A personal letter from Howard

Editor's note: Howard Buffum is turning 76 this weekend. He wrote this birthday message for his grandchildren but thought its message was one others could learn from.

To my dear grandchildren, Danielle (Vinelli) Buzbee, Seth Jesse Buffum, Jetta Grace Buffum, Jennifer Sheree Mattics, Wendy Jean Mattics, Tara Elizabeth Mattics, Kaitlyn Jewel Buffum, Kelsey Grace Buffum and Jay Howard Buffum, and to my latest pride and joy, great-granddaughter Carson Kelley Buffum:

Some time ago, one of your mothers asked me if I would be willing to write each of you about the dangers of smoking and/or chewing tobacco and snuff. I thought, how on earth could I do it without "preaching" and turning you off right at the start.

I decided, first of all, to avoid all the gross stuff you hear and see at school, on the TV and in the newspapers. You must be fed up with all that and, anyway, I seriously doubt that you believe it. Especially when you see all those fancy TV commercials informing viewers of the millions being spent by Philip Morris and other tobacco companies on all their charitable works.

Unfortunately - and tragically in so many cases - the only way you will really believe and understand is after you've been smoking or chewing for a long period of time.

Ooooops! I started preaching, didn't I? Sorry.

I started smoking when I was 16 - a sophomore in high school - and continued to smoke for more than 40 years - 2 to 3 packs a day unfiltered - until I was in my late 50s. I quit when my doctor discovered emphysema in my lungs. He told me that if I didn't quit I'd be dead within 10 years. It wasn't easy to stop. Back then, they didn't have all the helps which are available today. A hypnotist helped me quit.

For some time I got along OK except for shortness of breath, but I also got COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and had to have major surgery when holes began appearing in my right lung and then two more surgeries when the left lung began to deteriorate. In adddition, I was rushed to the hospital several times with acute pneumonia. Much of the time I've had to be on oxygen.

I thought you should have a little background so you can understand what smoking has done to me. (By the way, being around people who smoke can do the same thing to you and to your children.)

Before we all get together this weekend to celebrate my 76th birthday - and what a grand time we're going to have! - I want you to know that I have incurable cancer of the lung and liver and don't expect to be around for my 77th birthday.

And so, as we party this weekend, let's think only good thoughts and happy memories.

Oh, one other thing - and I admit it is preaching a bit: As you are attending my memorial service (hopefully not too soon), won't you please pray for the Lord to give you the strength and conviction to stay away from tobacco and drugs? He's there to help you if you just ask him. I simply didn't ask him soon enough.

Lovingly, your grandpa

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This document was last modified February 24, 2001 and is copyright © 2001 by the Winfield Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved.