Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Value of a Life?

Re-posted from a previous blog January 2011:

What is the value of a life? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately.

I heard on the radio about a lady who used to help convince people to have abortions until she actually helped perform one.  She was shaken to her core by what she’d done.  She said it changed her. The radio station asked anyone with a story about the "Sanctity of Life" to call in. I did.  They recorded my story. (I hope they'll use it.)

The following Sunday (that is last Sunday), my pastor rather unexpectedly talked about abortion. Turns out, it was “Sanctity of Life Sunday” a day I found out is set aside to focus on the intrinsic value of human life as well as what some call the fundamental right to life.

It was an impacting time for me. There were some staggering statistics about how many abortions are performed each year and… well… for my part… I got very emotional—realizing once again, that could have been me—I asked the pastor if I could share my story. He let me.

Let me just say, I’m a pretty average guy. I'm thirty-five, of average good looks (I think/hope), you’d probably call me middle class; I work in customer service; I don’t hold any positions of power or make all that much money, but I can genuinely say I’m grateful to be alive….

You see, in 1974 my mom and dad discovered they were going to have a baby… their fifth child. They weren’t rich by any means. In fact, there were times we lived off of rice and beans for months. Their lives before my birth were pretty much a mess. Mom - addicted to drugs, Dad - an alcoholic, me - another baby on the way.

Several months into her pregnancy mom went in for a checkup appointment and found out she had something called placenta previa. I honestly don’t know how serious that is these days, but back then it was very serious. It was bad enough that the doctor said she’d have to have an abortion or we’d both die when birth time came—me: by suffocation, mom: by bleeding to death. She was devastated.

Although she wasn’t exactly what you'd call a Christian at the time, she did pray sometimes and she was resolutely opposed to abortion. But… the doctor was talking about her life and she did not know what to do. She asked Grandma’s opinion. Grandma was a strong Christian and mom respected her opinion. Grandma was torn, not liking the idea, but afraid of the alternative. Ultimately she suggested mom go through with it. Saying, “You have four other children to think about.”

Mom and Dad were both shaken. They didn't like it, but Dad didn't want to lose his wife (and was probably afraid of trying to raise the other kids alone). And Mom knew Dad wasn’t capable of raising the kids alone. So, they made the appointment.

The day before I was supposed to be aborted Mom and Dad were playing cards with friends, someone came to the door to see those friends. So, Mom and Dad were left at the table… alone with each other and their thoughts. After some silence, and (as if on cue) they simultaneously said, “We can’t do this.” And that was pretty much it. They were decided.

The next day Mom told her obstetrician she wanted to try to have me.

He told her she was a “God-d---ed fool” (among other unpleasantries.) He also told her if she wouldn’t go through with the abortion, he wouldn't be her doctor anymore. He wasn’t going to “have her blood on his hands.” Not the reaction she expected. She didn't know what to do.

There was a doctor (a general practitioner) on Mom and Dad’s bowling league. He offered to give a second opinion. They made the appointment and the second doctor agreed with the first. It was so bad that she and I were (almost) certainly going to die if she didn't terminate the pregnancy, but this doctor told her he would see her through to the end if she really didn't want the abortion—as long as she understood the risk.

So he became our doctor, and was my doctor until I was nine years old (but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

The day of mom’s (and my) predicted death came. The contractions started. Dad rushed us to the hospital. They got us into a private room and then the waiting began. Finally, the moment came and mom felt her water break. She called for the nurse and told her it had happened. The nurse looked at her apologetically and said, “Oh, Honey, that’s not water. Let me get the doctor.”

Mom was bleeding—hemorrhaging—badly.

Our doctor came in, took one look at mom, and stepped back out into the hall. The door didn't shut all the way though. So, mom heard it when our doctor said to my dad, “Gene, prepare yourself. Because they’re both going to die.”

Needless to say she freaked out a little—more like a lot. She started saying, “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God…” and (as she tells it) at some point in the middle of all the Oh-my-God-ing it became this prayer: ”Oh, My God, look at the person I’ve become…. Please get Gene sober so there’s someone to take care of the kids.”  He answered that prayer.

The moment Mom was done saying those words she stopped hemorrhaging—stopped hemorrhaging—and felt her water break. She told the nurse, who didn't believe her (until Mom started bearing down.) The nurse ran and grabbed the—rather astonished—doctor, who proceeded to deliver me, a completely healthy, twenty-two inch, seven pound, baby boy.

The doctor called it a miracle… I do too. Nine days later, Dad went to his first AA meeting and did get sober and stayed sober for the rest of his life. And mom, she quit the drugs too after becoming a member of Al-Anon and realizing she had a problem too. Eventually, they helped others get sober by becoming sponsors and went into Christian ministry. As for me, I started volunteering at a church when I was fifteen. At eighteen, I saved the life of a twelve year old girl when a lifeguard neglected his duty. And at twenty-seven and twenty-eight, I (literally, physically) saved my mom’s life.

Over the years I’ve pulled people out of harm’s way and talked some through (and out the other side of) suicidal thoughts—and they’re all still alive today because I was there. People my wife and I have taught now teach others. And I’ve mentored people whose lives would have probably remained untouched by love if mom had not chosen the way she did.

She risked her life and—by the grace of God—gave me mine… and because of that, lives have been changed for the better. Just yesterday, she and I were talking about all this and she said she can’t count how many times she's thought, "oh, God, what if I had gone through with it... look at all that I would have missed." I'm glad she feels that way... 'cause I do too.

So what is the value of a life? It’s immeasurable.

I’m nobody special—at least not in any grander sense than all humans are special because God says so—but I could write a lot more pages detailing what I’ve done with this life of mine (yes...some bad, but also a lot of good.) I’m not rich and I hold no positions of power, but I’ve been graced with the chance to save actual lives a few times and help make people’s lives better often—for which I am endlessly grateful.

And that's all part of my purpose.

No matter what your religion or philosophy… Every child has a purpose.

~ Geno

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know this story. So very glad your parents chose & God graced you with His gift of life. Many lives changed for the better because of this.