Thursday, October 11, 2012

Diabetes is a Sailboat

14 years ago I was told to put my child in a sailboat, alone. He was to journey out to sea and I was not allowed to escort him.

You can imagine the fight I put up. I yelled and pleaded. I dropped to my knees and bargained with God. I had a fit. But alas, my flailing was fruitless...he was taken out of my arms and thrown into the boat. I was given no choice. He had Type 1 Diabetes and there was no going back. He could not stay on shore. He could not live without the was part of him now.

I watched the boat go out to sea and I cried anguished crocodile tears. The world seemed to be in constant motion, while I was stuck on pause, mourning his separation from the shore.

The viciousness of the waves were horrifying.

My child was helpless.

I was helpless.

I would have done anything to be on that boat. I willed his diabetes to enter my body so I could switch places with him. But that isn't how life works.


I was given two tools to help my son. A telescope and limited control over the weather.

I have vigilantly had my eye set to that telescope for 14 years. There have been long stretches when I wouldn't leave the scope. I wouldn't shower. I wouldn't eat.

I have had comments throughout the years that my attention would be better placed somewhere other than the boat.

What they don't understand is that my child is on that boat. My heart. My soul. How could I ever walk away from my scope?

My one advantage is, with insulin and food, I can sometimes control the weather. I can smooth the waves and bring him close to shore. On those days it almost feels he is on land with me. On those days we dance together and laugh, and joke that the ocean has nothing on us.

But other days the storms come in out of nowhere. The black clouds close in and the numbers ebb and flow with the powerful tide. On those days, I watch my son ride those waves and I spend the day at my scope...determined to change the color of the clouds. If his boat capsized...I don't know what I would do.

Sure...he is above water. Sure...he is surviving. But on the stormier days his sea sickness weighs so heavy on my shoulders, I'm sure I am going to run out of strength, and one day drown in despair myself.

My son has grown up on his boat. I am in awe every day of his constant vigilance, and his nimble control of his craft. He is an able captain now. He can hoist the sail, he can watch for the storm clouds. He can batten down the hatches. He can steer that boat away from immediate danger...he FEELS the sea. His intuition is inspiring.

Three boats I have set out to sea. It does not get easier. Every boat I have released has killed me a little bit inside. I live my life on the shore waiting for storms, hoping for sun...watching each and every wave.

It is exhausting. It is tedious.

But on the summerlike days, when the boys drift closer to the sand where my feet stay solidly planted...they hitch their boats together. With their boats abreast, we can sit together and watch the sun set on the horizon and know that we can do this. We see the other boats adrift in the ocean, and their resolve and optimism lifts our spirits.

A bit ironic that the most amazing views...the most amazing perspectives...can be seen only from a boat.

No, it isn't easy. It isn't fair. The children with their feet on land are behind us, ever present...running around with no cares.

They don't have an entire craft to navigate. If a storm comes in they can simply get in their cars and their parents can drive them home. They are not required to have constant courage or patience. They are not required to grow up quickly to take on captaining their own ship.

They are free to run.

Freedom. A gift my boys yearn for.

Freedom from navigating. Freedom from weather.

Diabetes is a sailboat.

Adrift in the sea.

The boats rock gently tonight. I can see my sons at the helms. Their silhouettes against the nights sky.

Each one, every bit a hero.

We pray that one day they may set their feet on the sandy shore and rest.

That one day they may find respite from their journey.

Type 1 Diabetes is a sailboat.

And 40 new sailboats take off from the shore, every day.

They aren't just boats underway with numbers in their wake...they are families lives, changed forever.

They are significant.

Every single sailboat is significant.

And every captain, an inspiration.

(I felt the need to revisit this post from July 2011.  Last night at the midnight check, the waves were smooth for the first time in awhile.  I looked at their sleeping faces and thought of all the storms we have weathered lately.  My boys are my heroes.  All four of them.)


  1. Meri, this is one of the most amazing posts I have ever read. Ever.

    You are a gift!

  2. I ditto Scott. Most amazing indeed. I wept reading, feeling your emotion while standing on shore . . . ahhh . . . WITH you. Hubby came in for lunch and asked if I had read about the sailboat. He said, "You will cry." Big shocker since I cry at the drop of a hat lately with EVERY emotion. But then he said, "I wish we somehow could be closer. Sometimes I would just like to hug those boys." (Insert lump in my throat here.)

    Me too. But I'd love to hug Meri. <3

  3. Wow! I'm speechless. You have conveyed what it's like so perfectly. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  4. AMAZING.... And amazingly beautiful & true!

  5. lovely Meri , thank you


  6. As an adult with Type 1, I have always given thanks that it is me with Type 1 and not my now adult children. Although it is sometimes lonely on my sailboat, I rejoice that I am there alone. I know that any parent of a child with Type 1 would trade places with me anytime.

  7. Yes, all four of your boys really are heros. You are too. I will be praying for smooth sailing to remain for all of you for as long as possible. I hope that you know what an inspiration you all are. I have never commented before, and it is long overdue. Our youngest son was diagnosed on July 4, 2011 at the age of 20 months. Since that time we have tried to get through it the best we can. At times that is done with a flourish. Other times, with a bitter sense of defeat. I am so grateful to people like you, who are willing to share their experiences, their wisdom, their successes, and their failures with complete strangers. You so eloquently put into words the feelings that I am not always capable of even understanding yet, let alone expressing. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. A heart that has ached for you and your boys as you've suffered such a tremendous loss. Your family is regularly in my thoughts and prayers. You are an amazing woman who radiates strength, faith, and even hope, despite being faced with the unimaginable. Yes, Meri, I would say that you are a family of heros, for so many reasons.

  8. loved it then, love it still!

    cruising along with minimal waves around here and enjoying the calm

  9. I remember this one, it's just as awesome the second time around. ~MTW

  10. Awe, love this, thanks for reposting this.

  11. You speak for all of us Mom's with kids that have type one, but you do it in a way so very few could. You put tears in my eyes. Have you ever considered publishing some of your blog entries in a book, it would be a gift to everyone going through this.

  12. This is brilliant, Meri. Absolutely brilliant.

    Love you!

  13. Meri, you have a wonderful power over words. Thank you for such a exquisite post.

  14. I couldn't have said it better myself - thank you for sharing.

  15. Thanks with regard to great post. Just I have to say: Thank you!; You need to know studless anchor chain.

  16. Wow! This truly is amazing. Thank you for putting into words how I feel.

  17. We are 3 years into our journey. My daughter was diagnosed when she was 5. I don't "lose it" often - I feel like I've been pretty strong for her and the rest of my family since she was diagnosed....but this brought me to tears. Tears of grief that are probably long overdue. I find it hard to describe to others what it is like to manage your child's diabetes....but this said exactly what I could not. It's beautiful and cathartic. I will never look at sailboats the same way again. Thank you!


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