I love quotes. I always have. I actually had a quote wall for some time. It was an oversized canvas that hung in my living room and every person that came over to visit needed to add their words of wisdom. It could have been a quote from someone famous, words that they live by, or advice that they would share with others. So it makes sense to me that I share my perspective along with one of my favorite quotes.
It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. – Epictetus
I teach a variety of health courses at the University level, but there is always one message that I stress in all of them. You see, I tell my students that that they are the captains of their vessels. What vessel? The vessel is their body. You see, the way that I explain it is that it is up to each of us to lead the way for our own health and wellness. Lead the way through the amazing wonder of life. Lead the way through the rocky shores and torrential storms. Life is not always easy. We all have our own battles, vices, obstacles and barriers. There are so many things in life that we just cannot control. However, we can control how we choose to react to these things. We can steer our vessel through the storms and toward the shores. We can land by the moon or under the sun. I learned this lesson many times, but especially from my great-great-grandmother, Nanny.
Nanny was an amazing woman. She had the best smile that stretched from ear lobe to ear lobe. She was kind and generous, and always made you feel welcome. I remember her holding my face with her two hands, looking at me and telling me that I was such a beautiful child filled with a warm spirit. The irony is that she had lost her vision due to complications related to her type 2 diabetes. Nanny also had her left leg amputated. I knew she was not well, but her spirit was always so amazing. Nanny loved to smile and laugh. She loved life. I honestly have to say that I never, ever saw her upset. It was so hard when she fell into a coma and the woman with so much joy and zest for life laid so very still. We often went to visit her when she was in the coma. I know that she knew that we were there. How I wished that she would have recovered. Sadly, Nanny passed away. I remember sitting in the back of the car the night that she passed away and looking up at the sunset sky seeing a cloud formation floating by. In my mind, that was Nanny. She had earned her wings, and was heading into Heaven.
Nanny did not have access to the technology and resources that women with diabetes have today. Nanny did not have an amazing group like DiabetesSisters to join. If Nanny were alive today, I bet she would have had a different diabetes story. But one thing that would not have changed would have been her zest for life. Nanny’s positive outlook to live each day to its fullest and share in the warmth of loved ones is a reminder to me that life is really about how we choose to react to it. I know that she would be proud of my work in public health, health education, and diabetes. I know that she would be proud of me for being a part of the DiabetesSisters' Board of Directors. Nanny- thank you for showing me, and the world, about the power that we have within us to choose our response to life- no matter how difficult it. May we all remember to steer our vessels with a zest for life to get us safely to where we want to be.
Submitted by Diana Karczmarczyk, PhD, MPH, MCHES. Diana serves as Chair of the DiabetesSisters' Board of Directors. She resides in Centreville, VA.