I should have kissed her. I should have let her know that her only son and youngest child loved her before she passed. I should not have just walked away.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I said those words for the first time to Callie, my new therapist, who was also the facilitator of the A Course in Miracles class I had just started attending.

My mom had passed when I was five. The last time I saw her alive, she had simply asked for a goodbye kiss. I had responded with a “No, I don’t want to.”, as I turned and walked away from her in her hospital bed.  When I got home my sister reported the interaction between my mom and me to my drunken dad. He yanked off his big black leather belt from his trousers and began to spank me, shouting the whole time, “Here lies your mother on her death bed and you, her only son, won’t even kiss her goodbye!”

After I told Callie the entire story, she looked me in the eye with the most caring and cautious look I had ever seen, then, very gently uttered these words, “I believe if you will trust me, I can help you with this.”

Trust had never been an easy thing for me. In all honesty, up until just a couple of years prior to meeting Callie, trust was an impossibility for me.  With Callie though, it was almost automatic. So, I meekly responded, “Sure, what do you want me to do?”

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. She stated, “You must realize the subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and make believe. And it is never too late to have a happy childhood.” I really did not know what those words meant but at that moment I was so desperate to be free of the guilt of thinking I had killed my mom, I would have followed her off a cliff to be able to let it go.

That guilt had driven me to an entire lifetime of self-sabotage. Sometimes, even consciously, I would destroy the good that came my way.

So, she had me sit straight in a chair, hands in my lap, palms up, close my eyes and listen. She guided me in my mind, to becoming that small boy. I fully felt the fear, the confusion, the anger and disappointment of going to see my mom, only to find this shell of a being lying where my mom was supposed to be. I literally felt five years old again. She re-created the hospital room, the musty odor, the ugly almost yellow walls, the damp and clammy air and the incredible sense of dread. There was my mom lying in that bed, her uncombed hair, her hollow eyes, with a chalky complexion and… that gruesome blister on her lip. Next came, with the most kind and gentle tone, “Come give Momma a goodbye kiss.”

After giving me a few moments of fully feeling the emotions of reliving this experience, Callie had me stop. She had me notice that myself, as an adult, was also in that room. She had me realize that if that small boy had known anything about what was going on, he would have gladly jumped at the chance to kiss his mom goodbye. The adult me, guided the child me, with Callie’s coaching, to go to the bed, climb onto it and kiss my mom goodbye. But that wasn’t all, I got to lay there beside her, cuddle one last time and let her know that her only son and youngest child did love her.

That day, the weight of the world, the incredible burden of guilt and all the self-loathing greatly dissipated. I was free!

I have carried that practice of using my imagination from that point forward. Even now, at the holidays, I imagine my entire family gathered together, the kids, the grandparents, the aunts, uncles and cousins laughing playing and sharing the love that I know in my heart we all wanted desperately to share.

Thrive Global, requested a story about a person that has helped strengthen your mental resilience. Callie’s teachings of love and forgiveness are with me every day, and so naturally, I wanted to share that life-changing experience I had with her so many years ago.  At first when I read the request though, I became inwardly curious, ‘Who else would I write about?’ I have been blessed with many spiritual teachers, mentors and just plain friends that have been there to guide me through the darkest of times. There is absolutely no way for me to ever repay what has been so freely given to me along the way. I once said to the oldest of my guides, Gerald, “I just do not think I will ever be able to do enough to pay back what I have been given.” He simply and kindly replied, “That’s good.” To which I quickly responded, “How can that be good.” With a smirk, he came back with, “If you ever thought you had given back enough, you would probably stop trying.”

There are so many more who I have not mentioned in this writing. Ed, the first of them, telling me, “Whatever, your first instinct is to anything, do something else. You are so committed to self-sabotage that it is your first response to everything. So, stop and think and do the next thing.”

Each and every one of my teachers is with me in all that I do. Each of them carries a tremendous impact on my thought process and how I live my life. I feel that my greatest debt is to do all I can to follow their lead. For this I am grateful.

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