A failure of faith?

September 11, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More

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.

Why not?

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.


Category: Health, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.

Comments (6)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:


    I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Several years ago, after a short Illness, I developed type 2 diabetes, as part of a condition known as metabolic syndrome x.

    Syndrome X is a collection of concurrent obesity related medical conditions. In addition to diabetes, I have high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, and liver dysfunction. I try to lose weight, and it is extremely difficult due to the various metabolic problems.

    You see, with a normal metabolism it is a simple matter of eating less and exercising more. With syndrome X, it is very complicated. Blood sugar levels must be maintained as close as possible to 90 mg/dl, but dropping below 70mg/dl can cause coma. Low glucose concentrations can trigger ketosis, but the impaired liver function can lead to keto-acidosis, resulting in coma and death.

    Under these constraints, weight loss is not a simple combination of exercise more and eat less, but a complex an careful combination of planning, monitoring, recording, analysis and adjustment of food intake, medications, exercise, hydration, and vitamin/nutrient replacement.

    People without this problem can't understand. Before I developed it I had no clue. Having lived under these restrictions for many years, it is no less difficult. Many diabetics tend to work together to exchange ideas and tips.

    It seems to me, however, that the religious diabetics tend to reach a point where they give up. Some say it's "God's will" and some think they can pray away the affliction.

  2. Ben says:


    Do you own a bicycle? Perhaps some low-intensity workouts/exercise might wake up your metabolism.

    Do you eat a lot of High Fructose Corn Syrup? Maybe cutting down your intake (by half) of raw sugar and HFCS will help with weight loss. Make sure that the bread you are buying/eating is made with GRAINS and unbleached wheat flour. Go to the local farmer's market, watch what the skinny/healthy people are buying and buy the same things!

  3. Tony Coyle says:


    A number of the people in my wife's weight-loss/exercise class have (I should say 'had') type-2 (onset) diabetes.

    Their regime has included:

    1) smaller, more frequent meals (5 or more per day), each portion of which is high in protein.

    2) Additional calories (as needed by energy requirements) are made up of complex carbs (whole grains, etc) and fats (you need fats to ensure the correct operation of your metabolism) along with minerals, vitamins, and fiber (fiber+fat = appropriate usage and breakdown; fiber-fat = colonic problems; fat-fiber=fatty-weight gain, regardless of caloric burn)

    3)use weight training – low weights, huge reps (to exhaustion)… builds more metabolically active muscle faster than any other method

    4) use cardio – interval training (based on monitored heart rate) is your friend

    5) use mobility and flexibility programs (yoga, etc) – staying within your comfort zone for movement – push a little at a time.

    6) stay hydrated (about 1 fl oz per 2 lbs of weight daily plus enough mineralised water to replace sweat loss from exercise)

    Obviously – speak to your health professional. nutritionist, and trainers to craft a program suitable for you.

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:


    Several years ago, an infected hair folical on my inner thigh turned into a case of Fournier's Gangrene I made it into the emergency room in time for emergency surgery to save my life. The surgeon also amaged to save some of my favorite parts as well, but the surgery had the effect of shifting the position of some of those very sensitive nervrs in that region. The result is that bibyblce are now intensly uncomfortable. Since I can't affored one of the recunbent bikes that use a sling seat, I make do with walking. It helps. The problem is that in warm weather, I sweat profusley, the resulting dhydration concentrates the sugar, so I must drink lots of water to compensate, and that in turn requires replenishment of the electrolytes and various water soluable vitamins. It also close monitoring of the blood glucose levels and adjustment of insulin dosage, to compensate for the conversion of fat to glucose (a process called ketosis) keytones are in the same class of chemicals as nail polish remover, and with the abnormalities and are not handled well in diabetics.

    I avoid HFCS like the plague, but it is occasionally found in very unlikely places, I also avoid anything that is suger-sweetened. There is usually enough hidden in canned foods to cover my dietary needs, I eat very little bread and when I eat bread I whole wheat, preferably from ston ground flour, because the course flour has a lower glycemic index.

    Like I said, It is complicated.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:


    Thanks for the suggestions, but I already do most of what you mentioned, the major exception being weight training.

    Additionally, I monitor, log, and analyze data concerning meal size, blood sugar readings, body temp, ambient temp, activity, meds and dosages, blood pressure, vitamins and dosages, and note circumstances that may influence the blood sugar levels.

    From this data, I determined that I need about 7 carbs per hour to maintain the same glucose level at meal time. reducing the level can lower the blood sugar by the next meal, and increasing the carbs raises the level by the next meal.(necessary if it is too low).

    Basically, I check my blood sugar before a meal, look up the carb values USDA Nutrient Database, do a few calculation to determine how much I can eat.

    It takes a lot of work, and self discipline for a diabetic to manage blood sugar and for many, it becomes overwhelming.

    A lot of people tell me "You nede to lose some weight" as if I don't already know that and as if I'm not trying.

    In this case, I see the "Goddidit" argument as a major cop-out.

  6. Ben says:

    I'm sorry to hear all that. Maybe try deep water running or swimming until you get back up to top form, and there might be chicks! Also consider a rowing machine. (Disclaimer: I have no formal medical training)


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