My older D-free son Nathaniel was home "sick" yesterday. "Sick" in quotes, because though he'd puked prodigiously the night before, I pegged that as being a predictable outcome of his having eaten, (against my caring-parental advice) 12 chicken nuggets, two donuts, a 12-ounce glass of milk, and if my reading of the output was accurate, at least three chocolate chip cookies, the latter explicitly forbidden. One can only say so often, "Don't eat so much or you'll get a tummyache" before one must allow the child to learn by doing. If only he hadn't learned all over the sofa cushion.
I let him stay home because I wanted to be sure it wasn't some GI bug that just happened to make an appearance that night, but by noon, it was pretty clear the kid wasn't really sick. So he got to come with me as I ran errands. Grocery store, gas station, bank. As we were returning home post-bank, he piped up with one of those riding-in-the-car-existentialist questions:
"Mom, why did Eric get diabetes?"
The multibillion-dollar question, that. If I knew the answer, and could find a way to turn that knowledge into a screening test and/or pharmacologic intervention, I would not now be worrying about how to pay for Eric's higher education. I thought about the possible answers: a genetic propensity for autoimmunity; possible exposure to toxins in the air and/or drinking water, pre or post birth; a complex collection of in utero factors, not least of which was my own autoimmune disease developing while I was carrying him; random chance; all of the above. I settled for, "I don't know, honey. He just did."
Not good enough for Nathaniel. "I mean, why did GOD give Eric diabetes?" he persisted.
Not quite the same question. I have told Nate that all things happen for a reason, but that we are often not given to know what that reason is, and we must just trust that the reason is a good one. Which is a hard concept to swallow, when it comes to diabetes developing in a child.
There is a theory out there that God does not give us more than we can handle. People quoting that theory often also quote Mother Teresa's witty comeback to that notion: "I know God doesn't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." I have found out over the years that diabetes is, all in all, not such a big deal. It is certainly not more than I can handle. But I would give a lot to not have to handle it. Heck, the only thing I would NOT give is Eric's life: I would rather handle it and have him, than not have him and be free of diabetes. A no-brainer, for sure.
I told Nate that I didn't know what God's purpose was in giving Eric diabetes. Maybe God wanted me to respond as I did, by writing a book to help others... self-centered notion that may be, but it was satisfactory to Nate. Not to me, though. God didn't give Eric diabetes just to test my writing capabilities or my mettle. That is quite clear to me, because it's not me who is impacted most by this mixed blessing we live with: it's Eric. He is the one who has to carry a machine around in a pocket on his shirts wherever he goes. He's the one who puts up with the pokes, the prods, the doctors' visits, the well-meaning questions, the highs, the lows, the fussing, the no-you-can't-eat-that-until-I-give-you-insulins. I try sometimes to imagine Eric, age 5, without diabetes, and I fail. He's been so shaped and formed by diabetes that I'm not sure who my son would be without it. For better or worse, he's become who he is in part because of diabetes. Without it, would he be as patient and as cheerful and as personable as he is? He was always pretty chipper before his diagnosis, but... I think not.
Which may actually be my answer.