I write in this space. I share. I try to relay to you my emotion and excitement about things that excite me. I write about people, every day people, who make a difference. I write to you as I feel things and I inform you on things I learn. Some things you may know already, some things may be new. Some things you may agree with and others you may not. Today, I write about a friend of mine.
A friend, that whether you knew him or not; changed the world of diabetes. And you should know about him.
Dr. Richard Rubin passed away this week. He was a giant in our world and he would be very annoyed at me for saying so. But you need to know who he was because his work will forever impact those we love with diabetes.
He was a psychologist, professor of medicine and pediatrics at John Hopkins School of Medicine and his awards, achievements, and over 200 diabetes-related publications would fill pages and pages of the written word. His work helped many and made him respected by all of his peers alike. He was a mountain of knowledge; he was a dad to a child with type 1 diabetes. He was a father, a grandfather, a father-in-law, a husband, and a colleague. He was a friend who found the commonalities that he faced with others in his work, his battle for life, and in our world of the ‘new normal’.
If I could think of one word that Richard taught me; it was the word balance. His ‘coined’ phrase of Diabetes Overwhelmus is still used today in describing when the world just gets to be too much and what to do to handle a life, or the life, of diabetes. My involvement with him from the very first CWD Friends for Life Conference until the last time I saw him, where else; but a CWD Conference just recently, enriched my life more each time I ran into him. How fortunate to know him for the years I did.
His smile was warm, his ability to listen uncanny, and unlike anyone I have ever met he could listen and remember something you may have said a day, a week, or a year ago; and bring it back how it would relate to the topic of discussion you were presently engaged. He had a gift.
He often spoke of his family who he loved dearly, and would always find time to speak to them. He taught about balancing the things we do professionally and personally; he would work that balance and he taught us to do the same. He would freely tell you of his flaws and what he learned in his mistakes. Good, bad, different, stressful, earth-shattering, joyous, and on and on—-this thing called life was the perfect teaching tool and Richard was the perfect teacher to show us how to maximize those tools. He taught our grandparents, he taught our adults, he taught our teens, he taught our young children, and he surely taught us who worked with him.
I have very personal stories of advice Richard offered me, and I know I’m not alone as the recipient of those ‘unbilled’ sessions we were all so fortunate to have with a man who understood life as no other I have known; a man who reached across the table and could touch your life with wisdom, your heart with love, and your soul with peace.
His love for photography painted pictures of life. Animals, plants,….and well, life as it should be through the eyes of a master who understood just that……..life. There was some comfort in words he wrote recently, “….I am not afraid.” He knew the battle he had valiantly fought and he was well aware of what battles he had left. In the end, his body had enough and it was time to go; perhaps a little quicker than we wanted but he would probably tell us that all-in-all it was the right balance of how things like this should go; giving enough time to say good-bye and do a few things he wanted to do.
I saw him just recently and we talked for a while and he turned and he faced me. “I want to tell you something, Tom”, he said, “I love you and you’re a good man. The diabetes world needs you to keep fighting.” And we hugged each other and he walked away. Those words will now resonate with me forever. He was, in his style, saying good-bye.
I cried uncontrollably when I heard Richard had passed. And now I will do as he stated and I will continue that fight. We will all continue that fight. When it comes to my sorrow, my pain, and my dedication to moving forward I will honor him every day of my life by finding that balance at every given turn to move forward.
We, as a diabetes community, are so grateful to his entire family for sharing a giant of a man they could have so easily kept to themselves; a man who was as humble as he was a powerhouse.
A man who taught us how to handle so many fears in this diabetes world we live in and how we all can go forward and understand within ourselves the phrase…….”I am not afraid.”
Rest my friend.
I love you Richard, and thank you.
I am a diabetes dad.
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