On the eve of my high school reunion, I am slightly giddy with anticipation. Not because my life began and ended with high school: my 30s have been where I’ve really hit my stride.And I have remained connected with my high school friends who made an impact on me.But I am curious and genuinely looking forward to catching up with my classmates to see where the journey has taken them over time. However, my excitement is marred by the absence of one of my dearest friends since grade school.
My friend was a beautiful, smart, funny, and vivacious woman, and could light up a room. The tough environment and inner city in which she grew up was no match for her sense of humor, feist, and wit, which all got her out of trouble.? I learned so much from her. How to take chances and see the light in anything. To love Robert Smith. To make the mistakes teenagers do, and hopefully learn from. ?She witnessed all my proud teenage milestones: first cigarette, first car accident, first intoxication.
Our lives took different paths at graduation when I went away to school. Lack of college didn’t stop her from kicking ass in Corporate America, working her way up the ladder into management at a credit union. She was whip smart and a fast learner.
It’s as if she knew her time on earth was limited, being diabetic since the age of 14. Her health was always precarious and she made the most of her well days. Eventually diabetic retinopathy robbed her of sight.?I don’t like to talk about her last days, because it’s not how I want to remember her, but she lost her sight and her husband, who passed from complications of the same disease.
Many people do not take the impact of diabetes seriously…but uncontrolled it can have devastating consequences such as blindness, renal failure, amputation, and death. Some cases of diabetes, notably Type II, can be prevented and managed through diet and exercise. Traditionally, many urban areas where rates of diabetes are disproportionately higher, lack access to fresh produce and are lined with fast-food franchises.?I commend the efforts of the Obama Administration for encouraging fresh food in school cafeterias and planting an organic garden in the White House. Community gardens are springing up in urban areas and this summer, I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of produce stands outside the subways in New York. In addition to re-shaping our focus on health and nutrition in this country, we need to support the efforts of research and science to find a cure for this fatal disease.
RIP, girl. You are sorely missed.