I’m not sure where to begin telling the #Simonpalooza story. In fact, I’m not even sure how it started. I remember, months ago, seeing something on Twitter about Simon planning a trip to Kansas City. I vaguely remember chiming in to see what the deal was. But beyond those details, I’m not sure how I ended up on this fantastic journey to Kansas — a place I’ve never been. (And yes, the souvenir I bought was Wizard of Oz related).
As the weeks drew nearer, the list of attendees kept growing. Then, there were hotel arrangements and secret T-shirt orders. The next thing you know, I’m being patted down at the airport headed to see my band mates and surprise Simon.
To say the weekend was a spiritual experience is putting it mildly. This trip was my first DOC meet-up. Here I was, a lowly and relatively newcomer to the blogging world, and I was meeting experienced torchbearers for the cause. I was humbled. As I waited outside of the terminal in Kansas City, I was both anxious and excited. Jess and Sara were picking me up, and I wasn’t sure how to react. Do I say hello? Do I shake their hands? Do we hug? What is the protocol here? I was in unchartered water.
The car pulled up and I heard a meek voice say, “excuse me, but do you need a ride?” It was Sara. She looked just like her photos. Then Jess hopped out of the driver’s seat and immediately stretched out her arms and we hugged. From that moment on, it was as if we’d been friends for years. The conversation was great, the laughs were abundant as were the diabetes terms of endearment (now in eBook form). I felt at home almost instantly.
The night only continued to get better as more and more faces I recognized from a small square box began showing up. I remember meeting Scott, who simply said, “I’m a hugger,” and proceeded to do just that. There was the other journalist, the squee, the cyclist and her diabetic alert dog and then there was Kim. I was really looking forward to meeting Kim. Her website was the second blog I found after discovering the DOC, and I’d instantly connected to her writing, her emotions and her thought process. (Plus, we both cry. A lot.)
So as we got a little crazy off Diet Coke, the conversation for everyone was effortless and always entertaining. We even had a live-stream of our hashtagged comments on the TV. (Yes, we are that dorky). We shared so many laughs, my face hurt. Somewhere around 2 a.m., we all made it to bed.
When Saturday rolled around, Dunkin’ Donuts was the first stop, followed by another festival of hugs and laughter visiting Babs at the hospital. (If you don’t know Babs, then you should. Inspiration doesn’t even come close to what this woman encompasses. She is tremendous, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet her, get to know her and learn from her). After leaving the hospital, it was time. Simon’s plane would be landing soon.
Somewhere around 2 p.m., we gathered (and by we, I mean about 25 of us) outside of his gate. In out matching T-shirts and homemade signs, we waited. It seemed as though Simon was the last person to get off the plane. Finally, there he was. You could see it in his face — surprise and relief. We were really there, and we were there for him! As he collapsed in a chair and threw his hands over his face, we all teared up (more than just me and Kim). It was an emotional moment to see someone who means so very much, even if only through words and the power of the world wide web.
After an incredible dinner on the Plaza, we all headed back to the hotel. We sat around till nearly 3 a.m. sharing stories, battle scars, funny stories and successful wins. It was an incredible moment. As it drew to a close, Simon shared why it was worth it all.
“You all saved my life.”
As he specifically told Cherise that he is alive and standing in front of her because of something she started was truly an incredible moment. To hear him, in his owns words and his own voice, share how he was dying and ready to give up when he found the DOC, was beyond comprehension. It was difficult to hear, but it was the truth.
You see, these are not simply strangers I met on the Internet. They are my family. They completely understand me. They know exactly what it’s like to have diabetes. It’s a constant, never-ending battle to manage and control your blood sugar all while making sure to stay balanced with food intake and measurement and exercise. It is daunting and trying, and at times, you want to give up. But then you get a tweet or an email or a blog comment, and it touches you deep in your soul and you realize you can do this because you have them. You remember you are not alone.
Friends, I cannot remember the last time I went somewhere completely unaware of myself. I didn’t care what clothes I packed or what I wore. I didn’t care if I looked thin or fat. I didn’t care if I had on make-up or brushed my hair. I didn’t care about any of that because these people loved me for me, unconditionally and whole-heartedly. And that felt really, really good. I didn’t have to pretend because I was good enough just the way I was. It was completely refreshing to be loved just as I am and be welcomed with open arms and no expectations.
I wasn’t at the end of my rope when I found the DOC, but I understand what Simon means when he says, “Don’t go to bed at night thinking you didn’t do enough, because you did. You do enough everyday.” I’m lucky to have a group of people in Huntsville who live with D daily and call me a friend. I know I am blessed. But to be able to spend a weekend with a group of people my own age who get it measures beyond all understanding. It was surreal to be in that place with so many phenomenal and inspiriting people. I feel humbled to be a part of this community.
And yes, there may have been a bride …
And a band …
And a new universal sign for #hashtagit …