Back in the 1970’s, mom and dad got involved in the “Right to Life” movement. Nothing strident. But they were grieved when the Supreme Court greenlighted the violation of unborn babies. Mom was an artist, empathic to all things delicate, vulnerable, and small. She contemplated everything’s soul. Dad taught high school English and Drama. He had a soft spot in his heart for the riffraff, personally choosing a group he called the “dirty dozen” to star in Mash, a play he directed based on the popular sitcom.
Perhaps dad’s connection with the “dirty dozen” was influenced by his radio days at WNNJ in Newton, New Jersey. People opened up to him. It was the late 1960s. As a radio DJ and newsman, he accompanied military personnel to inform parents of their son’s death in Vietnam. What would a young radio man say at such a grievous moment? He made a delicate request: “Tell me about your son.” The parents opened up. They had something to tell the whole world – about their son.
During Gulf Coast vacations, mom combed beaches for seashells, contemplating their intricate colors, curves, and textures. She often sketched or water-colored them. Her moral conscience expressed these sensibilities: destroying intricate beauty was repugnant. Nature’s sacraments reveal God’s mind. But, in our rough-spoken world, the seashells of human life were being smashed before the ocean of God could craft their beauty.
One Advent, my Catholic high school collected gifts for needy children. Mom, dad, and I brought our presents to a poor family. But when we entered their apartment, the family’s father expressly turned his back on us, perhaps in shame or resentment. But the mom and children accepted the presents. In truth, I still feel conflicted and convicted by the experience. Yes, it opened my eyes to a social problem. But social problems are also very personal. They intimately touch upon a person’s dignity. Decades have since passed, and I’m still processing this.
Once a baby comes from the womb into the world, it must be given life again and again and again. Even a father who must watch his children receive charity needs to be given life. Being pro-life is more than stopping death. It’s affirmative. Giving life – again and again and again – is a way of life. That’s what I learned from growing up pro-life.