Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Last week I was emailed by the lovely organizer of the Portland Brain Tumor Walk and asked to speak briefly in front of the audience of participants. I was honored by the invitation and a bit daunted by what I might say. Little did I know that Gilbert and I would be standing in front of over 1500 attendees!
While I raced around town, trying to find a fresh white Gilbert-sized t-shirt on which to have our Team Isamu logo printed, I thought hard about what it was that I wanted to convey. This would be a gathering of people all touched in some way or another by a brain tumor. Just like us.
It was the ‘just like us’ part that really got me. While I decided to focus on inspiration, I also knew in my heart that I needed to make a public apology. I needed to apologize to “her”. This is what I said:
The apology I want to make is to a woman whose name I don’t know. I can barely remember what she looks like. In June of 2000, when Isamu and I attended our first Brain Tumor Walk on Angel Island outside of San Francisco, where we were living at the time, a woman got up to honor her husband. She was a mama. She had two children by her side, about Gilbert’s age. And she was a widow. My face tightened as she spoke. Inside my body I covered my ears and screamed “la la la la la” to block out every word she said.
I was there with the love of my life. . . Isamu. We were determined. Our lives were full and rich and we were finally about to start a family together. I didn’t have the capacity to hear what she was saying. I had to block her out. I had to to stand on the side of hope and hope alone. And that hope was a selfish and narrow hope. I could not fathom the reality of her life.
And for that, I am sorry.
As I was on stage, speaking these words, Gilbert at my side fighting back tears, I realized that to some people in the audience, I was her. I was the one that was being blocked out with covered ears and chants of aversion. I was the one delivering the message of hope couched in the repulsiveness of loss. I recognized the wives with their arms crossed over their chests. And I met their eyes, if only for a mili-second. And once again, I felt sorry. Sorry for being “her”.
Several years ago I read an article in the Utne Reader while riding a stationary bike. The article spoke about how some people suffer post-traumatic stress while others experience post-traumaticgrowth. I was heartened by the article as it touched on my own experience of loss and grief ~ a loss and grief that have lead me on a pursuit of healing and helping. I may be mixing Utne issues or articles, but I also remember an interview with Matt Sanford, a paraplegic yoga instructor who had been injured in a car accident that killed his father and sister when he was only 13-years old.
In the article Matt says:
The really negative effect of trauma is that it dulls you, it deadens you. You’re no longer in pain, but you’re numb, and most people who have been through a lot of trauma at first have to be numb and only later can the trauma be transformed into possibility, into hope.
While I am still sorry that I blocked out my widow-sister eleven years ago, I am not sorry for becoming her. In becoming her I have experienced tremendous growth. I am not dull or numb. I am motivated. I am inspired. I am full of hope.
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What else is on my plate this month?
Homemade Sassafras Root Beer
A project, but a fun one! Try with honey in place of the sugar. Get earthy and cool off!
Creamy Cashew Kale & Chickpeas
One of those easy, throw-together, summer’s end meals.
Raw Chocolate Raspberry Mini Pies
Of course I’m always a fan of replacing the agave, but that can easily be done with raw honey (reduce quantity slightly) or yacon syrup. I tried the latter and added a bit of liquid stevia to round out the sweetness.
Carrot Quinoa Bars
These haven’t graced our plates yet, but they look like they’ll double as a quick breakfast bar when dashing out the door or a lunch-box treat.
You can read the full Utne Reader interview with Matthew Sanford, entitled Crash Course,
by clicking right here.
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