I originally posted this on June 17, 2009. However, a short time later we transitioned the Live It Forward website to a new platform, and I didn’t realize that this post was only saved as a draft when we made the transition. Therefore, I’m assuming many readers don’t know about this significant period in our family history. What I describe below is a real life example of how to be positive and optimistic even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
JUNE 17, 2009
Since I haven’t posted in a while, I want to update you on the life and times of the Julian family (smile). But I really want you to understanding something before I share. Even though we have been through a difficult few weeks, Kathy and I feel as blessed as ANYONE on the face of this planet. What’s more, we are learning firsthand how to be positive and optimistic in the midst of challenging circumstances. Let me explain.
Monday morning (June 8), my mother passed away suddenly. She had some health concerns, but nothing life threatening, so it was a complete shocker.
My mom lived her life well. Not perfectly, but well. She was a follower of Jesus Christ and stayed committed to Him during her entire life. During the days that followed her death, this reality was very apparent to her family as approximately 1,000 people came either to her viewing or funeral to honor her life. So while I’m sad that my mom is gone, I’m pretty blown away by how many lives she impacted. If you get the chance, pray for my dad…the days ahead will be especially sad and lonely for him.
Also, on Wednesday morning (June 10—the day of my mom’s viewing), Kathy and I rushed Kelsey, one of our twin daughters, to the hospital. I won’t go into all the details, but three or four weeks ago we notice a few, slight changes in Kelsey. Specifically, she was eating less, drinking more, and her energy-level started going down. At first, the changes were very slight. After a couple of weeks, however, things accelerated and got worse quickly.
With all the chaos associated with my mom’s death, as well as with our kitchen being remodeled and our hardwood floors being resurfaced (our house was, and still is, a construction zone), we were not sure what was happening to Kelsey. We tried everything we knew to figure out what was going on until finally, in desperation, we took her to the ER at Gwinnett Medical Center on Wednesday morning. Within a matter of minutes they diagnosed her with diabetes. Once all the test came back, we discovered that it wasn’t just diabetes, it was Juvenile Diabetes, also knows called Type 1 Diabetes. In fact, things were so serious that she was close to slipping into a coma. She was hospitalized for four days and all our training for managing Type 1 Diabetes started immediately.
(As a side note, Type 1 Diabetes is NOT the diabetes that has to do with an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise. It is a disease that strikes most people between the ages 1 to 20 for unknown reasons. To put it another way, this is not a disease that a person gradually contracts because of lifestyle choices or heredity. It happens suddenly and there is nothing a person can do to prevent it. People with Type 1 Diabetes have a pancreas that just decides to shut down and stop functioning.)
Our lives changed dramatically within a matter of days. My mom will no longer be with us here on earth. Additionally, we will now be a family learning what a “new normal” is all about.
There is, of course, mourning and sadness. We have all shed tears during the past several days because Gramme is no longer with us and because Kelsey now has a life-long desease that, while she can live a normal life, requires constant monitoring along with multiple finger pricks and shots on a daily basis.
Yet again, Kathy and I feel as blessed as we’ve ever felt. EVER! One of our philosophies in life is that seldom are we in control of what happens to us, but we are always in control of our responses. In fact, the attitudes we embrace and the responses we choose are basically the only things in life of which we have 100 percent control. This is what I speak about and write about through my company. It’s also what I speak to youth and educators about throughout the country (KentJulian.com). Obviously, if I’m going to inspire and educate others how to be positive and optimistic no matter what they face in life, I better be living this way myself.
So today, the Julian family CHOOSES:
- To embrace Kelsey’s condition as normal.
- To believe God is smiling on Kelsey and saying: “I have something extra special for you that you can only experience through having Type 1 Diabetes. Trust me Kelsey, I have your absolute best in mind. I am gracious and kind, and this condition is something that will ADD to your life, not take away from it. Remember, you are my special child.”
- To be excited about leading Kelsey through the range of emotions she will experience because of this challenge. We know she will feel sad, scared, disappointed, and confused (we, as her parents, are feeling these emotions as well). However, we also know that as time goes on, Kelsey can choose to be optimistic and see her new life as something special and unique. What a great opportunity for Kathy and I to encourage and lead Kelsey, as well as Christopher and McKenzie, through new challenges and options we could never experience without having a family member with Type 1 Diabetes. We choose to believe there are new opportunities and adventures ahead for all of us!
- To know that Kelsey will be an overachiever, which she has always been. One of my nicknames for her is “Competitive Princess.” If you know Kelsey, you know she is sweet, quiet, gentle, and kind (i.e. “princess”). Yet only those closest to her know that while quiet and gentle, she is extremely driven (i.e. “competitive”). Hence, my nickname “Competitive Princess.” I think that nickname will fit her even more now.
- To understand how BLESSED we are to live in the USA. Kathy grew up overseas in a third world country and KNOWS how hard it would be to support a child with Type 1 Diabetes if we lived in a different place. I’ve led over a dozen short-term youth mission projects and have seen this reality firsthand myself. The opportunity to embrace a “new normal” has a lot to do with the privilege of living here. It’s not hard to figure out how to be positive in the midst of challenging circumstances when you realize the circumstances could be significantly more challenging if you lived somewhere else.
- To understand the AMAZING communities which surround us. Stonemill Church, the Stingrays Swim Team (the team I coach), Jackson Elementary School (where Kathy works), entrepreneurial networks like 48Days.Net (a network I am connected with through my business), and many of the CTE educators I’ve connected with over the years have been amazing during these past few weeks.
- To live it forward in the most important roles of our lives!
I could write so much more, but are you beginning to see why we feel so blessed? While we would not choose Type 1 Diabetes for Kelsey and we know she would not choose this path for herself, we do choose to accept it and believe Kelsey will do the same. But even more, we don’t just choose to accept it, we choose to embrace it! To experience life in a new and better way because of it. To choose, by faith, to know that God has Kelsey’s very best in mind!
We are discovering that choosing is how to be positive and optimistic in the midst of challenging circumstances. Choosing is how to live it forward!