Now, granted, there were a few moments where I thought, okay, this is it, the proverbial other shoe is about to drop - but those moments remained moments and I marched on.
The night before was filled with anxiety and nightmares and much tossing and turning, but I jumped out of bed at 4:45 AM and got some coffee. I had packed my bag the night before and felt armed with the essentials, iPhone, candy, journal, notes, rosary and few other little treasures that I wanted to take along. I also had the cards that I had made for the event. I wasn't fully convinced that I was going to hand them to anyone, but I had them anyway.
When I got in my car to head out into the dark and rainy morning, there was a note from my dear hubby taped to the steering wheel. It was a reminder from him of how far I've come and also a pep talk to remember all of my accomplishments when faced with any ugliness during the day. He was quite concerned about my going to the March from the beginning and I love him for it. Even though I fancy myself a pretty tough cookie who can take care of myself - I have my weaknesses and they were all going to be vulnerable on this day.
I arrived at my parish for the bus pick up time. I was going with a bunch of people that I know, but like I said before, none of them knew my real motivation for going on the trip. What I found out throughout the day was that I had chosen my transportation to the March well. Traveling to the March with a heavy heart and cluttered mind is quickly swept away but a rowdy bunch of youth from our parish school. Not rowdy in a bad way - just so full of life and happiness and seemingly untouched by the hurts of this world thus far. It is truly contagious. As I sat on the bus for the trip, my thoughts often wondered to what I was like at that age and the things I had already waded into and I said a few prayers for those kids around me and hoped that none of them would have to go through what I've gone through.
Next stop was a Pro Life Youth Mass just outside of D.C. where our own Bishop would be present. We all unloaded and entered the Church. The first thing that hit me was the music, beautiful music from live musicians! Don't get me wrong, I'm in love with my traditional Mass and "folk masses" usually aren't my thing, but there is something to be said for a Youth Mass with live music at the right time and place - and this was that time and place for me. I was immediately swept up in mere seconds. I felt something stir within me that I hadn't felt in a very long time. I would argue that I hadn't quite felt it since I drove away from my Rachel's Vineyard retreat weekend two years ago - it was joy, pure joy coming from deep within me somewhere where it remains buried for long stretches of time only bubbling to the surface, unwilling to be contained, at far and in between moments in my life. At that moment, I felt immediately buoyed and lifted up.
I was happy to see a few familiar faces among the clergy that were scurrying to get ready for the Mass and I spotted one who I knew of but hadn't met personally yet. Once my group was settled in their seats, I excused myself and ventured back out to the vestibule where they were waiting for another bus to arrive. I have no idea where my courage came from but there was no stopping me now. I introduced myself to the Priest who I had previously sent my blog link to. I told him my name as he took my hand. I quickly and quietly told him who I was and I saw the look of recognition on his face and in his kind eyes. I'm so thankful that there seem to be at least more than a couple good and holy Priests among us and I keep finding more and more on my journey! Since I'm basically still "silent" on my whole story in my "real" life, Priests are one of the few who I generally feel safe telling my story to and if they can use my story or my blog to help another woman - mission accomplished!
I turned to go back into the church and there was our Bishop, just standing there alone and waiting without anyone clamoring for his attention. The Holy Spirit was on my tail this day and I felt a distinct shove in his direction. I fumbled with the cards in my pocket and went up and tapped him on the back. He turned around and again I was greeted with His face in the face of this holy Priest, now Bishop. I introduced myself and he asked what Parish I was from. I told him and then I quickly and quietly told him the real reason I was there. As he bent down to listen to me, he took both of my hands in his sacred ones and expressed sorrow for my pain and all that I had been through without even knowing the details! I don't know why I felt the need to tell him - but I did and I'm glad I did. I handed him a few of my "calling cards" and told him about my blog allowing me to be "silent no more." I thanked him as another bus had arrived and went back inside for Mass.
I couldn't believe what I had just done and I couldn't wait to text my husband and let him know that I did it! The Mass was wonderful. The Priest who I had introduced myself to gave the homily and it was a good one. Looking out over that sea of young people, I just felt warm and fuzzy and I haven't done warm and fuzzy for a long time. It was standing room only and during the consecration I looked around just to see if they were still standing, but nope, about 95% of the young kids were kneeling right on the floor. I have hope yet that this generation may be the one that turns things around.
The next few hours were kind of blur and I'm still letting a lot of it settle into my soul. There were several times when the anxiety was welling up and I had to talk myself down. Our group said a rosary when we were right outside of our drop off point. As I stepped off the bus, I braced myself for whatever was coming next. We had to walk for a bit until we found our spot on the lawn in front of the stage where all kinds of congressman and officials were giving short speeches. It was really raining at this point but the energy of the crowd was tangible. With each speaker the intensity grew, but something else was growing with it - more joy.
And as I took a deep breath at the start of each speech waiting to hear about the selfish women who chose abortion, the ones who murdered their children, the ones who deserve no pity...my anxiety was for naught. There was no mention of those women, but plenty of words about the postabortive woman searching for redemption, the one sold a bill of lies about what abortion would really do to her. That, my friends, is what's going to enlarge the prolife movement beyond anyone's expectations, if the postabortive women out there, millions of them, feel safe and at home in a crowd of prolifers, they will come.
