A Happy Movement

My sister died today.  Well, eight years ago today.  Anniversaries of the sad sort are always strange occurrences.  What the heck do you do with a day that marks such a difficult milestone in one’s life?

Baby stepping down the stairs, baby stepping down the stairs…. ~Bill Murray, What About Bob?

Each year has had its own challenges and emotional markers to get through.  But you know, when that endocrinologist walked into our examining room at Morristown Hospital and casually said “Your son is a type 1 diabetic,” everything felt like our world was crashing down all over again.  I suddenly felt like I could relate to the families of 9/11 who, year after year, are reminded of their loss in a bigger than big kind of way.

Grief kind of stinks in a way that it never really goes away, but with it also comes the fact that your memories of the people you love never go away either.  For me, it has been a matter of balancing the sadness with knowing my sister is never really gone.  There’s actually been a few nights I’ve set my alarm at 1 or 3am to check Brayden’s blood sugar and while sleeping through my clock radio blasting, I feel like someone is nudging me and saying “Keerie, wake up!” One of those nights Brayden was 69, a number that untreated for six hours could become very dangerous by morning.

Hey cowgirls, see the grass?  Don’t eat it! ~A League of Their Own

Jenny had a way of entering a room, usually with a Cindi-Britto-sized-burp and reciting some random quote from one of her favorite movies to start off her day.  Everything was fun and worth celebrating.  Her co-workers tell me she kept a candy jar on her desk at work in case anyone was having a bad day and needed something to make them smile.

The day after Brayden’s diagnosis my family came to help watch him while Julian and I went off on many de-briefings from educators, nurses and doctors so we would know how to care for our 14 month old baby with type 1 diabetes.  Man, it would have been so awesome if Jenny had been there.  She would have been living with the disease for over a decade at that point….

There are so many times I say to her “You’re missing it.”  Missing holidays, seeing what a funny and awesome little boy her nephew is…I’ll never have the lunches and phone calls and all the things that sisters are supposed to do together ever again.  Not even the stupid Hallmark magnets and plaques that read “Sisters are forever.”  My parents always told us that as sisters, we would always have each other.

What kind of plane is it?

Oh, it’s a big pretty while plane with red stripes across it…looks like a big Tylenol!  ~Airplane!

When it comes down to it, though, I have so much.  My amazing husband has a job.  We have a log cabin filled with a black pug and a crazy little boy who knows someday he will grow up to be Bret Michaels Phelps Rock Star Olympian.  My family is there to help us at the drop of a hat.  And did I mention I have an awesome brother?  He has his own business, owns his own house and only months before my wedding, stepped in to stand next to me after Jenny suddenly passed away.

“Happy Jenny Day” came about because I felt the need to celebrate Jenny’s spirit and have a positive, awesome way to remember her.  Jenny could never stand negativity and actually fought against it and avoided it every chance she got.  Every time I see a sticker that has cute bugs with smiley faces on them or her “fuzzies” she created with her best friends in high school, I smile.  And that’s what Jenny is all about.  Even though Brayden hasn’t met her, he’s lived in her spirit even the day after he was diagnosed with the same disease as his aunt.

There were many children at the hospital hooked up to IV’s and some seemed very sick.  A few times a day, however, a fuzzy little blonde baby

Brayden playing at the hospital

came around the ward in a red wagon or car wheelchair squealing and carrying on as if he was in Disney World.  One of the other parents commented that their child waited every day to see Brayden come around because it made her daughter smile from her bedside.  No matter where he is or what he is doing, even though he has some really big challenges, he is having a great time and celebrating life.

F-R-A-G-I-L-E….It must be Italian! ~A Christmas Story

It can be hard to be happy, especially with a disease like diabetes.  I felt really alone and sad in the early days of Brayden’s diagnosis and so I took the crappydoddles in my life and turned it into a blog in an effort to maybe find another mom out there who had a baby just diagnosed.

80+ families from around the world later, I think I found her and then some.  That’s the Jenny spirit!

I do, however, with all respect to the wonderful families I have met, need to say this…because I know every time there is a blue candle lit online due to a story of someone passing away from type 1, parents become very scared and worried for their own child’s safety.  I have come to understand over the years that what happened to my sister and my son’s diagnosis are two separate things.  My family’s story is not meant to scare anyone.  If there is anything I have learned from my sister that I feel can help others with diabetes, it’s this:  You MUST respect this disease and learn how to thrive along with it rather than fight it.

But, I think that is true no matter what kind of hardship life can give you.  If you let it destroy your life, well, then…you’re not going to be in a very good place, are you?!  But if you work with it and be determined to move forward, well, then….what do you think?   🙂

So whether it is a funny movie quote, a can of Diet Dew or just making a person smile, today is all about celebrating life and being happy every day, even if it’s just in the small things you do.  You don’t have to have known Jenny to join in the movement, but you do have to want to be happy every day.  It’s exactly what we’ll be doing today and what, I know, Jenny is doing as well.

Hi Kids!

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6 thoughts on “A Happy Movement

  1. Dear Cari…Hugs Hugs Hugs! I feel like you are speaking directly to me…but so do the rest of the Diapers and Diabetes mamas (and papas), too, I bet! Thank you for your honesty, thank youi for your courage, thank you for your humour. There is definately a lot of Happy Jenny in you, that’s for sure! Thank goodness for that…and you!
    xo xo xo Jules

    1. Dear Jules,
      I cannot cannot cannot WAIT for the day we finally meet, I think I might cry! We must have known each other in a past life because I feel like we know each other so well, I’m so lucky to have connected to a mom like you!

  2. Dear friend and student (of so many years past),
    I am smiling for you and for Jen. I understand what you mean and yet…………
    Dear girl I admire you, always have, thanks for making so many meaningful moments in the past and for so many more that are yet to be. the Best, Quam

    1. Oh, Quam, it is SO nice to hear from you. Jenny is the reason I ever made it into KT’s and I learned so much being a part of your vocal groups…thank you for staying in touch!

  3. Keerie, I am proud of how you have carried on so bravely, despite all that life has thrown at you. Your writing puts into words a lot of what I feel, but cannot say. I admire how you have changed our tragedy into help for so many families living with children who have diabetes with your blog. You are right; Jenny should be here to help you with Brayden.The two of them would be so funny together! Jenny is missing so much, but Brayden is the luckiest little boy to have you for his Mommy.
    Love you forever,
    Mom

  4. My 2 1/2 yr old son was diagnosed with T1 on march 19th. I just got thru our 2am check, not high enough, mom can’t sleep, you know The Drill. You’ve inspired me, comforted me. You have eloquently put into words exactly what I feel inside and just can’t yet figure out how to express. I sympathize with you and am in awe of your spirit. Your sister lives in you, but I’m not sure you see it. Please keep writing. You are making a positive difference in more lives than you realize. Thank you for baring your soul. Keep being such an awesome mom!!! You’re doing great!

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