Marie was reluctant to touch her unconscious mother’s hand for fear of her waking up and objecting to Marie’s simple gesture of love. “We never got along, we bickered every chance we could,” Marie said as she shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans. “I love her, but my brothers and I were never allowed to say the ‘L’ word.” Marie stared at the floor. “I’m pretty sure she loved me,” she said with doubt. “I’ve wanted to hold her hand all my life,” she whispered with certainty.

Marie had to wait until her mother was in a coma before she could share the loving touch she has been longing to offer her for over fifty years. I suggested she take her mother’s hand in that moment, as it was clear to me that she was within minutes of dying.

Marie nervously caressed her mother’s hand and said, “So this is how it feels to hold her hand. Her skin is so soft. Her fingers are so delicate.” She then held her dying mother’s hand up to her cheek and cried, apologizing for being so “unlovable.”

My heart sank for Marie. My heart sinks for so many people who feel the same way.

There must have been a vulnerable moment in Marie’s life when someone she trusted told her or showed her that she was unlovable, and she chose to believe it. That one blow to the heart can be all it takes to forever believe we are unworthy of love. If we can recognize when such a travesty occurred in our own lives, perhaps we can begin to heal that wound with self-love and compassionate understanding.

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