The survivors: “…I know I had a little brother or sister.”

Today’s blog post on the Stand True site is written by the sibling of an aborted child. I love the writer’s conclusion, so powerful and positive: “I want to be able to say I avenged my big brother David by abolishing abortion, and I am confident that I am part of the generation that will do that.” 

Think about how many “survivor siblings” there are in America, after forty years of widespread abortion. How does it feel to be a survivor?

I was forced to think about that one day, twenty-three years ago, when I was invited to address a sociology class at University of New Hampshire. The topic was abortion, and I was offering the pro-life arguments. Someone from NARAL was there to represent the other side. The students in the class were all very courteous, but the vast majority were strongly supportive of abortion, and they kept me on my toes for forty-five minutes with a series of challenging questions.

I nearly threw in the towel five minutes into the class. After our opening statements, a student hesitantly raised her hand and began to speak. She seemed to be holding back tears, and she haltingly asked  “…but what about … what can I do if …” before she ran from the room, overcome with emotion.

Great, I thought glumly. It only took me five minutes to send someone fleeing from the room. The professor quickly indicated to us to keep going, as she left to follow the student. The professor was back a few minutes later, alone.

We got through the class with no further incidents. We actually had a good conversation. The questions I got were sharp but never snarky. I had prepared a formal presentation, but I didn’t need it. The students’ thoughtful questions made for a much better outline than anything I could have drawn up. All through the class, though, I kept thinking of that tearful student.

When the class ended, I hurriedly thanked the professor before running into the hall to try to find the student. The hall was packed with between-class traffic, and I didn’t know where to go. I was about ready to give up when I felt someone touch my arm and quietly say “Excuse me? Hi.” There she was. She had come back to find me.

Her name was Patty. We had no place to sit down. She had another class in ten minutes. But, “I had to talk to you. I had to explain.” You don’t owe me anything, I assured her. I’m sorry if I upset you. She shook her head. “You don’t understand.” It took her another two minutes to tell me her story, which has haunted me ever since.

Patty was twelve and her little brother was ten when their parents announced that another baby was on the way. It was great, exciting news. A happy time. The happiness came to a halt a few weeks later. The parents, solemn and sad, sat down with Patty and her brother to explain that the doctors had found something wrong with the baby. Mom was going to have an operation to end the pregnancy. Abortion.

Down’s? Spina bifida? A tumor? Trisomy 18? Patty never asked. The baby was sick, and abortion was the answer.

Patty began to cry again as she said to me, “I love my mom and dad. But I know I had a little brother or sister.” None of the students rushing by on their way to class could have heard her soft voice, but I caught every syllable. Six years after the fact, her sibling’s death tore at her. She knew her parents had not come to their decision lightly. She grieved with them. And still, she honored the memory of that baby.

I wish I could end this with an account of how my wise and consoling words wrapped everything up and we all lived happily ever after. That’s not how it happened. In fact, I went blank. I can’t remember a single thing I said to Patty after she told me about her family’s experience. I was reeling inside. To this day, I pray to God that none of my words – whatever they were – made matters worse for her. I hope I thanked her. I hope I hugged her. I hope I somehow conveyed to her how my heart ached for the loss she felt. I wanted her to understand that missing her sibling didn’t mean being disloyal to her parents. What did I actually say? Only God and Patty know.

And then she was off to her next class. I never saw her again.

That’s a heavy load, to know you’re a survivor. You’re chosen, when someone else wasn’t. Where to go from there? Back to the girl who wrote for Stand True: I want to be able to say I avenged my big brother by abolishing abortion, and I am confident that I am part of the generation that will do that.

 

 

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