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  • One day I decided to ask my mother about her life. I sat down with her and a tape recorder and asked her about what had been the best and worst moments with her dad, her mother, her childhood in the mountains of Schlesien, the highlights in a childhood of poverty and war. I asked her how exactly she had come to Hamburg, met my dad and whatever else she had never told me or I had never wanted to hear.

    It was difficult. As soon as she reached the part of her life where I had started being present as a thinking and remembering daughter I always wanted to contradict her. I had to stop and control myself many times, reminding myself all over that this was an interview, this was about HER truth, not mine, this was about ME listening to HER.

    I was 49 years old then and she was 73. I realized that I had so often rejected her, critizised and judged her, but I had never listened to her.

    I was shocked to discover this terrible truth about me, the psychotherapist, the professional listener.

    When I later transcribed the interview, so that the rest of my family could have it also, I felt for the first time in my life that I understood my mother as never before: her fears, her shame about having been so very poor for so very long, her hunger for money and everything money can buy. I had never lived through times of dictatorship or war, I had never had suffered hunger.

    That was the beginning of a deep change in the relationship between my mother and me.

    Today she is 85 years old and happier than I have ever seen her. Even though she always was such an attractive and admired woman, she spent most of her life in depression and anxiety.

    We phone each other every week. Last time she told me: "Kiki, the word NEGATIVE does not exist in my dictionary anymore. If one of these days I die I want you to know that I have been truly and deeply happy!"

    I love her!
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