Not Just One LifeJan 22, 2022
“Waved. Just waved and walked away. Can you believe it?”
I respond with a blank stare at Vicki.
“Did she really do it?”
I can’t grasp her decision. Can’t understand choosing that decision.
I reach for my friend’s hand. Even without words, the touch is familiar, comforting. Two young women, girls really, just starting out in the world after college. We’re each newly married. She with a tiny new daughter, me recently pregnant, ecstatic, awaiting the birth of my first child. Our futures are full of joyful expectations.
“Did she give you a reason?” I manage to whisper.
Swallowing hard, her response causes my head to swim. “She doesn’t want to be fat for her spring break trip to Florida. She’s afraid to tell her mom. Lynn agreed to go with her, so she doesn’t have to be alone.”
I’m incredulous, “Lynn can’t go to an abortion clinic! She’s three months pregnant!”
I replay that conversation in my mind more frequently than I care to admit. I especially think about it during October the month of my son’s birth. The other baby was due close to the same time. Instead, a choice was made to end that life.
On this anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the memories surrounding those events feel as fresh as they did in 1989.
I don’t know if Lori made a rash decision. I’ll never understand the fear that caused her to choose abortion. We never talked about it. She didn’t want to. Her election changed me inexplicitly. Her decision altered the way I looked at the world then, still. The four of us college friends, besties, roomies, sisters were forever changed with that one action.
Lori married the man who is the father of the first baby. They have two other grown children. She led a beautifully successful life as a teacher and then built a career culminating as the superintendent of schools for a school district near Chicago. She was a fantastic mother, aunt, friend. But as the years wore on the guilt of that spring day never left her. She used alcohol to dull the guilt. It eventually stole her job, almost ruined her marriage, damaged many relationships, friendships.
In March of 2019, I missed a phone call from Lori. The message she left was jumbled, incoherent. I phoned her back, but she didn’t answer. I then texted Lynn and Vicki joking as to what in the world was Lori up to?
Lori’s, husband Dave, phoned Vicki and explained what had gone on over the past four years. The alcohol, the job losses, the fights, and now dementia caused by the alcohol.
Hadn’t we just had dinner a few months ago? How could this be?
We learned from Dave that although the alcohol use accelerated in the past few years, it was an ongoing struggle for Lori.
Although busy with careers, marriages, and children, we tried to get together at least once a year.
At the most recent dinner, Lori looked a bit tired, but she blamed her job and having two kids in high school. What we didn’t know was that she had lost her superintendent job, was demoted to a teacher, couldn’t maintain that, got a job as a waitress in a bar which exasperated the situation, and eventually was fired from that job as well.
There was no denying the inevitable. Dave told how Lori hid the alcohol from him, from everyone. He came home from work to find Lori unconscious on the kitchen floor with broken bottles of vodka strewn across the floor. This wasn’t the first time. And it wasn’t a made-for-TV movie.
Vicki, Lynn, and I visited Lori at the hospital the following Saturday. Dave cautioned us that she was no longer herself as she weighed just 80 pounds. He revealed that she might not even recognize us.
We three met at the hospital and sat together to process what we might see; how could we help Lori out of this situation?
Quietly opening the heavy door and pushing through the sterile curtain, we got our first look at Lori since our dinner. Lori's eyes were closed. Her beautiful blonde hair was now stringy patches on her head, her skin a pale grayish-blue. She opened her eyes then and exclaimed in her Emma Stone-like raspy voice, “Hello sweet ladies!”
If I didn’t know the sound of her voice, I wouldn’t have believed it was Lori. We were allowed to hug her briefly. Her frailty frightened me.
To our surprise, Lori knew each of us by name. What a blessing!
The four of us spent two hours chatting about college days, the apartment we shared, long nights of studying, football game tailgating, the endless party weekends. We joked, laughed, and cried. Lori asked very specific questions about our children; Vicki and I with two each and Lynn with a whopping six!
After the stories ran out, Lori apologized to us for what she had done to herself. She spoke of regrets in her career, her marriage, and raising her children. No one mentioned her abortion.
After a few minutes of silence, we thought she may have fallen asleep.
Then with eyes closed, Lori asked, “What religion are each of you? I can't remember.”
We responded. Lynn and I are Catholic and Vicki is Lutheran.
Lori asked, “Do you go to church?”
Yes, we each practice our faith, daily and weekly.
Lori asked, “Do you believe in God?”
Yes, we believe in God.
“Do you think God forgives me?” she whispered as a single tear slipped down her cheek.
Silence encircled us. Even the beeping of the medical machines seemed to have stopped.
“I could have had three babies, but I only had two. Will I see my baby in heaven, do you know?”
Swallowing hard I offered, “Lori, you need to talk with God and ask His forgiveness. We will pray with you.”
“I’ve been so sad and scared since that day. The day Lynn and I went to the clinic,” she quietly explained. “But I could push it away for a long time. I just couldn’t forget about it any longer.”
Vicki offered to contact the hospital chaplain for Lori to talk with and she agreed that she would welcome that conversation. We cried and prayed together until the nurse told us it was time for Lori to rest.
Back in the hospital lobby, Lynn revealed that at the abortion clinic there were more than 30 women in the waiting room. Lynn was so upset when she got home, she vomited the rest of the evening. Her husband feared for their unborn baby.
“I’ve prayed for those women and their babies in that waiting room every day for the past 30 years. I see their faces so often. It changed my life forever and I didn’t have the abortion, but I feel like I have,” Lynn explained straining to hold back her sobs.
We agreed the horror of that day changed our lives. Our souls were tainted with guilt that we could not talk Lori out of her decision. We didn’t fully understand the lifelong consequences of it then.
Lori died 6 days later.
I pray often for the baby and the girl who made that tragic choice.
I can’t scorn her. I can’t understand her. I don’t want to condemn. It’s not up to me “because if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” (1 John 3:20)
Pope Francis said, “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world's rejection."
I’m sharing this story because this isn’t a political problem. This is a problem that denies reality. Abortion isn’t one woman and her body. Abortion isn’t an easy five-minute solution to a perceived problem. The ripple effect of abortion alters lives irrevocably. This one simple story has changed the lives of four friends, her family, and everyone who knew Lori. It changed her tragically.
Please pray that the world will see the face of Jesus in every aborted baby.
Abortion ruins lives.
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
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