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Hiding the Grief
In 2009 I joined a pro-life march and prayer vigil at a local abortion clinic. I felt more like an observer than a marcher, and I watched those people through a dusty lens of many years.
That wasn't the first time I had been to that abortuary. Many years before, seemingly in another life, I knew a child who died there. He was my son, and his name was Matthew David. Had he lived, he would be 30 years old today. I don't know if he would have been a great athlete. I don't know if he would have loved music or science or finance. I suspect he would have loved fishing since it seems to run in the family. Most of all, I know Matthew wasn't just a random blob of protoplasm that occurred at an inopportune moment. Matthew was a real, live person who deserved so much better than he got.
I hadn't been back to that building since the day Matthew died. As a matter of fact, I didn't even drive down that street. Was it just that I didn't have business in that part of town, or was I avoiding the place? I don't know. But the place felt the same, and I was strangely uncomfortable. I wondered if my fellow marchers had any idea of my secret.
When all this had originally transpired, I accepted Satan's lie that by condoning one wrong, an abortion, I could avoid another worse development, a divorce. I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either I supported an abortion, or I faced divorce proceedings and my child would be aborted anyway. I knew that it is never right to condone one intrinsically wrong act in order to try to avoid another. Still, I took the easy way out, and, in doing so, I failed to stand up for Matthew.
My feelings around that abortion were the darkest of my life. I can't imagine a greater rejection than having your mate see your child as a curse rather than a blessing. It speaks deeply of your mate's disdain for you as a person and a man. Moreover, I had failed in a basic life task, to protect my child. I felt weak, emasculated, and soiled. I had no worth as a man and or as a human being.
After the abortion, the absolute finality of death hit with astounding power. That baby, that child, was gone forever, and there was nothing--absolutely nothing-- I could do to recall my decision. Something had diminished in me. On some level, I had lost my innocence. I was a changed man forever.
The situation didn't allow for me to grieve. If I hoped to save my marriage, I had to be supportive no matter what. So I damped my emotions down and "soldiered on".
Not surprisingly, that marriage ended soon afterwards, but still I kept my emotions in check. I didn't talk about Matthew for years. I pretended that he never existed, but I knew better. My guilt and my grief came out in other ways, ways not so easy to relate to the terrible truth I hid.
I took away from my present wife the ability to have children of our own. In explaining myself, I claimed not to understand my wife's objections. In truth, I didn't listen to her, and in part it was because I had failed to protect one son. The chance of having another made me think about my failure. My anger came out in harsh quarrels with my wife.
Healing took many years, partially because it took me a long time to relate the abortion to my feelings of anger and worthlessness. My eyes were opened when I came to the Church and learned of a loving Christ who shared my pain rather than judging me.
Once my eyes were opened to the fact that Christ himself thought I had great value, I could then begin to forgive myself. When I could face the fact of the abortion without defensiveness, I could see my child as a real person who deserved to be mourned and missed.
But, to make him real to my mind, I needed to treat Matthew like a person. I named him, just like I would have done at his birth. Since the abortionist would not tell us his gender, I gave him one. Somehow, I just knew that my child was a boy. I gave him a birthday (January 28th) and I "celebrate" it by a special remembrance each year. I mourned him. After many years, I allowed myself to weep for his loss, and now I speak freely of my lost son.
It's been thirty years. Why would I write of this now? The answer is that I am not content to see more children die and to allow the lie of abortion to go unchallenged. I don't want any other parents to have to grieve and hide their grieving because of this saddest of all human activities. I will be Silent No More.
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