A Blunt Reminder

I recently joined Facebook and after receiving a surprise message from an old friend, I decided to search Facebook for other people I’ve known. I have a master’s in psychology, and I always got along with the professors. One of my favorites was the social psychology professor, Charles, or as we called him, Charlie. He helped me get into a doctoral program in education, though he really wanted to see me in social psychology research, like him. He was outgoing, brilliant, demanding, yet fair. When I taught, he was one person I tried to emmulate.

After a tough year that peaked with my diabetes diagnosis, I stopped in to visit my old friends. I thought I would surprise them, having lost a great deal of weight, but it was Charlie who surprised me. Charlie had also lost some weight, and was looking good, but that wasn’t his only surprise. He had also developed diabetes, though he had more classic type 2. At that time, Charlie was having some difficulty keeping his bgs in range, but he was confident he could learn to manage his diabetes. That was 17 years ago.

Life moved on and we lost touch. Considering he was close to my parents’ age, I didn’t think anything of not keeping in touch. He’d be around. Tonight, I am regretting that decision. Tonight, while looking for friends on Facebook, I put Charlie’s name into a search, which came back with a disturbing result: Charlie died last year, of what was described as a “short illness”. While of course it would be arrogant and wrong-headed to say that his death was 100% related to his diabetes, I believe diabetes had to have played a role.

His death has really hit me. While he may have been my teacher, he was a friend. We laughed, debated theories of social interaction (especially one of his favorite topics at that time, “Basking in Reflected Glory”), shared beers together, and I made him proud at a lecture when I was able to stump an up-and-coming social psychologist with a well-thought-out question. It’s also he was the first person I met with diabetes after my diagnosis, and he was diagnosed at the same time as I was. He was part of my “diabetes cohort”, people who were diagnosed at around the same time. It’s a blunt reminder, at least for me, that diabetes cuts life short, even if you are among the brightest in your generation. It’s a reminder for me of how long I have had this disease and of the consequences of it are likely to catch up with me. Sooner rather than later.

From the death of the old the new proceeds, and the life of truth from the death of creeds.

  • John Greenleaf Whittier
    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I have also recently lost a college classmate-friend for 11 years…due to cardiac arrest. Its funny when we think that our friends will always be there… and a tragic lost and sadness when they are taken away from us unexpectedly…and the remorse that "if only we could have seen each other…"
    Perhaps it is indeed ironic that we try to live as normally and happily as we can with the condition…and yet in the back of our minds the possibility of death will always be there. But come to think of it…regardless whether one is diabetic or not…anything is possible. Probably that’s why we have a saying that goes “we have to live each day as if it were the last” =)
    Again, so sorry for your lost…

“we have to live each day as if it were the last” - AND "as though we will live forever "- is the gist of the rest of the saying. I think of this often especially with diabetes along for the ride.

Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.

Fair Winds,

Thank you, Teena and Mike. I know part of my frustration last night was that the university did not include this information in the alumni magazine. He’s been gone now for over a year and I just found out!

The other part of my frustration is the razor-thin line we walk with diabetes. How much should we emphasize the “sick” part of our disease (disorder, condition, whatever you want to call it) and how much should we emphasize the “we’re just like anyone else” aspect? Personally, I struggle to find a balance between them. I don’t want to sound “doom and gloom”, but at the same time, the reality is that as long as diabetes is seen as “just a little sugar problem” or something you can live with, I fear what little perceived need for a cure currently exists will be swallowed up by apathy.