He stood up in the back of the room, one face among many in a crowd of passionate parents and grandparents and spouses and even adults Living With Diabetes.
As a Diabetic Dad, this man had experience under his belt. Two children diagnosed decades ago, now living as Adults with Type 1 Diabetes. They weren't in the room, but their stories became pivotal tales that brought tears to many eyes in that room - mine included - and showed why it was important for every one of us to be there.
This father spoke, telling how he'd been involved since the mid-70s when his son was first diagnosed and how he and his wife worked to found the first then-JDF chapter in that part of New York. He talked about how they ride Death Valley to raise money for diabetes. But the diagnosis story he told hit hearts the most.
His son was diagnosed as a child, and life went on. You know, because it does.
Years later, a second diagnosis came into their world when their adult daughter joined the Diabetes Club.
Coming home from hospital with her, the parents found their son curled in ball on the darkened stairs, crying.
"She must be so scared!" he said between the stairs. "At least I was a baby. I didn't know. But she KNOWS what diabetes is like. She must be SO terrified."
I couldn't hold the tears back. That wasn't the first time, and it wasn't the last time during the four-day event.
This was one of dozens of stories that stood out that day, tugging at the heart strings and shaking tears from our souls as we felt those stories come to life in our bones. We heard from those who've lost children, grandchildren, siblings, and parents to diabetes through the years. We heard from those who Living With Diabetes themselves, who have led healthy lives and those who've faced complications. Those who have owned their D-Management, and those who haven't. Many talked about genetic predispositions, and how Type 1 has passed down through the generations.
In all of these stories, hope shined through: that someday, these stories won't have to retold by any one there or elsewhere.
"I'm here to make sure my kids outlive me," one father said.
Another offered a word to those fellow Diabetes Community members in the audience: "I am here for all of you because I know all of you are here for me."
The support among the kindred spirits in that room was, simply, breath-taking.
Among all those stories, even the most heart-wrenching, there was hope. For a cure. For ourselves. For those we love. For those who help us get through it all. For those we don't know and haven't met, but whose struggles we can relate to while wishing this all wasn't a reality.
So many stories, all painting the picture of what brought us together in Washington D.C. That was only the first morning, the introductions, of JDRF Government Day 2011. But it so epitomized why we were all there, together, as a Community. We had a reason that brought us all together. Even among happy stories of successful living and treatment that's evolved incredibly during the past 40 years, the tragedy of those we've lost remained in our hearts and those images of the pain and fear helped motivate us to do something.
Motivate us to do something that really makes a difference, telling stories so that others understand what this is all about and why research money is so incredibly important - that it's not just about a Walk, a Ride, a glossy Gala invitation. It's about something more, and we're a part of it. We're changing the world already, as those before us have done in their advocacy. And that is so important. It's what makes hope more than just some vague pie in the sky, but a tangible concept materializing from what we're doing.
"Hope is the most important thing you can have when you're living with type 1 diabetes," someone said during their introduction
I couldn't agree more, and am not only inspired by all the hope that's out there but encouraged that it transforms into advocacy and change for a better world tomorrow.
This blog post wasn't posted over at The Diabetic's Corner Booth, but feel free to stop by and visit and send some comments my way! Thanks!
Thank you so much for sharing this! I am so glad that you guys represented us at JDRF Government day!
BEAUTIFUL! Thank you, Michael. You have represented our community well and I'm honored knowing there are folks like you -- and everyone in that room -- on our team!