So, for the sake of our granddaughter Grace, and any readers who might be interested in what we said, I've re-posted that speech in its entirety below.
|LaRee & me giving|
the keynote address
- I can go to Edmonton and have an abortion, this would free me of all my problems, but it would also take away a big part of me. I love you too much to take away your baby, and I will love that baby as much as I do you, Therefore having an abortion is out.
- I can go into Edmonton and live in a home for unwed mothers, have the baby, then put it out for adoption, But I have thought this over and have come to the conclusion that I can’t do that either.
- I can go into Edmonton after the semester, have the baby and keep it, and raise it on my own. I know that by doing this, I am giving up most of my future but I just can’t give up something that is mine or yours for that matter.
- We can get married. As for me, I have no hesitations, because I know I love you. I can understand you being worried about how we are going to live, but you aren’t the only man in the world this has happened to.
Under Canada’s abortion law of that time, I was required to go through what they called a therapeutic abortion committee. Therapeutic? What a farce! The committee was a rubber stamp process. There was no therapy for me and it certainly was not therapeutic for the baby. I was booked to see a psychiatrist who spent about 2 minutes with me, ensuring that he asked me if this is what I wanted to do. I had already been coerced into believing this was my only way of resolving my problem by friends, family and my boyfriend.
It was late November. The Christmas Season was drawing near. The hospital where my abortion was performed was decorated with festive coloured lights. But there was nothing festive for me or my baby as I walked through the double doors into the hospital for my abortion that late and terrible afternoon.
I remember the sadness and fear that I felt. Looking back now, I know that had someone given me another option, reached out to me with a loving embrace – I would have continued my pregnancy. But only the abortionist reach out to me. The pressure was on me and I felt I had no other choice. I made the wrong choice.
I spent the night at the hospital in preparation for the abortion. I remember hearing the cries of newborn
babies down the hall and was puzzled at why they would place me within earshot of the crying? I still don’t know why. There was a nurse (and I wish I could meet her now) who came to my bedside twice in the middle of the night, touched my shoulder softly and asked me if I was sure that this is what I wanted to do? Oh, how I wanted to reach out to her and cry out “No! I love this baby.” But I was afraid to change my mind. That meant that I would let everybody else down. How would I face them if I didn’t go through with it?
I was rolled on a gurney to an operating room and the procedure was performed. A nurse asked me to count from ten backwards. Oblivion. Just before coming to, I remember hearing the sound of something that sounded like a vacuum cleaner. That sound is forever embedded in my memory. (I imagine my baby being caught up in that machine!)
The minute I saw her I realized that she was not my first child. Memories of my abortion came back. When I looked into the eyes of my daughter I often wondered if the child we aborted would have looked like her. My daughter was a beautiful baby and she is a beautiful woman.
abortion for any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever. I am the Executive Director of the Pro-Life Association for the Canadian province of Alberta. My office is located directly across the street from a major abortion clinic. They have a booming business! Every day, there's a steady stream of women entering that terrible place. Later they come out pale and unsteady. Some stagger into the back alley and throw up and I think to myself: Nothing has changed in 39 years. Women are uninformed, kept in the dark about the real effects of abortion. Like lambs led to slaughter, their babies are sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual liberation and reproductive rights. The women are left to pick up the pieces of their life-changing decision that may haunt them for years – like it did to me. The abortionist pockets $600 and the woman swallows her internal poverty. Some freedom! Some choice!
LaRee is kinder to me than I deserve. I pressured her to have the abortion. I didn’t want to be a father. I wanted sex without consequences. But abortion has consequences for men too.
My conscience condemned me! I remember thinking “How could you abandon your child when you had such a wonderful father!” My heart broke. I could not even claim ignorance. I knew my baby was not a "clump of tissue" or "potential life." She was an actual life—a human being as deserving to be alive as me.
photographs from the book
The thought came to my mind: “Pilate.” Not just him. I am like Pilate too, and so everyone who has washed their hands of helping women in crisis pregnancies make life-affirming decisions. Everyone is like Pilate who remains silent when we know that 98% of abortions are not medically required.
There was a time when I was healthy, athletic and strong. Now I am chronically ill, disabled and weak. The journey from there to here has been long and painful. Is there an eternal lesson I am being taught? Perhaps. I’ve been so dense emotionally and dim spiritually. There were times when I would have given up if I had not been surrounded by people who loved me. I can see how a person can despair and want to die in the isolation of suffering. I cannot even imagine the abandonment of people agreeing to help someone with their suicide.
