Last night I was privileged to gather with a relatively small group of pro-life leaders and activists for the wake service of Nellie Gray. Board members of the March for Life, along with some pro-life leaders from Washington DC-based groups and elsewhere, gathered in a quiet Church of Saint Mary on 5th Street NW. This was Nellie’s parish, where she attended the Traditional Latin Mass. Some family members of Nellie were there, specifically three nieces and a nephew. They had come in from Texas and Georgia, and I very much enjoyed talking with them and reminiscing about Nellie.
I arrived at the Church at the same time the casket arrived, and we had a short initial prayer service at the door. One of the first people I saw there on the sidewalk was Dee Becker, who served for a long time as Vice-President of the March for Life and whom I have known and worked with for many years. Janet Morana and I had spoken with Dee on the phone not long after we got the news about Nellie, and Janet reminded her to make sure that Nellie’s distinctive red coat, which she wore at every March, was preserved. Sure enough, there next to her casket, on a coat stand, was the red coat (with a March for Life button pinned to it), red hat, and red scarf. It brought back many memories.
My friend and colleague Pastor Luke Robinson shared an exhortation during the evening service. He read the Life Principles, reminding us that this is the basis on which Nellie asked us to unite the pro-life movement. Moreover, he pointed out how Nellie made the Silent No More Awareness Campaign an integral aspect of the March, thereby representing her conviction that abortion did not only destroy the baby, but the baby’s parents as well.
Nellie and I had a number of very honest discussions about what would happen with the March for Life after she died. One concern of hers was paramount: that its nature and message be preserved. It is not simply a rally and march; it is an expression of the American people to their elected representatives that all law must conform to the Life Principles, without exception or compromise. It will take a while for all of us to grieve and readjust to Nellie’s absence. But I’m confident that her hope about the future of the March will be fulfilled.