By Mark Lopez: I was abused and beaten until the age of 18 by my mother.

It made me fearful of having my own children.

Children were the cause of evil -- my mother told me so!  I caused pain and I caused  hurt.  She almost died, and she hated me for it.  And every day, I heard her wish that I had never been born.  Rather then hugs and kisses, I got ice-cold stares, punches, strikes and kicks.  Sometimes her eyes would fill with rage, and she'd hit me until I became lost inside my own world and eventually blacked out.

I grew to hate my mother and wish her dead.

I ran away from home one hour after turning 18.  I married my high school girlfriend just because my mother couldn’t stand her, but we were ready for divorce after only 1 year. I joined the military and begain smoking hash everyday just to escape.  I spiraled out of control -- stealing, drinking to excess, and cursing uncontrollably. I got arrested for writing bad checks, and eventually came before a court martial.  I realized then that something had to change, but I didn't know what or how.

I began to look for ways to get rid of the anger, hurt and hatred. I married my second wife -- a woman who was also looking for a different life -- and our journey continued together.  We were eventually drawn back to church, I began to recall and document my past.  I realized that I had prayed extensively during my ordeals as a kid, and that a lot of my coping mechanisms for escaping the pain came from that prayer.

In the end, I had abandoned God when I ran away from home. I asked for His forgiveness and welcomed him into my life.

In December 2003, I got a call from my uncle to tell me that my father was ill and that the diagnosis was terminal. It had been 11 years since we'd spoken, but I visited with him in the hospital, scheduling my visit to avoid my mother.  I had no peace; I knew I had to forgive her, but it seemed impossible.

The day before my return visit to see my father, I got down on my knees and prayed like I have never prayed before. I broke down and cried out and finally released the pain.  I didn't sort out my feelings or change my opinions about the past -- I simply released the pain. Then I curled up in a fetal position and fell asleep.

I woke up later that day with a total feeling of relief and calm, ready to face my mother.  I met her and explained my hurt and anger and my need to forgive her.  I told my dad that night  ... and at 2am he died.

I've been married for 29 years now, and am a prison chaplain teaching fathers how to end the cycle of abuse in their own lives.  I'm also raising 3 grandchildren -- with love, kindness, and lots of hugs.  My mother continues to live in another state than me, but we stay in touch once a month. Last week, I was able to wish her well on Happy Mothers Day.

I've learned that bitterness and hatred are destructive, but that the power of forgiveness gives life.  I did not allow my past to ruin me, or hatred to control me.  I let my past inspire me, so that today I can be the person that God designed me to be -- and be a living testament to second chances.