The Hidden Percent | On Absence and Why I March
by Maria Grizzetti
My story is one of millions that tells the tale of absence. Acknowledged or not, every experience of childloss, whether by natural causes, or the tragedy of chosen abortion, or the unexpected agonies of (early) illness or death, is a story of painful absence. To loose a child to perhaps to know the greatest privation possible on earth.
We live the delusion of unobserved absence. It is like going to party expecting to see friends and finding only an empty room. Everywhere one turns one knows that more should have been there. And they are not.
Reality is stark, heavy, and this all sounds macabre because it is. There is no explanation for the fact that in the United States alone we are missing 56 million people. 56 million. They are the silent absent ones. Call them the hidden multitudes; I call them the hidden percent.
I know a number of women who have tragically had abortions. They are our friends and family, and they need us more than they may know. When they seem fine, they are not. The courage to help them that friendship demands and is true compassion inevitably leads to tears. I have heard them tell of their indifference. Other times they express their agony. Whatever reasons they had, they remain wounded. Some are better than others at hiding this. Some do so as a persistent choice to support a movement that they think spared them even worse pain or long-term suffering. Even if they never believed their abortion ended a human life, they will surely recognize that now there is no child to care for. The (sometimes agonizing) space between that denial and this admission holds hope for new freedom. I love them. All.
Politics aside, the March for Life annually reminds a nation, if it chooses to pay attention, that women and men want more than death. We want life. We want life for ourselves, and for those for whom we march: the mothers, the children, and the fathers who may never know of them. We want life for the unwanted and the vulnerable. We want to love them in life. Hidden in the human heart is the desire and urge to protect what is precious and fragile. Masked, sometimes crushed, this desire leads to the unthinkable. We end prenatal human life and fail to see that in all the millions of times this happens, childloss happens. It is a pandemic paralysis of fear and denial which perpetuates itself in sophisticated arguments, legal battles, blame games and the language of choices devoid of human application.
But God is active and powerful beyond the starkest human limits of unthinkability. Mercy flows because He is goodness and life. Mercy is abundant precisely because His heart, like every maternal and paternal heart grieves absence. He grieves because He is Life itself. He longs for us to live and He allows us to participate in his creative work. Childloss by abortion hampers this plan. And yet still, He wishes to save what is lost. And so, while physical life is lost, He creates still in the offer of mercy; recreates in the offer of love that is not bound even by death that is chosen and planned. He remains the Lord of life; unchanged as we continue to shed innocent human blood. That godly gift entrusted to us remains hidden in the absence that is death when we exercise our freedom wrongly and defy his life-giving work on earth.
We are the ones who are changed by our actions; they form us and affect our very being. All the good things of this world are not enough to fill the deep canyons of pain and absence we experience when innocent life is lost
If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’
A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.
–C.S. Lewis , A Grief Observed
Which is why I march.
I march because I think maternity is a common good.
I march to dispel fear. Paralyzing, burdening, hopeless fear of the unknown; fear of insufficiency, fear of opinion, fear of need, fear of loss of freedom; fear of heaviness one can not bear to carry, fear of helplessness and inadequacy; fear of life altering or life ending medical need, fear of death upon birth; fear of fear itself. I march because fear will not triumph over hope. Modernity flickers with hope of change, and this fire is worth sheltering in the cold nights of modern disbelief.
I march because women deserve more than the choice for absence. They deserve to be shown the presence of a love that sustains when everything else fails them, no matter what.
I march because men deserve more than the choice for absence. They deserve to know that they are needed, that these are their children also, that their paternity begs the full presence of their beings, and that the women they love deserve no less, no matter what. I march because I believe men have a role to play in the choice for life and I want to ask them to play it. Women need your voice. And your children need their fathers. Will the fathers please stand up?
I march because maternity is complex, and there is more to motherhood than the privilege raising of children and educating them. As a woman who has lost a child I believe in the power and beauty of a real and hidden maternity that gives birth to a hidden love for children we have lost.
I march because maternal grief is real and hidden. I march because having experienced natural childloss, I know the agony of grieving motherhood. Every day is a stark reminder of the child one cannot raise. Whenever life ends, we grieve because we love the one who has died. And even if the grief remains unobserved, the heart still aches in absence. And if I had to make a choice, I wish another would have the courage to speak this truth to me.
