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?
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
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.