In heaven we will know each other by the glance of the soul. – St. Elizabeth Seaton
Has it really been more than 40 years since I killed my baby? It seems like only last week. I remember what my girlfriend wore when I drove her to the clinic, where I parked the car, how many dimes I dropped into the parking meter . . . .
I was 17, my girlfriend, 18. Both of us, I told myself, were too young to bear the responsibilities of a baby.
"What do you mean, you're pregnant?" I asked when she returned from the physician's office. I knew she expected me to propose marriage.
Instead, I talked her into having an abortion.
I remember how nonchalantly I passed sentence on our child. I chose to believe the life growing inside her womb was nothing more than a glob of cells. I chose to believe Judith had the right to choose what to do with her own body, and every baby should be a wanted baby. I embraced every excuse I’d ever heard because each one freed me of my obligation to Judith and to our child. A few months after the abortion, my girlfriend and I went our separate ways.
Today, my son or daughter would be more than forty years old. Perhaps she would be a teacher. Or a physician. Or a musician. Or a . . . Perhaps I would be a grandfather.
But there is no perhaps. I can never turn back the clock and silence the lies and excuses that over-ruled my conscience.
I lived with the ache of what I’d done for nearly five years, until, in December 1972, I found solace in Christ’s forgiveness and hope in Scripture’s promises of forgiveness. Three come to mind even as I write this: “If you, Lord, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered” (Psalm 130:3-4); and, “[God] delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).; and, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wrongdoing" (1 John 1:9).
Although my sadness lingered, I could rest in the assurance that, in my repentance, God forgave me for killing my baby.
However, thirty-three years after becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit deepened my comfort when He led me to the Catholic Church and I learned the fuller meaning of the Communion of Saints. The Church’s teaching of that Communion assures me that my baby, killed before she took her first breath, is in heaven because of God’s abundant mercy.
I know she is praying for me.
And I know she forgives me.
Oh, what solace is that thought! She forgives me.
I’ve named my baby Celeste. My daughter, whom I never got to hold, is alive in heaven, and when we meet, she will wipe the tears that still flow when I think of my cruelty and selfishness.
When Christians repeat the inestimable words of promise in the Nicene Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,” we can take great comfort in knowing that those who wait for us around God's throne – even those we hurt in this life – forgive us. Washed in the blood of the Lamb and now perfected in love, they wait to welcome us to an eternity of God’s forgiveness and grace.