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Ghosts Of Christmases Past

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I was going through pictures the other day and ran across this one....

Sweets was 21 months old.  It was a Saturday.  Old Man Winter had spent the night and morning blowing cold snow our way.  There was no where to go...  so we made Christmas cookies!  Christmas music played softly in the background.  The tree was shining it's golden glow in the family room.  I pulled a chair from the kitchen table over to the island and Sweets, still in her footie pajamas, climbed up and wanted to help.

How much help can a toddler really be when making cookies?!?

Finally, I found the perfect job for her.  We were making peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses on top.  Her job was to unwrap the kisses and put them into a bowl.

She was good at this.  Very good!

I took something into the other room and when I returned, there she stood.  Bopping around to the music so that her little curls at the back of her head bounced up and down.  And for every kiss she would place into the bowl, the next she would pop into her mouth!

She had rarely had sweets before this point in her life.  (Shocking, I know...  I am sure you all assumed that since she has Type 1 Diabetes that I'd been shoving sugar down her throat since birth... right?!?)  She had recently discovered her love for chocolate!

She didn't know I was standing there watching her.  She was oblivious to her audience.  She just kept on going.  It was obvious that she was thoroughly enjoying herself and very much in the moment.

And for me?

I simply stood there and watched.  I smile now just thinking about that scene from the past.  It was so sweet.

You see, at that time in our lives, my only concern was that she would make herself ill if she ate too much.

Thoughts of carbs or blood sugar never entered my mind.

That was before...

Fast forward to this picture.

Christmas 2008.

These were the last pictures we had before.  The last ones where I can't tell.  Where I can't see it...

This was Christmas Eve.  Her stocking goodies from Nanny and G-Dad.  I can see it here...  It's her eyes...

You know, most of the time I see these pictures I can look at them and appreciate them for what they are.  Cute pictures.  Memories from the past.

Most of the time, my mind automatically puts up the wall.

My mind instantly tells me, "Don't look too hard.  Don't think.  It's nothing more than a cute picture.  Smile.... Now move on.  Now."

And I do.

Most of the time I have to.

Because if I didn't.... 

If I actually let myself SEE those pictures.  REMEMBER those times.  PLACE them in our history...

The grief would overwhelm me.  It would swallow me up whole.  I'd be like Jonah - inside the dark belly of the whale.

I don't know what it is.  Maybe it's the season.  Maybe it's the dark winter nights.  Maybe it's the stress.  Maybe it's the exhaustion.  Maybe it's that D has been throwing us curve after curve lately.

Maybe it's everything.

I spend so much time DOING diabetes.  Making changes, counting carbs, organizing supplies, blah, blah, blah.  I spend so much time making sure diabetes never holds her back.  So much time making sure she's ok.  Both physically and emotionally.  So much time focused on LIVING with diabetes that how I'm FEELING about it gets pushed down.  So far down that it's easy to ignore.  

But I can't ignore it anymore.

Right now I feel the need to LOOK.  To SEE.


She was just a baby.  I thought back then that she was so big, so grown up.  But she was really so small.  So new.  So innocent.

I can look at those pictures and see that innocence.

But now I also see what was to come.  What was in store for us.  For her.  How diabetes would take over that little body and chip away at that innocence.

Now I see how easy it was back then.  A little piece of chocolate here or there.  No big deal.  The amount of brain power it demanded was nill.  There was no carb counting.  No thought at all given to blood sugar.  Absolutely no understanding of terms like basal, bolus, or ketones.

I see in that little smile the pain and tears to come.  The fear.  The needles.  The ambulances.  The blood.

I see my little girl fighting for her life.

I see her wanting to hide the thing that makes her different.  Trying to come to terms with it.  To understand it.

I see the struggles.  The highs.  The lows.

I see a life that was changed forever.

 Looking at those pictures is, at times, like looking at ghosts.  Whispers from the past.  Of life what once was.  And what life has become.

No matter how thankful I am for the many blessings that diabetes has brought into our lives, there will always be a part of my heart that hurts.  A part of my heart that grieves.

A part of my heart that wishes more than anything in this world that I could go back in time and stop that autoimmune attack.  Or make it happen to me instead.

Maybe you're now sure I've lost my mind.  Maybe this seems odd or foreign or just isn't something you can understand...  how a picture can say so much.  How a picture can make you FEEL so much.

How a picture can force you to your knees and elicit the kind of choking sobs that make your entire body ache.

I hope you don't get it.  I hope you never do.

But my guess is that if you are reading this then you, too, have pictures somewhere.  Pictures of BEFORE.  And my guess is that they can make you feel the same way from time to time. 

And that's ok.

I no longer walk through life with that blanket of sorrow wrapped so tightly around me.

Time has helped me move on.

And that's a good thing.

But the ghosts of the past still walk with me.  They are there if I look for them.

Most of the time they are silent.  Most of the time they leave me alone.

But sometimes they visit me...  And I can't ignore them.

So I look.  And I listen.  And I cry.

And just like dear Scrooge, I know that I will wake up in the morning a changed person.

Diabetes has changed me.  And it's changed her.  And there's nothing we can do about that.

But we can choose to move forward. We can choose to live without regret.  We can make relationships a priority.  We can give to others.  And we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves.



  1. Thank you for that beautiful post. You have not lost your mind. There is always some grieving about Type I diabetes. It cannot be ignored. I treasure a still-blurry photo I have of me, taken on the eve of my diagnosis with Type I - the eve of my "sweet" 16th birthday. I treasure the home movies my parents took of me when I was a newborn, a toddler, and an elementary school child - before the big D hit. I look at old photos and movies, and I ask myself if I would be a different person if it hadn't been for the big D. Fortunately, the answer I come up with is that I am still the same person, deep inside. Hopefully having the big D has made me more appreciative of the gift of life in general, and hopefully it has made me more compassionate than I would have been otherwise. Grieve, Hallie, because it is necessary - but know that Sweets is who she is, and the big D cannot ever change that!

  2. thank you for sharing this. It really hit me hard because I do the same thing...look at those old pictures from before...and it hurts my heart. I try to do the same thing and not look too hard...not search for the signs...and it's hard. HUGS to you andMerry Christmas to you and your family!

  3. Yep, same. I have a few photos of Camden from the weeks before diagnosis that now look so obvious to me I can hardly look at them.

  4. Your writing is beautiful and moving. My heart breaks for you. I am so that you and your daughter have to live with this. I hope you have a beautiful Christmas full of new memories. <3

  5. Not that I didn't already think it, but Sweets is/was so stinkin cute!!
    Yeah, same-same here. It's hard to look at those couple of weeks before pictures. And the twinges of grief that come along with the 'way before' pictures of carefree cookie eating are tough, for sure.
    Each day is a new day and we choose to face it the best we can. So glad (but not, you know?!) that there are others who face that challenge along side of us!

  6. I completely get it. When my Sunshine (child #2) was diagnosed, her baby sister was 2 months old. You know how many pictures you take when there's a new baby? And I hadn't a clue. I was in mommy-of-baby land, and I didn't see how thin her face, her arms, her legs, her tummy had gotten. I can't look at child #3's baby pix without wondering, every time, *How did I miss it?* By Thanksgiving, 2 months after Dx, she looked like her normal, healthy-wt self again. It's AMAZING what that insulin does!

  7. Can absolutely relate. We too have those BEFORE pictures. Unbelieveable it has been only 16 months since being diagnosed and we still struggle with all the highs and lows and mental space it takes up for me. Wish it was easier! When will it get easier? Soon I hope.


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