I was a high school junior in 1972 when she sat on the stage of our local high school. She wasn’t the speaker for the assembly that day. But she had arranged for the speaker to come.
The speaker was a woman who’d survived the Holocaust. She spoke about how it all began with abortion. It was abortion that devalued human life enough that other ways of killing the perceived-to-be-less-than-us became thinkable, then doable.
Remember, that was 1972. That was before Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton) legalized abortion in the US until birth.
I don’t remember the name of the speaker on stage. But several years later I would meet the woman who’d recruited the speaker and arranged for the assembly.
And she would become a lifelong friend and mentor.
In 1979, as the mother of two toddlers, I decided to go to the March for Life. I called a phone number within an announcement scrolling across my television screen about buses for the event.
It was the woman who’d sat on that stage when I was a schoolgirl who answered the phone.
She was the mother of eight–the oldest were teens. Her youngest a bit older than my firstborn. She became a kindly sort of aunt to my children.
I still quote her to people. As I was having a minorly uncomfortable medical test recently, I told the technician something my friend first said to me decades ago: “If you eat a frog for breakfast, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Yes, it’s a silly saying. But silly sayings are sometimes a good way to put discomforts and inconveniences into perspective. The best way to discern the inconveniences from actual life problems. The best way to discipline yourself to put the unpleasant task first.
And in such ways, friends give their wisdom to us for us to pass on to others. I’ve repeated the saying to students many times.
When I struggled with my growing family, she encouraged me with her humility. I asked her once how she managed her family, her job as a nurse, and her ministry for life.
She replied, “Well, sometimes not very well.”
As I write, I’ve just come home from a fundraising dinner for our local crisis pregnancy center. My friend was always among the last to leave this yearly event. She was the first to receive an award from the organization for being a champion for life. But I like to think of her as a pioneer. For few trumpeted warnings about what would follow 1972. She was one of the few.
She can no longer attend such gatherings. She’s now widowed and in a home. Because of COVID, I am unable to visit her.
She didn’t live a perfect life. None of us ever does. But I remember the kind spirit, the love, the devotion to truth and right.
Pioneers blaze the trail for those who follow after them. It’s up to us who follow to carry on.
And only hope to do as well.
Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!
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