The following conversation took place in 2007 between my mother and me, three years after she died. It's an excerpt from my book, Conversations with Jerry . . . and Other People I Thought Were Dead: Seven compelling dialogues that will transform the way you think about dying and living.
Irene: I'd like to share another experience with you that I've resolved and healed.
Beba: I'd like to hear about it.
Irene: As part of a Spiritual Psychology self-counseling session, I revisited an experience I had when I was seven. We'd recently moved into the house on Purvis Street. It was the middle of the night, and I awoke to the sound of loud, angry voices. You and Dad were fighting. I heard a thump on your carpeted bedroom floor. My thoughts raced. Was it the Italian hand-blown glass ashtray that weighed a ton, or the glass clown that was even heavier? Before I could figure it out, you ran into the hall bathroom. I saw you from my bed. The door slammed. Dad was on all fours after you. I'd never seen him crawling on the floor like that. He hadn't had time to put on his orthopedic shoes, and as you well know, he couldn't walk without them.
He pounded the door, screaming at you to open it.
I ran inside my closet and slid the door closed. Huddled in the corner like an earthquake duck-and-cover victim, I reached up and yanked my winter coat over my head. I begged God to please send someone to save me, to please send an angel.
When I awoke the next morning, I was in a fetal position and my pajamas were drenched in urine.
Beba: How terrifying that must have been.
Irene: It was. Over the years, I'd worked with this incident using a variety of therapeutic modalities, but I knew I hadn't gotten to the heart of it. So, as part of my master's coursework, I used the Gestalt technique of inviting seven-year-old-Ireenie to speak.
Ireenie asked me why God had abandoned her. She thought it was because she was bad. She said she'd asked God to send an angel, but no one had come. Ireenie was afraid that Dad was going to kill you, and then maybe come and kill her. I was flabbergasted.
I imagined holding Ireenie close, stroking her hair, and humming a lullaby to her. I embraced her for several minutes until she felt safe. I let her know that I had forgotten just how terrifying the experience had been. I asked her if she was willing to talk about it. She said, "sure."
I told her that it was impossible for God to abandon her, because she and God were not separate. I suggested that all she had to do when she wanted to find God was go inside and find the peace, love, and joy. "That's God," I said. "God is inside you. So, can you see how it would be impossible for God to ever abandon you?"
Ireenie was amazed that God likes to play hide-and-seek. She giggled and said God was silly.
Ireenie believed that the reason no one had come to help was because she was bad. She thought maybe it was her fault that you were fighting. She thought she should have been able to fix the problem and make it better.
I thanked Irene for sharing this with me. "It wasn't your fault and you weren't bad," I said. I explained that your fight with Dad had nothing to do with her, that she didn't cause the problems in your relationship and wasn't responsible for them.
And then I lowered my voice to a whisper and told her I wanted to share a secret. "I want you to always remember this, okay?" And she told me she would. I said, "God doesn't see you as bad because God doesn't judge you." She smiled and said she would never forget; she told me that she had a really good memory and was the best in her class at remembering her times tables. "Being loving and kind is your nature," I told her. "It's impossible to be bad. But if you choose to believe you're bad, and you act badly, The kind and generous universe will let you experience that for as long as you want."
She wanted to know why the kind and generous universe hadn't sent her an angel.
It was a good question. I told Irene I didn't know why, but I did know that I wouldn't be who I am today if that angel had appeared.
"My life would have been totally different," I said. "And I trust that somehow it was for my highest good and the highest good of everyone involved. Maybe I won't know why it happened the way it did until I review my life. I'm sure looking forward to finding out!"
I told her how much I love her.
I began to compassionately forgive myself: I forgave myself for having bought into the misinterpretation that God had abandoned me; I forgave myself for believing that I was ever bad, unlovable, inadequate, or unworthy; I released the belief that I had somehow caused the problems between you and Dad; I let go of the judgment that things shouldn't have happened the way they did; I forgave myself for buying into the illusion that I was separate from God.
I chose new beliefs: You and Dad were doing the best you knew how to do, given your unhealed wounds; I am lovable, adequate, and worthy; I am powerful; I am capable; I am free to express anger; I have a right to speak up and be heard; I'm responsible for my experience, and you and Dad are responsible for yours; I surrender to and trust in a divine plan that beneficently unfolds in each moment, regardless of appearances; I am one with God.
Before I ended this dialogue with Ireenie, I asked her if there was anything else she wanted or needed. "Yes," she said. "I want to ride a Ferris wheel!" I laughed and promised that the next time I was in California, I'd take her to the Santa Monica pier.
Beba: Did you do it?
Irene: Yes, of course. It was a memorable experience. I went to the pier on a Saturday afternoon during a two-hour lunch break from school. The air smelled fresh and fishy. The sun was warm on my skin. People on the rides laughed and screamed with joy. I felt like a kid so filled with life, I thought I might explode! I'd forgotten that feeling of aliveness, of being present to the magic in the air, not knowing what new discovery would come my way but confident that it would, because every moment is brand-spanking new, and I am more than just witness to it: I am an inextricable part of it.
I purchased my ticket and stood in line for the Ferris wheel. It was a long line, and when I got to the front, I thought, Why take up a whole gondola? I approached the woman managing the ride and told her I was willing to ride with others. She walked over to three women who'd just been seated and asked one of them if it would be all right to include me. The woman leaned over to look at me and slowly shook her head no. I didn't take it personally. I knew it was in divine order. I wanted to reassure her, to say that I wasn't supposed to ride with them, and that it was okay.
And then a voice behind me said, "You can ride with us."
I turned to see the smiling face of a woman with short blond hair who looked to be in her mid-thirties. She was holding the hand of a six or seven-year-old girl who had shoulder-length brown hair and exquisite blue eyes. The woman introduced herself as Nancy and introduced the little girl as her goddaughter Ruby.
"Ruby," she said, "is riding the Ferris wheel for the very first time."
Imagine that! It was as if the universe had conspired to have things happen exactly as they had—and exactly as they had not—so that Ireenie and Ruby could ride the Ferris wheel together.
We climbed into the gondola in a state of graceful innocence. When our gondola reached the top, I felt joyously free and eternally grateful as I looked out over the Pacific Ocean. I felt whole and complete, reunited with Ireenie and one with God. I delighted in knowing I could nurture and support Ireenie in the way she wanted and needed. I trusted my Self. I trusted Spirit. I trusted Life.
Beba: That's beautiful, Irene. I celebrate every healing moment with you. (Pause) As you heal a wound—like the one you just described—it contributes to my healing the wounds I had as your mother. Your acceptance of me helps me accept myself. Your love for me helps me love myself. Wounds are places that have been denied love. My wounds as your mother became your wounds; these were places in you that I couldn't love because I couldn't love them in myself.
My work here is to keep remembering that I am love, and any part of me that doesn't feel the love is an aspect that needs healing, an old belief that needs revising. Being love: that's what I do here.
Irene: Thank you for having been my mother, Beba. I love you.