One thing I lost early on was my sense of musical timing and the coordination in my right hand. This was important to me because music was a huge part of my life. I played guitar, and at the risk of sounding boastful, I was very skilled. I grew up in a musical family. My mother taught music for over 60 years. At any rate, about two years after losing my ability to play the guitar, I realized it was probably not going to return. And so in a fit overwhelming grief I took my beautiful, top of the line instrument and sawed it in half.
``I sawed my guitar in half today. It was the healthiest thing I have done in a long time. It gave me a release and a feeble way to express my grief. My love was music. As a youth I lived for my guitar and my music. I remember when I would rather play than eat. Now, my timing is gone, so too is the strength in my hands.
And so LaRee and I began a terrifying but illuminating journey with a catastrophic disability.
It was important for me to know I was loved by someone who was adamantly committed to my natural human dignity. I found it in LaRee who was also suffering.
I want to bring your attention to this aspect of suffering disability or chronic illness. It’s not just individuals who suffer. Those who love them suffer too, sometimes more excruciatingly.
Mark lives with the real symptoms of aggressive, degenerative multiple sclerosis, which have their limits. I am left to witness it all, ― and imagine. Imagination has no limits. I believe it is easier to be than to watch. Despite countless trials love has prevailed. But love is like the two sides of a precious coin. The two sides of love are this: It is life’s greatest ecstasy but also the cause of life’s greatest agonies and anguish. It is a paradox of love.
“To love or to have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation.”
And so it is. Yet as a wife, mother and grandmother, I want more, and I ask further. I want to protect those I love from pain, emotional hurts, disappointments, and even life as it ends—but I cannot. So often I sat at the bedside of suffering loved-ones and prayed, “Lord give me their pain” as though there is some quota of suffering to be filled which I can bargain over with God. There is not.
When Mark and I married, he was so healthy and active. For the first eleven years of our marriage, he was a super-achiever not only in his career but with family life. He was my Superman.
At the time that Mark was diagnosed with MS, I didn’t even know what the disease was. I had no idea of the impact it would have on our future. And so I began to research the medical literature and even visited a few auxiliary hospitals to see if I could pick out the people with MS: I noticed the canes, the crutches, the wheelchairs and scooters, the van contraptions and curb cuts. MS meant DISABILITY!
I looked into the faces of loved-ones of patients with MS and wondered if I could endure the heartbreak and hurt.
Mark’s faith was stronger than mine, his personality stronger than mine, his body was stronger, his upbringing stronger. His ability to make a living was better than mine. Couldn’t God see that?! I was so angry with Mark and GOD! I felt cornered ... and so let down by life.
Mark’s MS started changing him. I began to gauge the distance between benches in shopping malls in case he needed to sit with exhaustion. I started fearing places with crowds. He might get impatient and I would see that look of frustration on his face.
Then one afternoon, I looked on in horror as my husband began to crawl his way up the stairs in our bi-level house so he could use the bathroom. I realized our life had changed and I had to make some decisions. The first decision I had to make was whether I was prepared to stay in the marriage.
Many times Satan told me that there was an easier way out. “You’re still young. The kids would get over it,” he whispered over my shoulder. “You can start over like many other women after divorce.” The temptation continued: “You can get help from other family members. They will understand.” Even people at my work asked why I was staying with Mark?
It did not take long to realize I needed to get serious with God and ask for his hand if I was going to jump on the wild MS rollercoaster ride. My first prayer was to ask for a wheelchair accessible home so we could begin our new life TOGETHER: God, Mark, me, and the children.
We needed a house that would allow Mark to move about without a struggle, a home that would take us far into this disease. Where the MS would take us, we did not know. We had to trust God.
My prayer was two-sided. I had always had a deep longing for permanence, a place to call home. As a child I was moved from pillar to post (37 times throughout Canada). I didn’t want my children living like gypsies. There was nothing I wanted more than a
And so, in 1987, God answered a need and a prayer. He provided us with a wheelchair accessible home in Beaumont, Alberta, just down the hill from a historic Catholic Church. During difficult times with MS attacks, Mark seemed to find comfort sitting near the apple tree in the backyard and looking up the hill at the old church and listen for the sound of its bell. It seemed to draw his heart closer to God.
God has enveloped me with His love in such a way that I don’t need a Superman husband. (I must admit though, when I hear a noise in the night, I send Mark in his wheelchair whirring into the darkness swinging a cane to protect us from the bogeyman.) What more could I ask for?
pick apples from the tree. Occasionally I reflect on what began with abortion – the denial of life and love’s potential to blossom (both human and divine). It started a pilgrimage to regain the meaning of life and love.
Christ told us to take up our cross daily. I found meaning in my cross because I found meaning in His cross. At the foot of that cross, LaRee and I found divine love. In our brokenness, we have found forgiveness and love. Christ is leading us home.