I march because prenatal life is sacred, and because maternity is sacred also. How I wish women did not feel so completely lost as to think that abortion is the answer to the absence they themselves live: absence of love, or material goods or spiritual hope! How I wish that they would see that freedom is not absence of perceived struggle, but the the choice to engage and conquer it.
I march because relationships suffer when life is lost. Marriages fail, unions usually fall apart, boyfriends leave, women weep, and men pretend not to. Human relationships are made to be fruitful. The promise of freedom from perceived burdens is illusory, and comes at the high price of life, and love, and union.
I march because life is infinite gift: sheer abundance in the vast absence of modern impoverishment.
I march because modern reproductive healthcare should be care no matter what: no matter what illness, no matter what disability, no matter what low expectation of survival, no matter what psychological or physical inability, or material need. Real care does not end life but preserves it — preserves it in the fullness of the knowledge that life, not death, is the aim of medicine, and that reproductive health demands women be offered more and never less; the option of life and health over death.
I march because infertility needs to be talked about, lest to fulfill a good desire to generate new life we destroy life desperately trying.
I march because I celebrate the gift of life and grieve its waste. Always. Everywhere: where war and persecution and hunger and tragedy strike; in the womb, outside the womb; in a clinic petri dish as in the horrors of past holocausts; among the hidden prisons of this world and in the hidden prisons of unbelieving hearts left hopeless in the vale of tears. I march because I celebrate the gift of life, suffer in its suffering, and grieve its endless waste.
I march because abortion is modern poverty — multiplied and not alleviated — and poverty is always tragic. It debilitates the human spirit as it weakens the body. It hampers the chance of another to fulfill their potential in the world. And this potential is sacred because it is oriented to eternity.
I march because prenatal human life cannot be subject to political gain, but possesses intrinsic dignity that precedes the calculated objectives of a sophisticated polity. I march because silence is not an option.
I march because the law is powerful only insofar as it preserves the common good. I march because the common good is at stake wherever abortion or any other violation of human dignity is legal.
I march because mediocrity and apathy are not an option for my generation. I march because we are capable of more, and we invite anyone to join us.
I march because we must reclaim the intellectual conviction that pain and suffering have meaning. And not just any meaning, but the potential to radically alter the way lives are lived, for the good of others, and yes, their salvation.
I march because courage wins where suffering prevails and this makes adoption brave. I march because children deserve a home and parents to love them, and if they are lacking either, they still deserve to live.
I march because even if I did not believe in God, I would see my humanity reflected in that of an innocent child.
I march because I think my life is infinitely precious and that thinking any less of another’s life is discriminating and judgmental. I march for the hidden percent.
I march because I want to help heal the wounds abortion leaves behind. I march because childloss is a tragedy. I march for the unwanted and those who feel they have no other choice.
I march because for the 57 million absent ones, there are perhaps 114 million men and women who have known childloss by abortion. I march for the 57 million. And for the 114 million more.
I march for the friends I love who have lost a child through abortion. I march because I believe in forgiveness and pray for their healing. I march because I want them to know that while very much is lost, all is never lost. And I wish them to come to believe this in hope, and with the surety that God’s love conquers all. Yes, even onto death itself.
I march for our daughter, whose life remains hidden to the world. I march because as long as I live I will lift my love for her to heavens, and never to cease remember her.
I march because the noble conscience of this nation and the wider world needs to awaken from slumber and once more raise a heartfelt cry for those we do not see hidden among us. Justice and liberty demand no less. And future generations will look to us and ask an agonizing ‘why?’. I would not want to be part of an insufficient answer.
I march because a great lament is heard around the world, and the innocents lead the way in the modern passion of the Christ.
In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more.
For never before as now have we so longed for consolation. Perhaps among the frozen alleys of this world’s tears, the waters of life will flow and heal a broken world once more.
Life is a march — to paradise. Golgotha is ever modern. The Father always loves His children. And the women of the new Jerusalem still weep for them. Silent. Absent.
And this is #whywemarch.
This continues a series on maternity. See also Conceiving Christ, Mother of Mine, The Hidden Face of Love, The Common Good of Hidden Maternity, Why I Choose Not to Buy Myself A Child, Procreation is Not For Us. and A Maternal Feast of Thanks.
You may reach Maria Grizzetti at IncarnationandModernity@gmail.com