We buried my best friend yesterday.
I had known Joe since first grade. He was a believer. I am not. We’ve had many lively debates over the years and our differences of opinion never affected our friendship.
Joe died from neglect. He neglected his own health in favor of taking care of his family which consisted of an aging father, a somewhat schizophrenic brother and his ten year old niece who he had adopted after his sister died of cancer while the child’s father was in prison.
Six years ago I warned Joe, who was overweight, that in order to take care of his family he must first take care of himself. He needed to start to eat right and exercise. I did this for selfish reasons, I told him. I didn’t want to lose my best friend.
Selfless as he was, he didn’t take my advice. A few years later he developed diabetes and eventually lost a leg.
This was his wake-up call, he told me. Everything is going to change, he said, for the sake of the people that were in his care, especially the little girl with no mother.
Throughout all of these trials he told me that his faith helped him get through. How could I argue with that? And yet every time I saw him after he had lost the leg, it seemed he was getting weaker and weaker.
He was not eating right. Diabetics must watch their diet carefully. And he was not doing the exercises that his physical therapist had suggested. Eventually he ceased going up or down stairs and lived entirely in their living room, using a bedpan instead of using his muscles to get to the second floor bathroom.
He gave up.
All of this was avoidable. ALL of it. All he had to do was watch his diet and move his body. When I found out last week that he had been taken to the hospital and died because a cut in his “good” leg had infected his bloodstream I was angry.
Talking to his father at the funeral I became furious! Joe wasn’t taking care of himself, his dad said. He was feeling sick for a long time. They had begged him to see a doctor but he refused. When they couldn’t wake him up one morning they rushed him to the hospital. But it was too late. The sepsis was too severe.
He was 49 years old.
Sitting through yet another Catholic funeral mass and listening to the priest do his best to comfort the mourners, I couldn’t help but wonder where Joe’s faith was during this time.
He who believed in an afterlife, he who was sure that God has entrusted this little girl into his care, he who thought that he would be held accountable for his actions after he died was not inspired by those beliefs to take the simplest of actions to insure that he would live up to his duties.
If he truly believed that the creator of the universe was watching him and guiding him why didn’t that matter enough to do what he had to do in order to survive?
They say that God doesn’t give us any burdens that he knows we can’t handle. Really? I’m not so sure. About any of that.
Life is precious! For all we know, this is all we get. Be protective of your health, my friends. Because this is serious shit and you can’t take care of your loved ones if you don’t love yourself first.