When Heaven Has a Bigger Plan

A story of the stars aligning in the diabetes world

Michelle Alswager BioBy Michelle Alswager

A 13-year-old boy died on February 3, 2010 from his type 1 diabetes. He was a stranger to many then, yet now the name "Jesse" is known by thousands. It was the worst event in a mother's life, yet something huge was put in motion because of his death.

In 2005, I was working for a very small diabetes organization called Diabetes Sports & Wellness Foundation (DSWF). The mission of the organization was quite simple: Live your life well with diabetes. As part of my focus I spent my days finding — and interviewing — athletes in the d-world doing great things. Frankly, at the time there weren't that many out there. It was a new frontier. I found myself interviewing a young professional snowboarder named Sean Busby who told me about an idea he had for a diabetes snowboard camp he wanted to call Riding On Insulin. Together, Sean and I planned the first official Riding On Insulin snowboarding camp in partnership with DSWF in Wisconsin. My son, Jesse, found that camp — and the many that followed — to be the one thing he really enjoyed in the diabetes world. As the years passed, I left that organization but remained friends with Sean and continued to take Jesse to camp.

As the years went by, the camps faded. And in those years I started working for BRAVA Magazine as the Marketing & Events Director. It was a perfect transition for me "out" of the world of diabetes because let's face it, Jesse was tired of me constantly talking about diabetes. It is there I worked side by side with one Mollie Shambeau whom I deemed my "office spouse."

When Jesse died on February 3, 2010, I chose Sean to deliver the eulogy. As Sean stood in front of me — and literally a thousand others — he spoke these words, "Jesse was a gift that we got to borrow until he would be sent on to do bigger things. Jesse has enabled all of us to live on in his spirit and he will now always be our co-pilot. I am sure that Jesse has a mission for all of us and I urge all of us to find that mission so that we can live on in Jesse's spirit and memory."

I was numb that day and could only re-read those words years later. And as I read those words today, I'm in awe of Sean's prediction about the path we were all about to be put on. Scratch that… we were already on it.

On that very dreary day, my friend and co-worker, Mollie, met Sean for the first time. She sat in a church pew asking people where the professional snowboarder was. Little did she know that she would fall in love with Sean, quit her job, pack it up and move to Utah, and become Mrs. Mollie Busby on what would have been Jesse's 15th birthday.

Over the next year, Mollie would spend a great deal of time developing those snowboarding camps, creating a nonprofit status for Riding on Insulin and developing 18 snowboard camps worldwide for kids with type 1 diabetes and their families.

And so it happened in December of 2012 that I was volunteering at the Wisconsin Riding on Insulin camp that Mollie shared her frustration of being overwhelmed. The camps were growing and there was only one of her. She needed an assistant. Without pause I looked at Mollie and said, "You don't need an assistant, you need another ‘you' — someone connected, someone who can hit the ground running, someone who is passionate about the diabetes world and particularly this program." Later Mollie confided in me that my words left her in tears as she thought, "Who could possibly be THAT person?"

On a cold day in January, I sent Mollie an email.

"It's me," was all it said.

The response from Mollie? "It's you."

Today as I type this, I announce I am now the Development Director of Riding On Insulin. I will be working side by side with Mollie and Sean as we create more camps in snowboarding, surfing, BMX, and whatever else Jesse seems to decide is on our path.

I know with all of my heart that Jesse put all three of us on this journey. As Sean said in the eulogy, "Jesse was sent on to do bigger things." I have to believe that his death was worth at least this much, to guide the three of us to help other kids with type 1 diabetes keep moving and keep living large until that cure is found.

Thank you, Jesse. We're still your biggest fans.

Read more of Michelle's columns.

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: July 17, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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