My Aunt Imelda

It’s a week since Theresa was turned away from aborting her child as a result of the combined effort of the Body of Christ who were PRESENT for her that day.

Today an SUV pulled to the entrance with a family inside. As the previous week, Mary was able to briefly speak to a couple as they stopped and rolled down their windows.

And once again the Thrive Mobil medical center was parked across the street. Others stood on the sidewalk praying.

The family parked at the fence just in front of the back alley of the mill.

Out stepped a young teenage couple- a very tall male and a very short female who covered her head with a jacket. The driver appeared older and Hispanic as did what appeared to be her husband alongside. We surmised they were the teen’s parents (Missouri has a parental consent law). The parents lagged far behind the youths who seemed in a hurry to get inside. Sensing that Spanish would better impact these grandparents, but not knowing any, I reverted to the next best thing: “Our Lady of Guadalupe has not given up on you. She will intercede with her Son for you!”

Prior to this statement there was no indication that anyone in the family was listening to my entreaties, but as soon as I mentioned Our Lady, the grandmother of the unborn child stopped, looked over at me and then put her head down and slowly continued inside.

I wondered aloud if there was anyone in our informal group who spoke Spanish. Then it dawned on me, Lisa was on the corner praying the Rosary with a group. Two years before, on Mothers Day weekend, Lisa used her language skills to reach a Hispanic family that came 210 miles from Springfield MO for an abortion. Her Spanish helped us save that child that day. Perhaps today as well? I explained the situation to Lisa and agreed I would flag her down if/when they came back out.

The family remained inside when it was time for Lisa to go. So she agreed to write a note for the family, conveying in Spanish our offer of help.

Perhaps an hour later the family came back out. It had not been long enough for the baby to have been killed. I slipped down the back alley to the point at the fence just opposite the SUV. I extended my hand through the fence offering the Thrive literature.

The young man turned to me saying “You don’t have to worry she decided not to have the abortion. You don’t need to do your routine.” But he took the literature (minus the note in Spanish which was for grandma).

“Wonderful, are you the father?” I asked. He looked and sounded disappointed and overwhelmed. I looked him in the eye and told him we would help with whatever they needed assuring him they were not alone. I said ” I know you’re overwhelmed right now, but you will never regret letting your baby live.”

The mother of the child still had her head covered with her jacket so I spoke with her mother instead.

“You’re the grandmother then?” and she nodded.

“Congratulations grandma!”

I extended to her the note and she read it intensely. She seemed to tear up as she read. She turned around to her husband and spoke to him in Spanish, as if to convey what was in the note. She told me of her relief at her daughter’s decision but remained concerned. I promised we would pray for her and her family.

We spoke grandparent to grandparent for a few minutes. I reminded her of all the help that was available across the street in the Thrive van. I also reminded her that part of our job as parents is to step in and provide some stability for our children in such situations. Some balance and wisdom. She nodded when I pointed out that to teenagers this seems like the end of THEIR life. She agreed when I said “But we know better. Your grandchild just needs another 6 or 7 months of their life.”

As we talked grandma turned from time to time to speak in Spanish to her husband. “Grandpa?” I asked and she nodded yes. I smiled at him. He remained at a distance but still seemed to focus on our interaction. No one in our little group, including me, seemed comfortable at that terrible place. And with every word, ever inflection a young life hung in the balance.

As she seemed ready to leave I asked for her daughter’s first name so we could pray for her by name. But her daughter declined.

“How about your name (grandma), and we’ll pray for your daughter and grandchild through you.”

“Imelda” she said immediately.

“That was my aunt’s name” I explained, suddenly flooded with emotions from our exchange mixed with a lifetime of memories of my aunt. “So you’re named after St Imelda?!”

She was unsure there was such a saint. But I knew, for my Aunt Imelda gave me a statue of her patron saint for my Confirmation almost 50 years prior. So I assured her there was such a saint. And that we would all be praying for her, her daughter, her grandchild, the father of the baby and the rest of the family. She thanked me and got back into the SUV and drove off.

Truly amazing.

Another child literally minutes from death spared through a team effort. Often we have no idea that we’ve made a difference. But we persist with the understanding that we are called to be faithful. Like the widow and the unjust judge. But it’s sure nice when we get such confirmation!

I was to learn later from Lisa (who wrote the note in Spanish) that she was only there this day because she missed her regular Saturday at the mill and decided to come today instead. That’s what divine providence looks like!

But we must keep Imelda and her family in our prayers. And spread the word far and wide. This couple will undoubtedly incur many difficulties and temptations in the weeks and months to come (as will Theresa whose baby was saved through last weeks intervention).

So as I drove off for the day my thoughts turned to my Aunt Imelda. I was her favorite don’t you know. Or that’s the way she made me feel. I prayed for the repose of her soul. And thanked her once again for being present to me thoughout my life, and right to this very day.

God is good.

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