Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April's Voice

         The snow covered campus, in the dusk's low light, looked like a soulful painting.  Margie sipped her coffee as she drank in the details through the second floor window of the student lounge complex.  The campus was all but deserted as this midwinter finals week neared completion.  And now, the day's gray light was giving way to the glow of the path way lighting along the sidewalks -  which lay like dark ribbons on the snowy landscape. 

            Other than those cleared walkways, there were no sharp features on the ground, anywhere.  There was only softly rounded whiteness.  And, standing above it all, giant old oaks stood leafless and silent like pouting sentinels, waiting for spring.

             Margie peered through the window waiting for her daughter, April, to grace this scene.  The joy of her life was the opportunity to be with her daughter.   But, as usual where April was concerned, other deeper emotions were always attempting to contradict the joy. 

            "There she is!" Margie whispered in her mind as she watched her daughter bouncing along the sidewalk clutching the envelope in her gloved hand. 

            In a short time, April was through the serving line and at the top of the stairs.  She had a hot chocolate in one hand as she excitedly waved the envelope at her mother with the other. 

            "Hi momma,” she said with a broad smile as she sat the cup down and gave her mom a long hug.   " I'm so excited," she squealed quietly through her broad smile.  Then, as she scooted in  close beside her mother on the same side of the booth, they hugged again. 
            "I know you are Sweetheart.  And I'm so excited for you."

            "For us, mom."

            "Absolutely,  for us,"  Margie corrected.  "OK, so - are you ready to open the envelope, sweetheart?"

            "Now that you're here, I think I can, yes."

            "It will be fine, April.  Johns Hopkins is not going to let you get away."

            "Well, we’ll see.  April handed her mother the envelope.  “You do it, mom."

            Margie took the envelope.  She stared at it for a moment.  In the corner it read, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  She tried to control them, but her hands were shaking.  Tears began to slide down Margie’s cheeks and dropped to the table as she was, indeed, now freshly realizing just how far she and April had come together.
             April was taken back by the depth of her mother's emotion.  " Are you OK Mom?" she asked with audible concern. 

            "Yes Sweetheart.  I'm OK.  Now, lets do the deed, here." she said, with a quick smile.
            April gripped her mother's arm tightly, and they snuggled in closer, like two best friends sharing the most intimate secret.  April put her hands, on stilled gloved and one bare, over her eyes as her mom read silently.

            "IT'S A YES!" came the mouse like verbal spurt from Margie.

            Instantly, both women embraced, yet again, in a desperate moment of profound wordless celebration.  Then,  as if cued, both leaned back a little to accommodate an exuberant high five and a loud "Yes !" from April.  Laughter erupted, amidst the tears of joy.  

            But, as April was beginning to gain some composure, she realized that her mother was not.  She continued to sob.  After a moment, April felt once again prompted to ask her mother if she was all right. 

            Margie was unable to answer.  She continued to weep a quiet but irresistible torrent of tears that had been waiting years to be released.  Even without explanation, April realized that these tears were somehow disconnected from the present moment.  She just quietly embraced her mother until this flood tide of emotion began to subside. 

            "Mom, what's wrong?  You're not sick?"

            "No, April, its nothing like that," she said, still half choking with emotion."  Move around to the other side of the booth so I can look at you.  I have something that I have to share with you.  This is probably the worst possible time, but I just have to get this out, now."

            "It's fine mom.  Just say what you need to. You know we have to share everything.  So, just tell me," April said with a slight smile, trying to lighten her mother's emotional load.

            "That has been our way hasn’t it, Honey.  The Two Musketeers, sharing almost everything since you were old enough to talk.  But there is one thing that I have never shared with you.  But, I need to do that now."  Margie began to tear again.

            April took her mother's hands in her own, on the table top.  "Anything mom, you know that."

            After a moment, with her head lowered, Margie began.  "Last night I had a dream, April.  I was walking in a cemetery, and it was snowing.  The wind was blowing, and it was bitterly cold; and, I was struggling against the wind. 

