It is what we call here in D-world, another “Blue Candle Day.” If you are in the D-world, you know what that means. If you are one of my friends and readers who is not, let me explain: When a person with Type 1 passes away from a situation related to Type 1 diabetes, folks around the world change their FB profile pics to blue candles.
I don’t, only because my daughter and I communicate on FB constantly and I just don’t think she wants to stare that kind of thing down at this point in her life. Doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break. Doesn’t mean I don’t care, and care deeply.
Today’s Blue Candle day comes from the sad and sudden death of a high school basketball player. According to news reports, he had a diabetes-related seizure and died. Didn’t say if it was in his sleep or while walking down the street. I don’t know the boy or his family.
But I do have friends whose children have died. One mom’s young adult daughter died of kidney failure as they flew home – across the Atlantic Ocean – for her to finally get a transplant. Her last words were, “Mommy: hold me.” And that D-Mom did – for the nine long hours of the flight she had to endure after her daughter passed away.
Another friend had to listen on the phone as EMT’s tried to save her teenaged son as she rushed home from work. I remember her telling me “I knew he was going. I could tell.”
There are other stories too.
So then, one might ask: why don’t I keep my daughter at home, in my sight and under my constant care? I mean, wouldn’t always being with them and never letting them have to deal with diabetes on their own avoid some dangerous situations?
Well, yeah it would. And I thought about that long and hard – actually for years – before dropping my daughter off at a college 500 miles away from home a year and a half ago.
I thought about having her commute to school. I thought about asking her to go to one of the gabillion great Boston schools so she’d at least be close to me and to her medical team. (And theoretically I could hide behind trees in the quad and pop out and yell “have you checked?” every few hours. Tee hee). I thought about stopping time and just keeping her little and in my control.
But for some reason that line from “Shawshank Redemption” kept popping into my head: “It depends what you want to do. Do you wanna get busy living or get busy dying?”
Let me explain. For my daughter, going off to Washington DC for college has been a goal since, well, since just about forever. I think people in our town started calling her the Mayor when she was about three years old. Everyone knows her amazing political experiences already. When we talked about schools, she’d look close, but her heart kept going back to DC. Whether my D-Mama heart liked it or not, her way of “getting busy living” was going to involve going far away. And being out of my control.
I was lucky enough to have a really amazing new adult endo treating Lauren when that decision time came. Let me relive the conversation.
Me: Do you think it’s okay to send a person with her a1c far away to college?
Dr. Wonderful: Well, I was not aware they asked for a1c’s on applications. I knew they asked for SATs.
Me: Let me rephrase that. Do you think it’s okay to send a person with her low level of compliance far away to school?
Dr. Wonderful: Oh, I have a test I administer to see if that is the best choice. Would you like me to administer it now?
Me: (Gleeful!) Yes!
Dr. Wonderful: (Turning to my daughter and looking her in the eye): Do you want to go to George Mason University?
My daughter: Oh, yes, with all my heart.
Dr. Wonderful: (Addressing me again): I’ve completed the test. Would you like to hear the results?
Point taken, and loved. Because he was right – we parents have to find a way to take a leap of faith and let our children grow into the people they want to become in the place they want to be. Even if it means not knowing how her blood sugar is on a regular basis, the most loving, compassionate and caring thing I could do as a mom was to let her live the life she dreamed of.
So, what if something happened? (And don’t think I don’t wonder that all the time). Would I feel guilty? Absolutely. Would I wish I’d made a different choice? Probably – but that would be out of pure, selfish mother love. Look – I miss my older daughter without diabetes being around all the time. But I have to let her live her life too. I have friends who have done way braver things to let their kids get busy living. One young woman with CF and diabetes has traveled the world — without her mom — and is living a rich and amazing life. Another mom of a cancer survivor daughter let her go way down to the gulf coast for college — and had to hang tight and be supportive even when it all didn’t go well. They put aside their natural urge to keep their babies close and let their young girls live.
So my daughter is away, getting busy living. We talk all the time, and she’s really good about letting me know how she is doing (Even calling me to discuss how to handle a hangover with diabetes on board. Honesty: I’m all about it). She’s met a really nice guy whom she is dating now (and whom she told me could tell if her blood sugar his high by her voice so clearly he’s met Linda Blair Lauren once or twice lol). She did an internship this semester in government advocacy. She’s in a sorority. She has a million friends. She knows DC like the back of her hand.
She oozes joy every time I talk to her, and the few times I see her. She’s in love with her life. Is her diabetes care the way it would be if I ruled her world? No. But she’s moving toward making it better. And she’s happy. About as happy as any human can be.
So when I see Blue Candle Days like today, I worry for the newer D-Moms (and dads). We didn’t used to be able to instantly share like this. I’m sure when my daughter was younger this was all happening too. I totally get that it makes you hold your child closer and want to keep them close to you longer.
But when the time comes and your child wants to do something exciting and adventurous and age appropriate in a way that will not allow you to be their immediate safety net, I hope you can think long and take a leap of faith.
So the first day we dropped my daughter off at college, the last thing I said to her was “I just need to know you wake up safe every morning. Anything ….. even a quick text, would be great.”
The next morning, back hom 500 miles away, my cell buzzed that a new text had arrived. I scrambled for my glasses and read it.
“Good morning, mom! Just wanted to let you know I’m not dead!”
That girl can make a joke out of anything. I’m proud – and thrilled – that she’s getting busy living.
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