"It's really great that you go to the abortion mill to pray. I would go, but I would get too angry. I would go, but it's too early. I would go, but I don't feel well. I have health problems. I would go, but . . . . "
--A Dance in the Rain
Years ago, my mother began slipping away quietly on Saturday mornings. She would leave before my father and I were up, and, truth be told, had almost always returned home before either one of us was fully wake. We knew where she was going and agreed that it was a good idea--admired it even--especially because it did not disturb our sleep and gave her an excellent opportunity to bring home goodies from the bakery.
She was going to pray in front of an abortion clinic with The Helpers of God's Precious Infants.
For years and years, it went on, through blazing heat and biting cold. My mother could be counted upon to say a Rosary with the Helpers. I, of course, was never with her. After all, my college schedule was grueling, and those grades I was bringing home were not happening by accident. My heart was in the right place--I abhorred even the thought of abortion. Mom never nagged or tried to drag me along. She just said her prayers quietly and slipped back home, week after week after week.
During those years, Mom would always talk about one Helper in particular, a woman named Margaret. Mom was, in her own words, "strictly a pray-er," but Margaret was a sidewalk counselor, one of those courageous souls who actually stops and speaks to women about to make the mistake of their lives. "Young and beautiful," as my mother frequently described her, she reportedly looked something like my cousin Eileen, so much so that we stopped referring to her as Margaret around our house, but re-christened her "Eileen."
Week after week, my mother would come home with a stories of "Eileen," of her tireless devotion to the cause of life, her courage in the face of derision and rejection, her hope through disappointment, her tender heartedness and unwavering faith. "Eileen" was, for me, in those days before the internet, the first person I ever felt I could love without having met.
Time and life being the way it is, I never did meet "Eileen" until my father's wake ten years later. She and a huge contingent of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants were there, including the famous Monsignor Reilly, who concelebrated the funeral. As is typical with prayerful, Catholic groups, it was clear to me that these good people loved my mother and would do anything for her during her time of need. Even in that blessed company, one face stood out to me in the crowd--an attractive young woman with the Irish eyes of my cousin Eileen--it was Margaret.
In her guileless, friendly face, I recognized the sanctity my mother knew, and, as she offered her condolences, I felt vaguely as if she was the sister I never had.
Now, three years later, Margaret Driscoll has entered my life once more, this time through her book, "Saving Women and Infants from Abortion: A Dance in the Rain," co-written with Emily Faugno.
In eighty pages, A Dance in the Rain escorts us into the life of two sidewalk counselors through a series of first hand accounts, cut-straight-to-the-heart reflections, and insights from the front lines. Not one word in this compelling book is wasted, perhaps because the authors know better than anyone that sometimes you only have a moment to reach a heart and save a child. It is written with the urgency of a seasoned veteran, someone who understands that a life may depend on the right word, a warm expression, or a pair of rosaries pressed into a quivering hand. Pro-life though I may be, this book did more than merely preach to the choir. I feel transformed by its hopeful yet somber message and recognize now for the first time how very much I missed by sleeping in all those mornings.
It makes me wish for a second chance to dance in the rain.