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In many traditions, we honor the departed by lighting candles. In some traditions, we light their way back to earth, so that they might be with us again, if only for a night. These traditions go back to the ancient Aztecs, Celts, and Slavs in Samhain and Dziady observances. The Jewish observance can (apparently) be traced to a quote in Proverbs. While Wikipedia describes a tradition in which Yahrzeit candles are placed on graves, I've been taught only to place a stone atop the grave marker, in the tradition of building an altar at the place a holy one is buried.
In the diabetes community, we have a tradition of candles as well. Our candles are blue, and they commemorate those of us who have fallen to that metabolic foe. It used to be that one could purchase blue candles through the International Diabetes Federation shop but they, like the blue circle pins we wear for World Diabetes Day, seem to have disappeared. I wish I could say as much about diabetes as a cause of death.
I've not had time to summon my wreath from the depths of the garage, nor the spare strings of blue lights I'd purchased to make sure I had a blue wreath hanging in my window for the entire month of November. It may not get done before World Diabetes Day, as my next two days off will be spent working the ING New York City Marathon and attending the committee kickoff meeting for the 2014 New Jersey Skylands Tour de Cure.(As always, you can sponsor me here.)
But back to those blue candles, angel-wing walk teams, sugar skulls, and so on.
American Diabetes Month, International Diabetes Month, and all the events culminating on the November 14 anniversary of Dr. Banting's birth remind us that every day living with diabetes is a celebration of life, compromised as it may be by highs, lows, pharmaceutical costs, and insurance hassles. And each person who has passed because of diabetes is a person who also lived, to the best of his or her ability, for as long as the deities permitted. The Mexican and Polish Day of the Dead celebrations I've read about are just that — celebrations — remembrances of the lives and the good times and the good deeds that our ancestors, families, friends, and neighbors gifted us with during their brief time amongst us.
So let us start this month of diabetes awareness by lighting a single, virtual blue candle in honor of those who have gone down this glycemically-challenged path before us, lighting our way — a beacon to those who have lost their way, or who have not yet found it — a call to arms to find better, more affordable diabetes management (or better yet, the cures). Let us consider this candle — this month — this awareness mission — to be a call to arms, to educate and bring awareness of diabetes to the greater community, to help others who are struggling to find their diabetes path, and to support those whose goals are to improve the lives of all whose existence has been marked by diabetes.
Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes. (Read More)
Nicole Purcell lists having type 1 diabetes last when she's asked to provide information about herself - because that's where it belongs. (Read More)