The actual March then began and it was bit dicey for a while keeping all of our charges in line and for me, an extra challenge as I'm only so tall and can't see in a crowd to begin with so I picked the tallest gentlemen with us and decided to follow him all day. I didn't have my hubby who normally leads me through crowds and I don't even have to think about it. But once the walk smoothed out a bit and got moving, it was just a giant swell of people and there it was again... joy.
I had thought the March would be somber and gloomy with everyone reflecting on all the babies lost to abortion and horrible mothers who aborted them, but nope. These people, these young and old, large groups and small, from all over the country were filled with joy, pure, unadulterated, singing, chanting, laughing, joy.
Then came a slight bump in the road, a few ugly, ugly signs, a few prochoicers... but then a big bump in the road and our trip "captain" warned us before that it was coming. There in the middle of the March is this giant set up with a giant LED screen of horrible, gut wrenching and graphic pictures streaming on it. We tried our best to tell our kids not to look at them. But it was like a train wreck and they couldn't help it. I couldn't help it. Then I got angry - why were they allowed to be there? Aren't they kind of preaching to the choir? I don't think the Marchers needed to see that.
If I do anything with my story, I hope one day to convince someone that those kind of pictures aren't necessary - maybe they serve some purpose in convincing somebody what abortion really is - but not in that time or that place were they in any way necessary. That display was followed up by another huge display running almost a full block - same thing - graphic, ugly, pictures. I don't need the reminder of what happened to my baby. Just when I thought I was about to lose it and possibly be physically sick... I felt a little tug at my heart saying, "It's okay, it's not about all that."
And you know what, it isn't about all that. I started thinking about my journey as I marched in that sea of people. That maybe my journey doesn't need to be about death any more, at least not in that kind of ugly, gruesome, graphic way. I'm guilty of looking stuff up online just to torture myself. I read the radical message forums with wing nut bible thumpers that condemn me to hell despite anything I've done in redemption for my sin. It's as if I'm tempting myself and my faith just to see how strong I really am.
These huge displays on the March were one blip of negative in an ocean of positivity of love and joy and laughter and singing and music. I was surrounded by more Priests than I've ever seen in my life. I saw many Sisters as well and not just the retired-teacher variety - these sisters were young with glowing faces even in the dark and deary rain. And all the young people singing and chanting. There was a group from a boys academy singing beautifully in four part harmony. There were bagpipes and chanting and prayers being offered. There was one bunch of seminarians - at least 50 of them - and I said a quick prayer that they all make it to become Priests.
Marching up the hill, you can turn around and get a glimpse of just how many people are really there. When we got up to the Supreme Court, I then began to see the group I most wanted to see. All of the women from the Silent No More Awareness movement - and there they were, first one or two, then three, then a whole line of them up to the Supreme Court, boldly holding their "I regret my abortion!" signs. I walked past them and felt bad that I wasn't strong yet enough to do that but I tried not to dwell on it too much. They were woman of all ages and races and they had all been through what I had been through and this was but a small sample of the millions of us out there.
Our group stopped at the top of the hill to get a picture in front and as we stood still and smiled, the next Silent No More Woman began to speak and her testimony started with, "I had an abortion at the age of 17..."
Okay Lord, I heard you.
We started our walk back down the hill and now we were right behind the line of post abortive witnesses. I wanted so badly just to reach out to each one and pat them on the back but I couldn't because I was afraid the group I was with would find me out! I didn't have too much time to feel like a coward as we were in a hurry with our next stop being Union Station for a small break. Inside there were many more Priests and Sisters. I gave out my card to some when no one could see me and there were more singing and joyful youth.
We made our way back to our bus when it was all over and I had so many mixed emotions and feelings and didn't think I'd ever get them all sorted out. I was so busy this week that I haven't had a lot of time to really let it all soak in. When I got on the bus and got settled in to drive to our next location - dinner - I pulled out my journal and began to jot a few things down. One thing kept coming to mind - joy. Time to put the death away. Time to put the hurt away. If it comes back up again - just treat it like those ugly displays on the March - temper myself, say a prayer and march on. Sure there will be times when I feel shame and sorrow and hurt and pain, but they are only temporary because my God is an awesome God and he has forgiven me.
There were a few more busloads at our dinner location and since I ate by myself and then walked around a bit, I handed out a few more cards. One Priest who I gave it to with a quick explanation, simply looked at me and said, "this is beautiful." Yes, it kind of is actually.
By the time we boarded the bus for the hours ride home, I quickly emailed/texted three people, my hubby to let him know I survived and was okay, my dear Priest who has been there since my first steps of this journey, and a dear Sister who has been there for over half of it. Then my phone's battery died. I hear you Lord, I said to myself, the next few hours were not going to be for music in my ears, or texting, or Words with Friends, all I could do was sit back, exhale, and smile.
I spent the ride talking to Jesus, and Mary, and Grace and I wondered where my journey would take me next but I did know for sure that there would be more joy than sorrow from now on.