Two weeks ago our oldest son, Aaron, was hospitalized and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Overwhelmed and grateful. That's how I feel. Overwhelmed at the speed at which it all happened - from an inquiry visit to the pediatrician to *bam* in the ER, diagnosis, overnight, needles, and tests, and carbs (oh my!) There's so much to learn and manage, I'm still reeling. But I'm grateful because the diagnosis was swift (no waiting or wondering) and his condition is treatable. While it hasn't changed our lives dramatically, it's required some permanent changes to Aaron's daily routine and it has certainly put a great deal of additional responsibility and work on my husband, Russ, and me.
I haven't written about it yet, or spoken about it much with anyone outside our circle of family and close friends, because I've wanted to avoid giving the impression that I'm complaining about it. I've been thinking weird things like, "well, I've accepted this so there's no point in hashing it out in front of other people whose lives it doesn't affect." Christ invites us to "take up our cross" and follow him - he probably could have added, "crosses are hard and you shouldn't complain about it, but you don't have to hide it, or pretend it isn't there." He certainly didn't try to hide his cross. As Catholics, we have the opportunity to learn how to "carry our crosses" in an intimate way when we pray the Stations of the Cross or meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. We have a model for suffering because Christ didn't hide his cross from us. Admittedly, we may often be called to be silent on points of suffering, but not necessarily every time. To accept something doesn't mean to hide it away. I have been confusing "acceptance" with "silence" and "sharing" with "complaining."
Aaron clued me in to my error. He is willing and happy to speak about his new condition with any interested listener! He's already using words that I can't believe he's picked up on - pancreas, ketones, glucose. He can explain a little about the different types of insulin he uses, the acceptable injection sites on his body (stop him if he starts to drop his pants to show you his backside, ok?), and the "free foods" he can eat to his heart's content. (We've been hard boiling a way more than normal amount of eggs lately...) He talks about it a lot. And he isn't complaining.
It hit me between the eyes when I was dropping him off at the study center he attends twice a week. We ran into a parent of his classmate and she casually asked Aaron what he'd been up to. His cheery reply? "Oh, I've been tucked away in the hospital for a few days." Tucked away??? He made it sound like a cozy retreat in a countryside bed and breakfast.
He speaks about it matter-of-factly because it is what it is, and more importantly, it's now a significant and matter-of-fact part of who he is. Sometimes it's difficult and stressful, but it is what it is, and it's about my son. Discussing "difficult" and "stressful" doesn't necessarily mean complaining about it. (I occasionally *ahem* may start to complain, so stop me when I do.) More importantly though, if I don't speak about what's "difficult" simply because it is so, what message does that send to Aaron? Um... not a good one.
We can accept our circumstances with grace and greatness of spirit. We can speak about them with grace, clarity, and thoughtfulness. We can acknowledge our difficulties with grace and speak about them without apology or feigned cheerfulness. Acknowledging our difficulties is admitting our reliance on God. The truth is, our life is changing. God may not offer to prevent these changes or alter this course, but he does offer us grace. Grace is the "free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God... the gift that God makes to us of his own life... into our soul... to sanctify it." (I read it in the Catechism, so I know it's so. CCC 1996, 1999) It's by the grace of God that we can accept the unchangeable, often sticky, circumstances in our life and say, "Amen. So be it."
This is our new reality. It's been stressful and difficult. I'm not complaining. I'm certainly not tooling for sympathy. I'm just going to talk about it because it is what it is and it's about my son. We've been blessed with our dear and amazing Aaron. He has diabetes. We will care for him. So be it.
PS - An afterthought - please do not suppose that I have just compared managing diabetes to the sufferings of Christ or even to other families who suffer much more than we at present. If there was a sliding scale of suffering, our current circumstances would be "trying" - somewhere in between "inconvenient" and "suffering." My musings took a turn toward human sorrow and suffering in general. We have certainly offered up prayers of thanksgiving that Aaron's illness is manageable and that he isn't suffering. And of course my prayers are with families whose sufferings are great, especially as regards the health of their children.