I'm not marching today. The big boys will go off, bundled against the cold. But I will stay home with the wee ones and read stories and sip hot chocolate. Snuggled next to me with Katie on the couch will be a little girl with golden-red curls. Her name is Grace. And Grace is a living, breathing tesitmony to the power of prayer and love over the culture of death.
Three years ago, Gracie was safe inside her very young mother, Emily. She was what the media call "a crisis pregnancy." And while there is no doubt that when an unmarried sixteen-year-old is pregnant it is a crisis, Gracie was never in danger. Emily was living in a culture of love. She sacrificed her senior year in high school, her last chance to be a dancer, her waning days of youthful irresponsibility. And she became the mother of Grace.
Gracie was born hours after I miscarried. I was with Emily in the delivery room and I heard God tell me quite emphatically that there are many ways a child can be born into my life. I had no idea at the time how much I'd grow to love that baby. On that day, I could barely look at her, my own wound was so raw.
Emily chose to raise her baby, with the constant and devoted help of her parents. I chose to play a very active role. Emily goes to college locally. Gracie spends her days with me. It's not all roses. Emily continues to sacrifice. She works really hard and is a stellar student. She tries mightily to spend a quantity of quality time with her daughter. She has given up the carefree innocence of unencumbered youth that most teenagers take for granted. (And she's pretty much given up sleep, too.)
But she has given those of us who love this little girl an incredible gift. What a privelige it is to watch her grow! What a miracle it is to know how easily she could have been in peril before we even knew her. Emily has talked about how easily and how often other girls in her Catholic high school chose abortion. It looked like the easy choice.
But what we know is that Emily's courageous choice saved Gracie's life but it also saved Emily's life. Whatever sacrifices Emily makes, whatever real and heavy burdens she will bear, she will never carry the cross of having had an abortion. She never even considered an abortion. I think that that is because she grew up in a culture of absolute unconditional love. She was never confused about what a gift a child is, what a gift she is. God had big plans for Emily and He spoke them plainly. I think she was saved by Grace.
How can we create a culture of love? How we can make sure that the young women in our lives know that they are loved despite their frailties, despite their sins? How we change the world, change the culture, reclaim life in the darkness of death?
For each of us, this answer will look a little different. For some of us, it will be obvious. We will be given the gift of a great opportunity, a chance to be a tangible blessing to a young mother and baby. Gracie is a joy to me. But, sometimes it is a bittersweet joy. She is not mine. These days of holding her close are not forever. There will be sorrow. I won't even let myself think of the deep pain it will cause my children when the "Gracie Days" at our house will be over.
But I know that born of that pain will be the indelible lesson that every life, every child is precious. Born of that pain will be the powerful witness of Emily's example. Because we know Grace, we know the child in the slogan "It's a child, not a choice." And, oh my, is she beautiful!
We can reclaim the culture for love. We can reclaim it one child, one choice at a time. I pray for the day when we can all know the love that comes from curling up inside on a cold January day, when there are no more marches to march, when the fight has been won, when we all have the privilege of holding Grace.