It’s been happening more often lately.
In the past, many of the young women who walked down the sidewalk on their way to our state’s only abortion facility seemed to keep a hold on their emotions. If anything, we’d see the stern, determined looks. But lately, other emotions have been presenting themselves more commonly on the sidewalk. I would call them faces in anguish.
It is very hard to witness this. We know this day must be exceedingly hard as it is. We know, too, that showing one’s emotion in public like this can only happen when things are really bad.
It’s nearly impossible for us not to absorb this, and feel the anguish with them. Often, we pause our prayers. Sometimes, it’s really hard to continue on with them. We know these women are hurting. Their tears tell us so much. We may not know the particulars of their stories, but their faces tell us as much as we need to know; that they are in great need of prayer.
Last week on the sidewalk, the anguished faces appeared, so raw and real it hurt to watch. And this week, the same thing. Rather than a woman slipping quietly into the interior near the door, we knew she was coming well in advance. Her hand covered part of her face. She did not want to show her vulnerability. And yet, there it was, laid out there on the sidewalk to remind us just what’s at stake here.
This month, we honor Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, mother of our Lord, cried many tears, too, over the torment she experienced through watching her only son die. We honor this face of our mother September 15. It’s a good time to make the connection between the agony Our Blessed Mother experienced, and the agony these dears ones are experiencing. It is a time to pause, and pray extra diligently.
How I wish I could hold those women and tell them it will be okay. How I wish I could be the mother they are needing to give them courage to mother their own. What is missing in their lives that this possibility eludes them? And how long will tears come afterward, as they process what has happened?
It is a lot to take in, and the best we can do is offer this up to our Lord, the great healer of hearts.
This is a heavy post. It is an honest post about what we are seeing on the sidewalk these days that strikes us — this anguish that seems in greater measure than normal.
But I don’t want to leave it there, because today, even as we stood just inches away from one of those anguished faces, we saw something else too. We saw hope.
As the car approached, I and another prayer advocate, just feet away, turned to meet the couple inside. We wanted to reach them with our literature to give them time to consider another option. I held up the small card and motioned as if to say, “This is an option, too. Can we help?”
The woman’s face was wet as she tried holding back tears that came anyway. The tears had not been caused by us, but had been there welling up, waiting for release. It seems, perhaps, that the sight of us had given permission.
“Let’s just go,” the man said, getting out of the small car. She was fighting it. “Fathers are meant to protect,” I told him. “We know of a place where there are resources to help. Would you consider it?”
They were conflicted. It was obvious. But he nudged her forward. “We need to go.” She pulled the bottom of her beautiful, flowered dress so it wouldn’t catch in the car door, and off they went, but not without promise of our prayers.
A little while later, a woman approached who identified herself as a relative of Savanna Greywind. She shook our hands, and shared her displeasure of abortion, and cried over the brutal loss of her cousin. We hugged her, and assured her that her family is in our prayers. It was a touching moment, a very sad moment, too.
I was still talking with her when the couple we’d been talking with just a little before emerged, and crept back into their car. They had decided to not go through with it. I dug out my brochure with information for our local pregnancy help clinic, and we told them how proud we were, and how we’d be praying, and hoped they would call to get the help they deserved.
All this, just before my hour on the sidewalk was through, and all I could do was praise God for his faithfulness.
Just that morning, I’d read from his Word: “I will extol you and praise your name; For you have fulfilled your wonderful plans of old, faithful and true.” (Is 25:1) I pondered how God keeps his promises, that those who stay faithful will receive their reward. A reflection underneath the Scripture in “Magnificat” read: “God is true; he has a long memory for his own promises and a short memory for our failures to keep ours.”
These were the words I had brought with me to the sidewalk, and I sensed them at work after we’d said our Rosary, and a Chaplet, and then, had the great privilege of offering hope to a dear couple today. Please pray with us that they will find the help they need, so that we will have the privilege of welcoming their dear, beautiful child to the world someday soon.
I would dare say that it is in memory of Savanna that I make this plea to God, that he will be especially protective of our Fargo family at this time. I pray that in our faithfulness, he will hear our cries of worry, and the cries of anguish of the women on the sidewalk, and let the cries of the babies spring forth, heralding new life, over and over.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life, and the honor of trying to help others realize it more and more. You are a good, good father.