Love a Second Time Around

480112I wasn’t married but I was pregnant.  It happened when my boyfriend and I got frisky and ended up in bed.  I felt guilty afterwards because I was supposed to be a Christian.  I was raised in a strict Baptist family and having sex or getting pregnant before marriage was a no no.  So, to say that I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I was pregnant would be a gross understatement.  Desmond took it a lot more calmly than I expected.  He told me that we could get married before I started to show.  I agreed.  I didn’t want my child to be born out of wedlock.  And, besides, Desmond and I loved each other.  I know that he would have eventually asked me to marry him because we had talked about it several times.

After he bought me an engagement ring, we went to see my parents first.  I told about pregnancy and they were understandably upset.  “Getting married because you’re having a baby isn’t a good reason for getting married,” my father told us.

“Marriage is such a big step,” my mother added.  “You better make sure that this is the best thing for you two.”

Next, we went to see Desmond’s family.  I could just imagine how thrilled they would be, especially, his maternal grandmother.  Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by them.  I think they all would have preferred if he had married a white woman.  Some of them quoted the Bible where it says “Everything after its own kind.”  I didn’t bother to tell them that God was talking to the birds, fish and animals not to Adam.  He hadn’t even created Adam as yet.  And the same God who made white people made the other races and in His image too.

The only person who was friendly towards me and didn’t seem to have a problem with my color was my father-in-law.  He was such a nice man.  I really liked him and I felt comfortable talking to him.  He didn’t judge me and he didn’t lecture us.  I knew that we had his support.

Fortunately, my father-in-law was with me when a policeman showed up at the apartment to inform me that Desmond had been run over and killed in a crosswalk when he was returning from lunch early that afternoon.  This happened in front of his office.  The policeman said that it was a good thing that I wasn’t alone because of the stress that such tragic news could on my pregnancy.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do.  Desmond was gone and I was going to experience the rest of my pregnancy without him.  It was one of the worst moments of my life.

I got support from my father-in-law and my family but it was hard having to explain why Desmond wasn’t with me.  At each appointment, it would be a different midwife, who would remark, “Is your husband not joining us today?” and then I would have to explain he was dead.  And it was hard going to prenatal classes with my brother or my father-in-law.   My pregnancy experience which should have been a really happy one was somber.  I kept thinking Desmond should be here.  When our daughter was born seven months later at 8lbs, it was her grand-father who held her in his arms.  As I watched them together, I tried to picture Desmond holding her in his arms.

Desmond and I had come up with boys’ and girls’ names which we really liked and I named our daughter, Nella after his mother whom he adored.  When I look at Nella, I see her father.  The same hazel eyes and nose.   Her hair was dark brown like his.  She was beautiful.  Desmond would have a very proud father and spoiled her rotten.

My parents fawned over her.  Desmond’s family, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to meet his daughter.  His father was the only one who was there throughout my pregnancy.  He came over to the apartment every other day to see Nella and me.  While I took a nap or relaxed in the sofa, he took care of her.  It was a real treat having him around.  I began to look forward to seeing him.  And I could tell he enjoyed being with us.

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been gradual but, four years later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I was in love with my father-in-law.  As I made breakfast, I wondered what he would do if he knew.  Would he stop coming over?  I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around anymore.  I had to make sure that he never suspected how I felt about him.  I would act like I always did in the past.  I had to remember that he was Desmond’s father although he was a widower and currently not in any relationship.

It’s late afternoon now and Nella’s taking her nap.  My father-in-law is standing at the window, looking out.  He turned when I entered the living-room.  “Symone, I need to talk to you about something that has been on my mind for a long time now,” he said.

I could tell from his expression that it was something serious.  I sat down on the sofa and patting the cushion beside me, I said, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

He came over and sat down beside me.  His eyes met mine.  I could tell that he was a bit nervous.  “I don’t know if I have any right to tell you this even now that Desmond’s no longer here.”

“Tell me what it is, Dad,” I urged him.  “I’m a big girl.  I can take it.”

“First, I would like you to call me Patrick instead of Dad.”

“All right, Patrick.”

“Symone, I know I’m more than twice your age but over the last few months my feelings for you have changed.”

My heart was pounding.  “What do you mean your feelings have changed?”

“I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” I cried and I threw my arms around him.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

“You are?” he exclaimed when we parted.

Yes!  You see, I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

He held my hands in his, his eyes riveted on my face.  “I’m relieved to hear that,” he said.  “For the longest time, I have wanted to tell you how I feel but I was afraid of how it would affect our relationship.”

“I have wanted to talk to you about my feelings too but was afraid for the same reason.”

“My newly discovered love for you wasn’t the only thing I have been struggling with.”

I frowned.  “What else have you been struggling with?”  I asked.  “Are you worried about what the rest of the family would say?”