After a while, I found myself peering down at a small granite headstone.  It had no inscription on it, no words at all."  April started to interrupt, but Margie insisted, with a raised hand, on finishing.

            "As I stared at the headstone, the grave that it marked, became like glass, and I could see a baby in the grave.  And, the baby was talking.  In the most pleading voice, the baby said, 'Mommy please.'  That was all, just 'Mommy please.'  Over and over again the baby kept begging me in that tiny desperate voice, 'Mommy please.'"

            As April began to understand her mother's emotional agony, her heart broke for her mother.  "Mom, I understand how a dream like that would make you feel, but I am right here. I'm not a baby.  And, I'm perfectly OK."

            Margie touched April's cheek with her fingertips, and looked at her as if peering into her child's very soul.  "I know, Sweetheart, but there’s more.  You see, I had exactly that same dream, in every detail, one other time, 22 years ago, just before you were born."

            "Oh mom," April sympathized.

            "April, we have never talked much about your dad.  The little that I have told you is true.  We were never married.  And, he did choose to be out of our lives before you were born. But, I haven't really told you the whole story.

            “I wish I could say we were in love, but we really weren't.  I guess we called it love at the time.  But I've learned since, that true love has a view beyond itself, and we really didn't. 

            “We were in high school.  We were part of the fast crowd. And we did what the fast crowd was doing.  We made love; but we were not in love, not the kind of love that is made for a lifetime and for a family. 

            “So, long story short, I became pregnant with you.  I was eighteen years old with most of my last year of high school still in front of me. And now, I am going to have a baby.

             “I was so scared, April.  And Josh was so very immature.  We both were.  And, we certainly knew nothing of God's values at the time.  So, almost immediately Josh began to pressure me to get an abortion.  I resisted his pleadings and threats for two or three weeks.  And, I spent every private moments crying.   But, eventually, I just became so very desperate.”

            Both women fell silent momentarily, Margie from grief, and April from shock.  After a long moment Margie continued with some difficulty. "And, I was beginning to slightly show; so I," Margie choked on her emotions, but eventually managed to finish, "I, ah, I decided to go through with it."

            Tears now streamed down April's face.  Margie was forced to look away from her daughter, out the window, to be able to continue.  "Josh and I had enough money between us, so I went to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Newton.  John didn't think it was a good idea for us to be seen together there, so he was going to come back and pick me up."

            "Well, wasn't that big of him," came April's sarcastic and tearful interjection.

            "This visit was supposed to be just a counseling session.  As I sat in the waiting area, I was able to faintly hear the counselor's conversation with the young lady who went in ahead of me.  The counselor echoed the line of the day about a woman's right to have control over her body.  No mention was made of the baby.

            “Most of the session was just talking about the costs and how the young lady would pay.  As I listened from outside the door, the manipulation just became so clear.  This insanity wasn't about rights or personal freedom.  That was all just a line.  This was simply about money for the doctors and convenience for the girls - for me. 

            “All I could think of was,” Margie dropped her head into her hands, obviously reliving the moment fully, "I've come here to kill my baby." 

            “Then I became suddenly enraged at their intentional dismissal of that horrible fact.  That idea, in that moment, became the absolute focal point of all of my fear, and anguish of the previous weeks.   And, just at that moment, you kicked me."  An sudden involuntary and awkward smile flash across the face of both women. 

            "I guess you must have been wearing spurs, because when you did that, I bolted out of that waiting room, without even a thought of what I would do next.  The receptionist came running after me, and pleaded with me to come back to the clinic.  But I had not one thought of stopping my flight. 

            “Right then, all I wanted to do was go.  I just wanted to be somewhere, any where else. So, I just started running down that snowy sidewalk until she stopped calling after me.
            “I didn't know anyone in Newton.  And, it  was, indeed, a day about like today, bitterly cold, and snowy, and blustery with dark, low hanging clouds.  Eventually, I found myself just walking and crying. 

            "I came to a cemetery with a broken down iron gate.  I remember it was anchored in what looked like an ancient red brick column that was beginning to lean badly.  I don't know what made me even go in there.  Maybe because I knew it was deserted, and I wouldn't have to face anyone.

