My father’s brother has died; today, Dad is in New York for Will’s funeral. When I was born, my father had 10 siblings: Hank, Theresa, Jeanne, John, Ed, Doris, Claire, Bernard, Will and Beth.
Now there are three; Beth, Bernard and Dad.
When you’re the penultimate kid in a family with 11, I guess this is how it works. What must be the hardest part to handle for my dad is that Will is the third sibling to die within the space of a year.
10 of the 11 lived with diabetes suffering one or more effects: renal (kidney) failure, blindness, amputations and heart disease. Diabetes has been killing off members of my family for as long as I can remember. This is a disease that makes me feel angry, sad and helpless. It’s painful to know with a degree of certainty that diabetes will in some way, be the cause of death of both of my parents. My mother has had Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, for over 40 years. My father lives with Type II, as had most of his family.
My uncle Will had been declining in health for some time; we knew the end was near. 10 years older than my father, I know him as the brother who would take my dad to ball games. For my dad, with his lifelong love of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals in particular, this is significant. Today I’m thinking of the two of them at a baseball game, at ages 11 and 21, maybe, or seven and 17. I’m also thinking of the reunion in heaven, which is certainly where those who suffer as they have go; I imagine them sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal together, eight of them, reunited with their parents, for once enjoying a meal without thinking of insulin, blood sugars, medication and long-term effects of a disease beyond a cure in their lifetimes.
For a long time I have been a supporter of the American Diabetes Association. Its mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. If you or someone you know is living with the disease I encourage you to learn more about it, and support the ADA. My dream is that no one else in my family will be taken away or suffer as a result of this disease. Enough is enough.