Last weekend I assisted the Remembrance course. It had special meaning to me because of the participants I personally enrolled. One such participant, Hajime, is 18 years old and has ALS disease. We raised enough money for him and his mother, and I was pleased to see them both on Friday evening at the Indigo Village which was where the course took place. Even though I trusted that this course will “help” Hajime, I did not know what kind of expectations he or his family had coming in, nor how exactly it could help him. I maintained a poker face while they were settling in their seats before the course begun, but to be honest, I was terrified.
The Remembrance Course takes place a few times a year in San Diego. What happens during this course is that participants take turns to get up to stand in front of the class and introduce themselves by sharing – they talk about what they want to get out from this course, what challenges they are facing, and how they would like their lives to be different. Instructors guide the person in the spotlight, and everyone in the room, both participants and assistants help to take part in this process. Everyone’s turn looks different as there is no cookie-cutter format for each person to get what he or she is there to get.
Hajime was the last one to go on Saturday. Most participants had not been informed about his illness until that point. When it was finally his turn and the instructor told the group about it, I felt like I could hear what is going on in their heads. We talked about ALS and his fear and sorrow. We discussed how trying not to feel pain or sadness also limits the extent you feel joy and happiness, because you can’t take just “good” parts in life – it’s a package. If you try to numb yourself so you won’t feel seemingly negative feelings, you also won’t get those feelings at the other end of the spectrum. Also, we helped him see that it is his responsibility to keep the friends whom he can express his honest emotions with.
After that, we were instructed to tell Hajime what we had learned from him – not from a place of feeling sorry for him, because that would not help him in moving forward, but from a place of love and gratitude. We each took turns to tell him how courageous he was for being there, how caring he was towards his mother and how bright his smile was and how much his presence in the course encouraged them. His mother was the last one to share, and she told him what a tremendous gift he has been to her and the entire family, and how much she love him. As a mother, I couldn’t help but feel for her. The thought of losing a child is one of the fears all parents may have to deal and live with, even if there was no obvious reason to fear. This possibility becoming a reality because of a specific reason likes this – it is something a mother should not have to go through. During this course, Hajime and his mother learned that it is okay and safe to express those feelings of fear and sadness, even to each other. They learned how not to take the responsibility of making the other person happy, and that way, they can feel safe to be upset or sad in front of the other person and be comfortable with all of those emotions. I believe that lesson was the real gift. I would love to build such relationship with my two sons when they are older.
After the course, I had a chance to talk more with Hajime. He had a very different facial expression than when I first saw him on Friday. His eyes were twinkling with excitement. He was so happy to feel everyone’s love, and he shared with us what his plans are for his future; returning to assist the course in April, graduating high school, going on to his dream school in San Francisco, assisting this course for teens…. He couldn’t stop talking about the course and said that more people should know about this course. I was relieved that the course had such a positive impact on him – and more than that, I learned to take a chance in inviting someone if I think that this is beneficial for him or her, despite the fear of rejection, or the possibility of this experience turning out not so great. As Susan Jeffer said, feel the fear and do it anyway, because the possible outcome is just too great not to give it a chance. The next Remembrance course is from April 29th through May 1st and you can enroll here.