To Richard during Sanctity of Life Week

Dear Richard,

Yeah, I know. It has been a long time since I wrote to you. Five years, I think. I gave that letter to Ellen at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. She said she thought she would have some use for it.

It has been thirty years, but this time of year is still hard for me. It is so dreary. Winter, you know. We have had sunshine the past two days, for which I am very thankful. Then there is the fact that your brother’s youngest son was born on the day you died. If I were God, I would not have given me any children, much less grandchildren. What a gift that I should look at little Tony’s face twenty seven years after I sacrificed you. I don’t hate myself for it anymore. I just wonder at all that I gave up. Would I have given it up if I had known?

I didn’t, and I don’t really know why. I was in college then, and certainly no dummy. Roe v. Wade and legal abortions were new. I was afraid to tell my parents. And your father? He was just afraid, I think. Neither of us allowed ourselves to think. Not that that excuses anything.

Ellen at the Crisis Pregnancy Center asked why I had an abortion.  I don’t know all the answers.  I knew I couldn’t raise you in my father’s house.  I didn’t see how I could do it alone.  I heard an abstinence speaker at the high school where I work say that pregnancy, unlike STDs, is survivable.  That’s a lot easier to say in hindsight.

When Ellen  asked, I was in a Bible study with a married woman who had two kids and had aborted the third. Money, you know;she and her husband hadn’t paid off the first two. She had called the CPC for help before she had the abortion. Had they not offered her the right help? They couldn’t pay for the pregnancy. Her husband was bugging her. She was young. She did what she thought she had to do.

I remember the first time I met her. I had two kids in college. Hers had not yet started school. She sort of looked at me in wonder. How would I, at my “advanced” age, be affected by abortion? That first day she didn’t know my story. She just asked me if it would get better. We both cried. I told her the pain would ease, but she would never forget. I guess that’s why I write these letters. So I won’t forget. You were important. I’m sorry I didn’t treat you that way.

That girl and I didn’t have a lot in common with Ellen, although she thought we did. She had had several miscarriages, so she tried to tell us she knew about grief. And I don’t doubt that she does. But she didn’t live with the fact that something she had done had been directly responsible for the death of a human being. That is a hard thing to face. It is humbling to know what you are capable of.

I think the thing that brought the difference home to Ellen was when she was talking about this memorial at the local park. It was for the moms of miscarried babies, and once a year they have a service where they let balloons go in memory of their children. I can’ t remember anymore if it was me or the other girl in the Bible study who asked if the moms of aborted babies could go, too. To the service, I mean. Ellen asked. The answer was no. We weren’t the only people, then, who saw a difference.

Women of my generation, though, really don’t talk about things like this. I forget the exact statistics anymore, but Ellen said something like one in five adult women had been affected by abortion. That means that when you sit in church and your pastor preaches on the sanctity of life, he is preaching to women like me, women who have had abortions. But even in church, even in the place where they should be safe…and forgiven…I have never heard anyone speak up. Few of us share our stories. At least in public.
I don’t even speak up much, although I will to your father every now and then. I know that he feels your absence, although he doesn’t talk about it much. He acknowledges what I say. Then he looks away. But at least he doesn’t act like I am beating him up with it any more.

I did for a while, you know. For a long time I couldn’t think about you at all, and then, when I did, as I watched your brother and sister grow and I knew what I had missed, I grieved. And since anger is a part of grief, I had some of that to deal with, too. Some of it was directed at your dad.

He really is a good man. His life was out of control at the time that I found out that I was pregnant with you. He couldn’t help me. I know that sounds stupid, but neither of us saw you as real yet. They didn’t do ultrasounds in those days, and even young people in their twenties (OK; at least your dad and I) were amazingly stupid about what went on during a pregnancy. It brings it all home to me when I watch young women mourn a miscarriage when they have only missed one period. I had missed two when I found out I was pregnant with you.

I wish… I wish I could put my arms around you, like I can around your brother. You are a young man in my head, not the baby you once were. That surprised me. Your hair is not red like your brother’s, but brown like your dad’s. I think you would have been tall. And I do hug you, at least mentally. Do you know that?

One of the things that isn’t so bad about being middle-aged is knowing that I am closer to the time that I will meet you. And I am looking forward to it. I know that your grandmother is in heaven with you, and I assume she has done her share of loving you. At least I hope that heaven works that way.

When I finally meet you, son, be patient with me. I may have a need to count your fingers and your toes like I should have all those years ago. I will smooth aside your hair so that I can kiss your cheek, and I will hold you oh, so close. And I will shed tears, but I don’t want you to dread them. They will be tears of joy because we can finally be together.

For now, I make do with the wisps of you that I see on this earth. Your father’s chuckle. Your brother’s gentleness with his sons. Little Tony’s discovery of the world. Is he seeing it through your eyes? Did you whisper to him about the things he’d see? Some people say babies are the closest to God of any of us. And you were so small when you left.

I can’t promise when I’ll write again. The world gets in my way sometimes, and it is hard for me to put write things down. But I will write. Your twenty-ninth birthday would have been this July. I won’t forget.

The Bible says that now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known. I look forward to that time, Richard. To seeing you and knowing you.

I love you. I always have.



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January 2006
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