We've stood on that street corner dozens of times together. We met on that street corner, visited, made friends, and kept each other warm. She's a do-er... a woman of action, finding needs to be met, and meeting them. i think she must vigil every day, because every time i come - she's already there... pacing that sidewalk faithfully - praying for the families that come looking for solutions in that clinic across the street.
i arrive and am frustrated with myself for not dressing warmer. You'd think i'd have learned my lesson by now, but no... constantly i'm arriving and thinking to myself... 'man, it's colder than i thought...' But an hour's not too long to stand in the cold, so i make do. i'm still gathering my scattered thoughts - and she's talking to me... she's telling me how someone yelled at her, "Go find something useful to do!"
i laugh - knowing there aren't a lot of 73 year old women who do as much as this one does - bringing meals to those who need them, vigilling in the cold hour after hour, translating encouraging books and messages into her first language for those back home who have never learned english...
"Yes," i say, "There are a lot of people who don't see the value in standing here and praying for those tiny lives aren't there?"
"i had an abortion."
i hear the words, but i'm sure i must not have heard correctly. i wasn't looking at her... but i am now... and her brown eyes are searching my face, watching my reaction... seeing the surprise that's registering there. i feel my face crumble as it mirrors hers, and i grab her and wrap my arms around her.
She's talking quickly now... and tears flow down her still-beautiful face - wetting the front of her warm jacket. She was only twenty. She had to pay for it herself out of her meagre paycheque. She describes feeling robbed, lost, without hope or options.
i'm crying with her - as we stand a stone's throw from the abortion clinic where our tax dollars pay for the same heartache thousands of times over every year.
"If i would have seen people praying... outside that hospital, i would have run. i never could have done it. If i could only go in there, i know what's happening in there... i know how that life gets taken... i could tell them... " She breaks off sobbing.
She tells me how she ran from her shame - threw herself away from family and immersed herself in labour... working constantly to dull the pain.
Her voice rises and breaks into a cry, "i was dead inside. i hate myself i HATE myself."
& in that moment, i hate abortion. i do. i hate the agony that it brings, i hate that it brought death to a child who should now be a 53 year old grandmother, i hate the pain that i see on my friend's face as she relives her agony. i hate that this "solution" leaves ugly gaping wounds - and steals, kills and destroys.
"God now... He's healing me."
& i see that He is - Redeemer, Healer, Father.
i want to croon, to hold her like a mama holds her baby... i ask her if i can pray for her... because this sadness is too overwhelming. It's too consuming. It's too big - this ancient grief over a half a century borne on her shoulders.
i pray... stumbling, quaking words - trusting that my Father in Heaven will one day make it all right... i pray that she will have faith that one day, she will meet this tiny one who didn't get the chance to live.
Her shout interrupts my prayer and she adds, "Yes! I believe it, i believe that!"
& i believe it too... i believe that there is healing for every broken hearted mama in Calgary who needs forgiveness and tastes the bitter regret of an abortion. i believe that the God of the universe will do right - & there will be no more tears when we live with Him.
My friend has to leave - i thank her for sharing her story with me. i ask her if i can share it with all of you - & she says, "Yes, yes!! If i can help even one woman..."
She's gone, and my eyes are closed in prayer...
i look up, and i see a man escorting a woman from that clinic to a waiting car.
She's in her pyjamas... and she's shaky on her feet.
The horror of the reality of abortion and the picture of the sorrow that could be this woman's future is too fresh in my mind - i'm undone.
i hold my sign a little higher as their car pulls out of the parking lot.
i see her face white in the window of the car. She's looking right at me.
"You are loved..." my sign proclaims.
i'm crying that horrible ugly cry... and i know i look like a lunatic - so overcome in that moment by what i know has happened... just like it happened 53 years ago. i grieve for that little life... and the little life lost all those decades ago.
"Oh, Father," i pray, "show her that truth."
The light changes, and the car pulls out of the parking lot - and becomes lost in the flow of traffic.