He shook his head at once.  “It doesn’t matter to me what they say.  What concerns me is what the Bible has to say about the relationship between a man and his daughter-in-law.”

“Yes, in the book of Leviticus it says that a man shall not uncover the nakedness of his daughter-in-law because she is his son’s wife—he, the father-in-law, shall not uncover her nakedness.  In fact, if a man had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them were put to death because they committed a perversion.  This doesn’t apply to you and me, though because nothing ever happened between us when Desmond was alive and even after he died.  Besides, I’m a widow now and according to the Bible, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.  Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.”

Patrick released his breath.  “So, if I wanted to marry you, there’s no law to prevent us?”

I shook my head.  “No.  In-laws can now also marry provided they are both over 21 and any former spouses must be deceased.”

He pulled me into his arms then and hugged me tightly.  “I don’t think Rosalind and Desmond would begrudge us finding happiness with each other,” he murmured.

No, I thought, Desmond would want me to be happy.  He would want me to move on219_6910_cannes_apr16_281529 with my life.  And now, that was possible.  I had fallen in love with an incredible man.  Yes, I consider myself to be extremely blessed for having found love a second time around.  A year later, in spring, we got married in a small, intimate ceremony.  Nella was our flower girl.  She looked so adorable in her pale pink satin dress.  Now she has a new Daddy although she calls him, “Grandpa”.

My in-laws and family think it’s wrong for Patrick and me to be together and are concerned that our relationship would be very confusing for Nella.  He’s her grandfather but now he’s also her father because he is married to me.  We have told Nella about Desmond and shown her photos of him.  She knows that he was her Daddy and that he died.  We told her that one of these days she will see him.   And she’s fine with that.  She’s not confused about anything and she’s excited about the new baby brother who is arriving in three months.  That reminds me, I have to ask Mom to babysit Nella because Patrick and I have a prenatal class to attend this afternoon.

Sources:  Metro; Officer.com; Live About; Genetic Genealogy

Sex Selection Abortion

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Sex selection abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the infant. The selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children, especially in parts of East Asia and South Asia (particularly in countries such as People’s Republic of China, India and Pakistan), as well as in the Caucasus, and Western Balkans (Wikipedia).  It is also practised in the UK and the US.   According to reproductive campaigners, there is no evidence that sex selective abortion is a problem in the UK.  And there is no data to indicate that it’s been done in the US.  However, the procedure is happening in Canada.

It is rarely openly discussed and difficult to prove, but new research suggests that some couples in Canada are practising prenatal sex selection, aborting female fetuses out of a preference for male children. Two related studies, published on Monday in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), found a higher-than-expected ratio of boys to girls born to immigrants from India over the past two decades, which researchers linked to preceding abortions. This gender imbalance was particularly striking among families that already had two daughters.”

Politicians and activists have argued for legal limits on abortion to deter sex-selection. banning the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks, when abortions are performed only in rare circumstances. But such measures are difficult to enforce and, some argue, unjustifiably sweeping, while others note that identifying and targeting specific groups for practising sex selection is discriminatory – The Globe and Mail

Although sex selection abortion is banned in Canada and there are policies against sex-selective abortions and against the use of medical testing solely for identifying a fetus’s sex, there are parents and doctors who argue that expectant parents have the right to know.  Shree Mulay, associate dean and professor of community health and humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland heard accounts from social workers who have had women ask for the sex of their fetuses, only to later learn that they terminated the pregnancy after finding out.  Mulay, a specialist in immigrant women’s health suspects that women may not necessarily be the ones seeking sex-selective abortion, but may be acting under family pressure.  The responsibility of taking care of elderly parents fell on the son.

Not everyone is opposed to sex selective abortion.  Professor Wendy Savage, a member of Senior doctors’ union believes that sex selection abortions should be allowed at any stage, citing that it’s a woman’s right to decide because she’s the one taking the risks.  She believes that forcing women to give birth to a child of a sex they do not want to have “is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice.  But what about when a pregnant woman lives in a society that gives her real and considerable reason to fear having a girl? The kind of society where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family, or one where a livid patriarch deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter? In those situations, a woman wouldn’t just be justified in seeking sex selective abortion; she’d be thoroughly rational to do so.  Ultimately, if you believe strongly that girls have as much right to be born as boys, then you should also believe that women have the right to decide what happens within the bounds of their own bodies” (Sarah Dunn, Opinion, The Guardian).

The problem with sex selective abortions is that there will be an access of the preferred gender as in the evidence which found that there was an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available.  Girls who can be of great value to society are being aborted.  What can be done about this?  According to Shree Mulay, “…traditions have to be challenged.” She also iterated that to be effective, efforts to change attitudes that favour sons over daughters must come from within the immigrant groups themselves.