            “As I entered the cemetery, it was as if I were enveloped in a dream.  Nothing seemed quite real, and yet the headstones impacted on my mind with unusual importance.   I was in that cemetery wandering around for a long time in the deepest emotional agony that I have ever known. 

            “Eventually, somehow, Josh spotted me there as he was driving around looking for me.  He took me home.  I really don't remember much about the rest of that day and evening.  It just seemed to wash away in large waves of fear, and depression, and desperation. 

            “It was that night that I had the dream for the first time.  I saw you in that glassy grave," Margie paused briefly, as another torrent of tears streamed down and covered her lips and chin.  Then, she continued, "But, even as I listened to you pleading with me in the dream, 'Mommy please', I remember being so painfully aware that you would not even have the dignity of a grave.  The whole time, I knew that you would be ..."   Margie put her face in her hands and broke into quiet, but otherwise, unbridled sobbing.  She simply could not continue with those thoughts.  They were just too horrible.
            After a long moment, she continued, "When I awoke the next morning, I knew God had helped me hear the pleading of the child within me - my child.  I told Josh to forget it.  I was keeping the baby. 

            He was angry and upset, but, at that point, I simply no longer cared what he thought.  I knew I was right.  No way was I going to ignore the pleading voice of my precious child anymore.  I already loved you, and my dream allowed me to come to grips with that reality.  And, with grandma and grandpa's help, you and I made it through just fine.  And, the rest, you pretty much know.

            “But what you have never known is that all these years, the thought of what I almost did, how close I came, has tortured me.  But, it was so horrifying,  I've just tried to mentally bury it.  The problem was, the more my love for you on so many different levels, the more trouble I had doing that.

            “Then yesterday, when you told me about the answer to your application, somehow the whole issue was reawakened.  It was like I just could no longer bear it.  Then, last night, when the dream came again,  I knew I had to get this out of me, and out from between us.
             “I  know my timing is lousy.  But, this just had to be done, and now.  I don't know what more to say to you except that I am so ashamed, and so very sorry."   Margie looked away, out the window again, unable to confront what she might find in April's eyes.

            After a moment April spoke softly, "Momma."  Margie steeled herself, and turned to look into the eyes of her daughter.  "All of my life, I have sensed that there was something there that you so desperately needed.  But, I could never understand what it was.  Now, I do."  April paused for a second, and then continued softly,  "Momma, I forgive you."

            Margie looked stunned for a moment.  She just sat there under the shock wave of those words.  Then she burst into laughter and tears all at the same time.  It was as if the bright rays of  a brand new morning had just flooded into her soul. 

            Both women rose from the booth and embraced.  As they hugged each other tightly, in the deep love of mother and daughter, Margie whispered to April, "Thank you so much, Sweetheart.  Thank you.  Thank you.  You have set me free."

            “Without releasing her embrace, April whispered, "No Mom, thank you for courageously loving me through your fear and desperation." 

            Margie buried her face into April's coat.  April could only faintly hear her mother's prayer, "Thank you Lord for loving us both."

The End

Where Sleep Our Children

A lament of the infamous decisions of the Supreme Court
of the United States to devalue the life of the unborn.

Where sleep our children in these troubled days
            when their laughter we long to hear?
Where are those flashing, excited eyes
            and their tiny contented sighs?

Where are those moments when we're first aware,
            somehow through the peek a boos,
And the rhythm and rhyme of our giggling time,
            that our love is returned in kind.

Where are the memories of growing up,
            those times of joy and pain,
All cherished alike, because they're shared,
            all counted by love as gain.

Where sleep our children? Oh no! Oh God!
            They're victims of our own moral sleep.
For our children sleep in the grave of convenience
            unmourned in the graveyard of greed.

And still we sleep while our children die,
            the victims of darkened minds
That speak in a way that - "It seems OK,"
            So on we sleep as they cry.      

Where sleep our children in these troubled days
            They sleep in the grave of convenience,
                unmourned in the graveyard of greed,

Because we have not awakened ourselves,
            To protect as true Love would decree.