By Anne Lastman–

Recently the Holy Father Pope Francis spoke important and timely words regarding the elderly in our society and he “called on the Church to care for the elderly, going to them with a smile on your face and the Gospel in your hands.”

He noted that the world is facing a significant demographic change, with fewer young people and a large increase in the number of elderly. He said that issues facing the elderly – including social disorientation, and societal attitudes of indifference and rejection, are a call to the Church and to society “to serious reflection in order to learn to grasp and appreciate the value of old age”.

To these words I would like to add something also important.  I would add old age and fear. That is, a specific fear which isolates them further. It paralysis and isolates them in a world entirely own their own.

We, who work in pro-life ministries speak, read, write, and give a voice to those who suffer post abortion grief, sorrow, regret.  These emotions which are now out in the open can at least be spoken about even if there is still contention over their existence.

However, what we do not speak about is end of life behaviours, a different cohort of abortion grief sufferers who have fears over a long past event, abortion. The end of life cohort. 

The need to visit a family member in nursing home (for a few months) I slowly became aware of residents and slowly began to share salutations and with several of them even cups of tea and “lemon” cake.  I especially singled out several women who seemed very lonely and never appeared to me to have any visitors.  

However, there was another reason why I neared and befriended these elderly women who walked around the building (dining room) and the gardens using a walking stick with one hand and in the other arm carrying an infant sized wrapped/swaddled doll.  Carrying this doll with such tenderness and looking at doll with so much love.

I did ask a member of the staff why a few of these women that I noticed and gotten to know  carried and rocked and held so tenderly the dolls and her response was “to them the doll isn’t a doll it’s her baby who had died many many years ago. Most of the dolls represent miscarried babies but there 7 of them who carry babies who had been aborted.  

These comments set me thinking about the pro-abortion women who promote abortion as a minor procedure and all will be well after and I thought about the lie of origins proportion.  A lie which has consequence lasting lifelong and till the end.

In due course I did sidle towards one particular lady who never smiled, who had a lonely demeanor and who carried “a baby” beautifully kept, obviously a little girl because of the “pink “and often alone, sitting, quietly talking or walking.

For ease of writing I’ll give her the name “Jane” 

I slowly befriended her by sharing her table for tea and cake and admiring her beautiful “baby”   She looked up and smiled at the compliment and told me her “baby’s” name is “June” and she is “3 months old”  

I sat and listened to her story of her life and her marriage and family who have grown up and moved away and her husband who has passed away.  Her children apparently visited when they were in town which was 2-3 times a year. Apart from that she had no visitors.

When I asked her to tell me about “June” she launched into a story of long held forced loss and the subsequent grief attendant to that loss.  

In time as we shared more tea and cake/scones Jane opened up about the loss of her baby “June” and the horror at what had happened.  At first she couldn’t bring herself to speak the words and then as we got to know each other better she entrusted her story of abortion (at three months pregnant-hence 3 month old baby).  They aborted because they couldn’t afford another baby as there was no work or money to maintain the family as it was.  

I asked her to tell me about the abortion and how she felt and she spoke of her horror at having agreed to it and the anger at her husband for having suggested it.  “We could have managed somehow. We did with the others” One solitary tear rolled down onto “the baby” (doll) as if to wash her.  

I encouraged her to tell me more about the loss and she did go deeper into the event and the after effects of such an event.  The effect on her marriage and her relationship with her husband. Her distancing from the existing children (as if she would be disloyal to June) and her self-imposed loneliness. 

The immediate response in the aftermath of a painful incidence and the speed and quality of care will reduce the likelihood of future difficulties and to this end immediate crisis care is of utmost importance.  For Jane immediate care was not available. The need to hide the abortion procedure because of the shame ensures that the loss and grief become disenfranchised and never to be spoken of again. 

This suppression, in this case of Jane and her “daughter June” permitted her to continue caring for her existing family whilst never forgetting her daughter June.  

“My baby was 3 months when I took her to be killed and she has stayed with me at three months ever since. I couldn’t take care of her when she was a baby but I can take care of her now.  I won’t ever let anyone take her from me again. I’m scared that if I put her down someone will take her from me again, so I won’t put her down. She’s my baby and I am going to mother her and protect her this time”

As I listened many times to her story I saw all the signs and symptoms of PTSD which has developed following the abortion and indeed undiagnosed over years meaning that her grief was left untended slowly leading to self-care in the mode of nursing her “baby” (doll) and mothering her in order not to feel that she had abandoned her baby.  

Throughout our discussions about different matters, family, life, children, work, she never once ignored her “baby” and always included her in discussion about her other children. 

As I ponder much about “Jane” and her baby and the other women walking in the nursing home carrying “babies” in their arms (miscarried or aborted) I think about that bond which exists only between mother and her child. A bond so strong that the loss of the baby leaves the mother seeking the child all her life.  Seeking to carry out the task of mothering which has been thwarted by the loss, whether intentional or otherwise. 

At life’s end because of the slowing down of life necessities, the losses become clearer and heavier.  The memories resurface but are now covered with a film of long held deep regret, shame and knowledge that nothing can be done to redeem that past action. Nothing can make the memory of “that day” (abortion/miscarriage day) go away.  

As I listened to “Jane” I heard a fear. A fear she was not prepared to speak about. A fear that like others whom I have heard in my office, carried with it her need for atonement and this done by the nursing and holding and mothering of her baby “June”  

As another abortive mother in the end stage of her life said in past counselling sessions, “what if my baby hates me?  What if God hates me? Will I go to hell Anne?” 

These are fears which surface at end of life.  At a time when earthly matters become dim and only what is to come matters.  A future which can either mean more loss and pain or reconciliation.

As I speak to older women I am left wondering how we will minister to all these deeply wounded and in most cases abandoned abortive women.  How can we help them feel unafraid? How can we assure them that their grief, sorrow, loss will not ensure their eternal damnation but their deep regret calls down God’s mercy.   

It has been said that only those with religious belief will grieve at end of life.  My experience has been that those without religious belief also reach end of life with a deep regret.  A regret previously unacknowledged, but in the slowing of time and in the maturing, a different understanding will occur.  A different perception of what abortion meant for her in the past (situation specific) and what it means at end of life (situation changed) and what it means at end of life is the absence of a son or daughter and perhaps even grandchildren.

It’s obvious that there is a huge “vineyard” of wounded older women carrying wounds of loss through abortion or miscarriage.   Much is spoken about the grief of miscarriage and the reality that a miscarried child is never ever forgotten but so too in the midst of a society immersed in intentional death the spirit of an abortive  woman moans and grieves for the one who should have been here today but isn’t. Her “flesh of my flesh” 

A cohort of women (elderly) who themselves, like their baby, lie silently in the bosom of un- remembrance.