Amrita Mishra, project director of the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association in Edmonton, believes major factor in this issue are the existing legal loopholes which allow anyone to use abortion for infant sex selection.  “I see Canada as enabling as such practices. And I refuse to have this turn into an Indian issue that’s been imported like vegetables or fruit into Canada.”  She is of the opinion that a law against sex-selective abortion would send a powerful message to anyone considering the practice.

In China, there are new rules to prevent sex selective abortions.  However, there is concern among citizens and activists over state control and women’s rights.  According to the Globe and Mail article, “the Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary before any procedure. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in China. The sex of a child is often discernible after 14 weeks.”  However, this raises fears that the woman’s womb will be monitored, that the reproductive rights of a woman in the country are taken for a joke and that their reproductive functions are tightly controlled by the state.

Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues said that people were worried that “the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions.”  She also stated that many Chinese women, who had chosen not to have a second child despite the new policies, were fearful that strict social policies will be introduced.

The crack down on sex selective abortions  in the various provinces in China is as a result the number of abortions of female fetuses which resulted in massive gender imbalance of 30 million more men than women.  More provinces will follow Jiangxi’s lead in imposing restrictions on abortions after 14 weeks.   However, despite the concerns of some over these provincial changes, Cai Yong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, doubts that China would go as far as barring abortions to encourage women to have more children. “Certainly China is capable and has a history of doing that kind of thing but whether it will go all the way to ban abortion … I think that’s a little too far.”

Sex selective abortion is wrong and should be banned or criminalized.  Girls should be celebrated as well as boys.  If you feel the same way I do, The Population Research Institute encourages you to:

Take action against the sex selective abortion.  Life is precious, regardless of gender.

The Eaton Man

This may sound strange but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  I was dating a guy for two years.  We got engaged but months before the wedding, we decided that we weren’t right for each other.  Now, he’s engaged to one of my friends and I’m one of the bridesmaids.  The wedding is tomorrow.  It’s going to be strange seeing his family again, especially since they would have been my in-laws.  Still, I know that Nathanael and I made the right decision.  I’m happy for him.  His fiancee, Gina is a great person.  She and I have been friends since high-school.

When I think about it, Nathanael and Gina are perfect for each other.  He and I wouldn’t have worked out.  We loved each other but weren’t in love with each other.  When we announced to his family that the engagement was off, everyone was shocked and very disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a wedding.  They had been looking forward to it.  I noticed that Nathanael’s Dad didn’t say much.  He was a very reserved man.  When I first met him, I wasn’t sure if he approved of me.  Nathanael assured me that his Dad liked me.  He told me that he was a very private person.  He wasn’t an extrovert like his son.  It had been ten years since his wife, Nathanael’s mother, died from heart disease.

When I met Nathanael’s father, I knew I was in big trouble.  I was instantly attracted to him and felt really guilty about it.  I mean, I was dating his son.  What kind of woman I was–dating a guy and being attracted to his father?  I was afraid to go to family get-togethers because I knew I was going to see Mr. Eaton and it worried me that I might end up being alone with him.  What would I do then?  Would I be able to hide my attraction for him?

I’m going to see the family and Mr. Eaton tomorrow at the wedding.  I’m debating whether or not to take someone with me as my guest.  I don’t have a boyfriend.  Since Nathanael and I broke our engagement I haven’t dated anyone.  I suspect that it’s because of Mr. Eaton which is very foolish because I don’t stand a chance with him.  He probably just sees me as Nathanael’s ex-fiancee who is young enough to be his daughter.  Besides, he’s such an attractive man, it won’t be long before there’s a love interest who will be closer to his age.  The thought of him with another woman bothered me greatly.  I pushed it out of my mind and picking up my phone, I call my good friend, Troy and ask him to go to the wedding with me.  Fortunately, he was available.  So, I had a date, well, in a manner of speaking.  Nathanael and Troy never met.

It was the day before the wedding and I was on my way home from the grocery store when I spotted Mr. Eaton.  My heart and pulse immediately began to race.  He was standing just a few feet away, looking at me.  As I stood there debating whether or not I should walk over to him he started walking towards me.  I willed myself to act calm.  When he reached me, I smiled nervously.  “Good afternoon, Mr. Eaton,” I said breathlessly.  I shifted the bags to my left hand so that I could shake his.  I know shaking hands with the man who was almost my father-in-law seemed a bit formal but I was afraid to hug him.

He towered over me although I was wearing heels.  His eyes flickered over my face and there was a slight smile tugging at his lips.  “Hello, Adah.”  He clasped my hand in his large one.  His fingers felt so warm.  “It has been a while since I last saw you.  How have you been?” he asked.

“I–I’ve been well, thanks.  Busy at work.  What about you?”

