Craig Carter looked over at his girlfriend, Valerie Dye, as the two lawyers stood near where couples file for marriage at the courthouse.
“Why don’t we step over there and pick up our marriage license?” he asked Dye.
“That’s not a proposal,” she told him.
It was a running joke between the couple, for Carter to suggest marriage and Dye to tell him he needed to make a real proposal.
Finally, in late 2013, Carter told her to expect a real one. “I hate to ruin the surprise, but the next time I get you out of town, I’m proposing.”
The couple soon planned to go to Eureka Springs, Ark., but about a week later, Carter suffered complications because of Type 2 diabetes and died at a Tulsa hospital.
At the time, Dye and Carter worked together at a law firm in Tulsa and were excited to share their lives together. Dye’s three children and Carter’s two children got along well, with two of their daughters who were the same age calling themselves twins.
“It has impacted my kids too,” Dye said. “My 5-year-old didn’t understand death, and last winter, he told me, ‘I’m mad at heaven — heaven needs to go to jail, and heaven made Craig die.’”
Too little, too late?
Dye isn’t sure whether Carter managed his diabetes well or if he regularly tested his blood sugar.
He had Type 2 diabetes but wasn’t insulin dependent. He had medicine at home, but Dye isn’t sure whether he took it. Carter did not have health insurance and did not regularly see a doctor.
Before he died, Carter had been in the midst of a difficult custody battle, and in attempt to deal with it, he turned to alcohol. He drank a bottle of vodka a week, Dye said.
Dye also didn’t realize the impact that the alcohol could have on his diabetes.
“The biggest thing I’d like to say, I knew diabetes was a serious disease, but I never took it seriously because so many people have it, “ Dye said. “I never took it seriously until it basically took my future away — that’s melodramatic, but it did. It took a lot of dreams away from me, and it took my best friend away from me, and that’s still hard.”
I knew diabetes was a serious disease, but I never took it seriously because so many people have it.”