoke they are not hidden and people think they have to give advice. That woman was so very wrong to say that to your child at any time but especially under those circumstances. It was really just downright cruel. We all need to learn to be kinder and put ourselves in others shoes before we speak. We are all imperfect.

  65. PJ

    A very close friend of mine died of lung cancer in his 30’s; he was a fitness addict, in great shape and never smoked. I smoked a pack a day until I was 46 then quit cold turkey on Great American Smokeout Day in 1985. Lucky me, I’ve never wanted to smoke again ever but don’t mind at all if others do. It’s a choice….many times it’s an addiction. I can attest to how difficult it is to quit once you’re addicted.

    Shame on anyone who blames a cancer patient or their family for causing their own death! My youngest daughter died of cancer and god forbid if I ever hear anyone blame her for her own death, much as she wanted to live.

    Carry on, woman, you seem like a sensible person who looks after herself and needs no one to give her advice! Ignore those who babble about that which they know nothing.

  66. Deb N

    I’m right with you, Jo. My hubby of 43 years has been a smoker since we’ve been married. He managed to quit for ten years at one point, only to go back.
    It’s also been about 15 years since I quit nagging. Only makes things ugly…he’s an adult, and just like with his diabetes, it’s up to him to manage. We all have our own rows to hoe. And no, I wouldn’t appreciate it if he hounded me about some of my higher sodium choices, lol.
    The older I get, the more I realize that it’s not up to me to judge anyone…I work on that one daily!
    Hang in there, Jo – you’re the best!

  67. Janelle

    I am sorry that people say unhelpful things. You are right people do make their own choices. You mentioned that someone in you family tried to quite smoking but failed. There are on line support groups, like AA but for smokers, that really helped one person I know quit chewing tobacco. He said he couldn’t have done it without the support from people going through what he was going through.

  68. Shirley S

    You are amazing about how you address topics that are so close to you. My sister just lost her husband of 40 years a month ago. When I read your post about letting go of items that were Kramer’s and deciding what to keep, I wanted to print that out and send it to my sister. She needs to know that others are with her in her journey of widowhood, some before her and some behind. You expressed the emotions so well! And now today your post about people who feel they have to “help” others with their challenges in life, eating, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc is so well said and heartfelt! No way to say it better. THANK YOU for reminding me that others don’t need me to tell them how to manage their life because when I look in the mirror I know I’m not doing such a good job at managing my own. You are a beautiful pearl of wisdom!

  69. Teresa M Evenhouse

    I loved reading your blog this morning, it was very honest and from your heart. I’ve been smoking for about 30 years now and yes I know the pitfalls and possible health issues involved, I don’t smoke in my house and freeze my ass off every winter standing outside. And yet nothing anyone says is going to stop me. When and if I’m ready I’ll do it on my terms, but not today. Take care of yourself one day at a time.

  70. Kaye Walker

    I am so sorry you have had to deal with people who have an “addiction” of opening their mouths when they should keep it closed and their negative thoughts to themselves. I’m sorry you lost your husband to cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer so I understand what you went through standing by while they withered away. I understand how your children feel losing their dad. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are all in my prayers.
    I used to smoke and now I can’t stand cigarette smoke. I can’t stand to smell it on people but I would never tell them. I’m sure they know. I tried for years to quit. I tried nicorette patches and nicorette gum. I tried hypnosis twice and I tried prescribed drugs. I tried cold turkey but nothing worked. I quit when I couldn’t go from one room to the other without losing my breath. I came down with another upper respiratory infection (I had several a year) but this time it was harder to recover. I knew if I didn’t quit I would be on oxygen before long. I decided I was going to try nicotine patches again but this time I was going to use them the way I wanted to use them. It took me a year but I quit.
    I think everyone should figure out what will work for them. They should try and try again. Never stop trying.

  71. Sally

    Well said! I retired 2 years ago as an Activity Director at our local nursing home I had been there 18 years. I was volunteering there today and a residents family member that has known me along time told me I needed to learn to push away from the dining room table as I was gaining some weight. Like I don’t know that! I never understand when people think they need to tell others how to live their lives. I always say choose kindness!

  72. Linda

    Oh Jo–my dad died of COLD …..and probably had farmer’s lung…I have heard it all….There are just unhappy people out there who like to make people feel bad….Hugs……..

  73. Mary Ann

    Lung cancer is the only cancer that people always ask if you smoked!!! No other cancer do people question. I completely understand where you are coming from. As you see, I am a 22 year survivor of small cell lung cancer. Yes I smoked for 30 years!!! I quit upon diagnosis………..to this day, doctors are surprised I survived this cancer. I was terminal and then after my radiation and chemo I was given 2 years. Tod a, I am 70 years old. I still have family members that smoke!!!Their choice……..people can say the cruelest things with no regard to how hurtful they are. They are the ignorant ones………[email protected]

    PS……..love the books you made for the grandkids…..

  74. Christine Cole

    Bravo! Thank you for reminding us of what is really important. Unconditional love. I have a loved one who smoked for about 35 years. She has a serious cronic auto-immune illness that the smoking made so much worse. She has spent years so, so, sick. That said, I wish I had a nickel for every healthcare professional that told her she really needed to quit smoking only to turn and walk out of her hospital room without offering her any options or help to do so. She had such severe anxiety because of her illness and the smoking relieved that for her. She never needed anyone to shame her about smoking as she was so ashamed of
    herself. She tried many times to quit, but you are right. Smoking is an extremely powerful addiction. In 2014 she was still struggling to recover from a bout of pneumonia that she’d had for about 4 months. After a scan revealed that part of her left lung had died , she had to face a 3 hour surgery to remove about 1/3 of that lung. She was so scared they would find that it was cancer. She had to quit smoking about 1 month before the surgery , and she hasn’t smoked since. But she says she still craves cigarettes and probably always will. Her life is definitely different than it could have been had she not smoked but every day I am reminded that she is a Child of God, she has been through so much and is tougher than I could ever be, and I love her because she is my sister. No matter what!

  75. Bonnie Lippincott

    I learned long ago that any addiction is hard. But the “quitting” part of addiction is only up to the person. When I was 15, I’m 71 now, my brother, sister and I harrassed our parents to quit smoking. We were relentless. I look back now and I’m horrified at how we treated our parents. My father smoked to the day he died, at 43, of a heart attack. My mother eventually quit, but her addiction then became the Altoids that was her “crutch.”

    Addiction to anything is relentless. Your family copes it with great aplomb. Love them for as long as you have them. Let them live their life.

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