Not long before Lent started, a friend sent me a message. “I’ve always been pro-life, but I’ve never prayed in front of the abortion facility. I’d like to do that this Lent. Can we do it together?”
It was perfect timing. I hadn’t formulated yet my Lenten commitments, and though I do cycle in and out of praying for the women and workers at our local abortuary, it had been a while, and it was time. Yes, I would be happy to, and I’ll bet my soul sister Ann would too, I said.
That’s how Suzanne, Ann and I came to meet on Wednesdays downtown, first in the freezing cold, and now this week, in much milder temperatures, thank you Lord!
This week’s prayer session was different though. We all felt it. I tried to articulate it. I think the past two weeks, I was so focused on my frozen toes and just trying to get through the hour — even knowing the sacrifice was worth it — that I wasn’t able to feel as deeply what my standing there was about. Not to the depths I felt it this past week.
This week, with the sun shining, I felt the burst of spring all around — by far one of my favorite times of year. It is this time of year that the earth comes alive again after the deep freeze of winter, and life abounds. You see it, you smell it, you feel it, and for those of us who have endured a real winter, there is a euphoria that hits.
That was what made things harder this past Wednesday. I felt life all around, and death just a few feet next to me. The dichotomy of that hit hard.
The week before, we’d watched two sisters going in, and a mother and father accompanying their daughter. It’s so hard to watch. We know that this isn’t pleasant for them. We know it’s probably the worst day of their life, if they’re being honest. We also know that the situations that bring them there are not easy. We don’t pretend this issue is light. It’s far from that and we know it. But we still feel compelled to offer another option, or perhaps, dear Lord, help some young woman change her mind through our smiles of love or a word of hope.
Sometimes, I just pray, but often, I try to catch the eye of the young woman going in. I just want her to see the face of love at a time she’s probably feeling everything but that. I know that she comes in with the likely warning from the “clinic” that “there will be people out front, just ignore them.” Usually it’s hard to catch their eyes. It’s a painful moment for them, and us, no matter what.
But this last Wednesday was different. I caught her eye, and for a moment, our eyes locked. She was so beautiful. And I knew her baby would have been beautiful, too. And in that moment of locked eyes, I felt a connection. She didn’t seem to be questioning me, or feeling condemned as I know some do by our simple presence. There was something else. I’m still processing it. But it seemed like maybe she saw what I wanted to convey, love, and she was accepting it, just for a moment.
And yet…in the end, she still went in. She still went through with it, as far as we know. Her baby still died. And though she might feel a little lighter for a while, because that problem is gone now, she’s forever changed. And if her course matches those of many I’ve talked to, in time, her heart will break into a million pieces, and she will need help to overcome the darkness of knowing she went against her own nature as a woman and let her child die, at her request.
It is a very hard thing, and on this day, I took it harder than most, because of the meeting of our eyes and the momentary connection I felt. As she vanished, I turned back to the prayer in session. We’d been saying the Rosary and we were on the final part of it now, the “Hail Holy Queen.” I started saying the words, “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” And then I stopped. I couldn’t go on. The valley of tears became my own. I began weeping.
I turned to my friends and apologized, and explained, as well as I could, the reason for my tears — the breaking open of spring, the reckoning of death before us, the beautiful girl whose eyes and soul had locked with mine, just for a moment.
I will never forget her. Her face, those beautiful eyes, are emblazoned on my soul. Someday, I will see her again. Someday, I will give her a big hug, and console her. It might not be in this life, but in the next perhaps. But I trust that it will happen. For now, I pray for her, and for her baby, and for her situation…that she might hang on to that look of hope, of something else besides death, and someday find peace.
Q4U: When did you locked eyes with someone in a way that changed everything?