When I first arrived in Germany in the middle of winter about 18 years ago (ahem...), I immediately caught a bad cold. Every time I sneezed, my brother-in-law's girlfriend would bark, "Health!" It took us a while to work out that Americans say the same thing, only in German. And maybe a little less like a command. Anyway, we had a good laugh. In recent years, I've come to appreciate that salutation in ways never previously imagined.
In fact, when you get a new wallet, purse, or outfit, Jewish folks will bless your acquisition by saying, "Use it in good health!" or "Wear it in good health!"
Good health, however, may be a matter of definition, and possibly personal viewpoint. Am I "sick" because I have diabetes? Or am I "healthy" because the condition I have me forces me to take such extra-careful care of myself, and because I feel pretty darn energetic and good when my condition is well-controlled?
Fellow D-blogger Bernard F said it so well:
"I've had diabetes for over 35 years, and it's really taught me about the value of endurance. Even though my pancreas is broken, I'm still remarkably healthy. The insulin that I inject helps my body to absorb and process carbohydrates but it's not a cure for diabetes. Despite the continued high and low blood sugars I'm blessed by God with very (few) complications."
I now realize that Gesundheit is the most precious gift my family and I possess...
And btw, nothing shakes you up like facing your own mortality. I just learned that LA Times health columnist David Lazarus was diagnosed himself with Type 1 diabetes at the beginning of this month. Read his treatise called "Nation's Healthcare Crisis Gets Personal."
In his article, he talks about being shocked, scared, and above all, confused and anxious about the economics of his treatment costs. "The quirks and complexities of the insurance system border on madness... And what happens if I get fired tomorrow?"
Welcome to our weird and precarious world, David. Obviously, it hasn't taken him long to catch on. When I emailed him a few days ago about the outrageous cost of glucose test strips, he promptly replied: "Test strips are the diabetes equivalent of a crack habit."
In this case, Grandma, if we haven't got our health, what we get instead is a costly addiction.
Still, we have to keep reminding ourselves how blessed we are with such a "treatable condition." If it weren't for all the finger-poking and beeping equipment constantly reminding me, I might be able to convince myself on many days that I'm a specimen of perfect Gesundheit.