“When I say goodbye it is never for long
‘Cause I know our love still lives on
It will be again exactly like it was
‘Cause I believe in the power of love”
10 years after Luther Vandross‘ passing in 2005 the lyrics to one of his biggest hits, “Power of Love/Love Power” still motivate me to show people that diabetes doesn’t have to dim their dazzle!
For the past decade Divabetic has been an incredible source of joy for me but it’s still somewhat bittersweet to look back at our success when I know that Luther’s stroke, which could have been prevented, was the catalyst for it’s creation.
What started out as reaction to a terrible loss has grown into something that I could have never imagined.
Thanks to Divabetic and our amazing supporters I’ve had the opportunity to present diabetes outreach in over 20 major US cities. Highlights include headlining the main stage at the ADA Expo for the past eight years in Pittsburgh and hosting our Divabetic Club meetings at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. I’ve partnered with major medical centers and amazing organizations including the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, All About Women, dLife and Taking Control of Your Diabetes across the country.
Additionally, I have been able to outreach to divas and dudes around the world via our monthly podcasts on blog talk radio. This July marks our fifth year anniversary of podcasting with over 122 programs available on demand for free!
Even with a robust schedule of Divabetic programming to fill my days I still have vivid memories of feeling saddened, helpless and ashamed because I was not able to prevent Luther’s stroke from occurring. Those aren’t easy memories to shake.
I started working for Luther Vandross on the ‘Never Let Me Go’ tour in 1993. At the time I was working in theater in the Bay Area with dreams of one day moving to Los Angeles or New York City. Two years later Luther moved me to New York City to become his full-time assistant. Several albums, videos, Award shows, national music tours and many years later while on a routine visit to his house I found Luther on the floor after he suffered a stroke (related to type 2 diabetes.) I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital and then stayed by his side until his passing on July 1, 2005.
At his funeral I recall sobbing uncontrollably as I looked at him for last time lying peacefully in his gold casket at Frank Campbell funeral home at in Manhattan. He looked like his former self – so elegant and dignified. He was impeccably dressed in a black Versace suit trimmed with black beading which I chose for the occasion. Lying there peacefully he seemed like he was taking a quick nap before he getting ready to perform for a sold-out audience at Radio City Music Hall.
The years of illness, pain, tears and suffering were erased for good.
Life after the stroke was pretty grim. Simple tasks involved in everyday life were a constant struggle for him. His setbacks far outweighed the progress. We lived in the constant quiet pain of knowing our former ‘fabulous’ lives were gone forever. The fact that Luther was not able to sing ‘Dance With My Father’ on stage after his stroke was unbearable. Diabetes robbed him of one of the biggest pleasures in his life.
I couldn’t keep quiet, sit back and/or go on and let what happened to Luther Vandross happen to others.
It was at Luther’s Memorial at Riverside Church when I vowed to help Luther fans ‘keep their house a home’ by learning how to prevent a diabetes health-related complication like stroke from occurring. Looking back, I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I had zero knowledge of diabetes and self-care management and absolutely no experience in outreach of any kind. But I’m so glad I threw caution to the wind and set out on this amazing journey called ‘Divabetic.’
Because of Luther’s stroke I was called upon do something much greater with my life. I am and will always be indebted to Luther Vandross for changing the fate of my life twice. It’s an honor, privilege and pleasure to support his legacy. I am eternally grateful to Luther and his fans for making me believe in the ‘Power Of Love.’ Thank you!
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