“I’m happy to hear that you’ve been well.  Ever since Nathanael started dating another girl, I have been wondering how you were.”

He had released my hand and I was holding the bag again rather tightly.  If he only knew how seeing him and being this close to him was affecting me.  “I’m doing fine, Mr. Eaton.  I’m happy for Nathanael and Gina.  I think they will be very happy together.”

“So, it really doesn’t bother you that he’s marrying someone else?”

“No, it doesn’t.  He met the woman who is right for him.”

“What about you?  Have you moved on?”

“Yes, I have.  As-as a matter of fact, I’m bringing a date to the wedding tomorrow.”  Now why did I say that?  I saw his expression change.

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“Well, I have to be going now.  I’m meeting a friend for dinner.  Enjoy the rest of your day.  I’ll see you tomorrow at the wedding.”

“Thanks, you too.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  I watched him walk away, my heart heavy.  I wanted to run after him and tell him that I hadn’t moved on with someone else and that the person I was bringing to the wedding was just a friend.  Then, I remembered that he said he was having dinner with someone–probably a woman.  Well, that settled it.  He was seeing someone.  I turned and headed in the opposite direction.

I was depressed when I got home.  I didn’t even feel like eating but I forced myself to.  I spent the rest of the afternoon, busying myself with cleaning the apartment because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do so tomorrow.  I went to bed early but it took a long time for me to fall asleep.  I lay awake, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about him.  I was in love with him.  I wondered what Nathanael would say if he knew that I was in love with his father.  Would he be upset, amused or would he feel sorry for me?  I sighed heavily and rolled on to my side. I closed my eyes.  I dreamt that I saw Mr. Eaton having dinner with a beautiful woman at a cozy restaurant.  They were laughing and toasting.  I watched them, feeling miserable but they didn’t notice me.  I dreamt that I told Nathanael that I loved his father but he laughed at me.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt terrible.  I dragged myself out of the bed and fixed myself a light breakfast.  The hours seemed to drag but finally, it was time to get ready for the wedding.  I showered and got dressed.  The car with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids drove up just as I came through the doors.

“Thank you, Troy,” I said as I pulled on my coat.  “You look really nice in your suit.”

He thanked me as we left my apartment and walked to the elevator.

It was a 20 minute ride to Gina’s family home where the two limos were to pick us up.  Troy and I arranged to meet at the church after the service and ride over together to the reception.   I rang the doorbell and Gina’s mother let me in.  After we hugged, we went to Gina’s bedroom where she and the other bridesmaids were.  We all hugged each other.  Gina looked lovely.  I gave her a chain which my mother had given me before she passed away.  “Something borrowed,” I said.  I put it around her neck and when she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she was touched.

“Thank you, Adah.  It’s lovely.”

“Now don’t start crying or we’ll all be crying,” I scolded her and she laughed.

We went to the church in separate limos.  I went with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids while Gina rode with her paternal uncle who was giving her away.  Her father had passed away when she was seven years old.  It was a beautiful, mild, sunny day.  The guests were still arriving and the parking lot was filling up.  We were ushered to a room where we were to wait until it was time.

And then, the wedding service was on the way.  We walked down the aisle and when the bridesmaids took our seats, my eyes strayed over to where Mr. Eaton was.  He looked really handsome in his three piece suit.  I wondered if the woman he had the dinner with was there.  I forced myself to concentrate on the service.  When it was over, Troy and I headed over to the church.

The reception was held in the Courtyard ballroom at the Vaughn Estate.  The room was elegant and beautifully put together.  I was very impressed.  The bridal party along with their guests sat at one table while the bride and bridegroom sat at another with the groom’s father, the bride’s mother and her uncle.  My eyes kept straying over to where Mr. Eaton was and a couple of times, I caught his eye.  I wondered if we would have a chance to speak to each other before the night was over.  I looked away as Troy and I took our seats.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your young man?” A voice inquired a few minutes later.  Startled, I looked up and saw Mr. Eaton standing there.  As usual, my heart and pulse began to race.  He looked so handsome.  His gaze shifted from me to Troy.

“Oh, yes.  Sorry.  Troy, this is Mr. Eaton, the bridegroom’s father.  Mr. Eaton, this is Troy.”

The two men shook hands.  “I’ve been to weddings before but this one is very classy,” Troy said.

Mr. Eaton smiled.  “Thank you.  I’m delighted that you think so.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”

“Thank you.  I’m sure I will.”

Mr. Eaton’s eyes met mine in a steady stare, making my stomach do crazy things.  “Excuse me,” he said before he turned and walked away.  I watched him go, wishing that he and I could be alone together somewhere.

“Very nice man,” Troy commented.  “He looks extremely good for his age.”

“Yes, he does.”

Troy leaned over and said in a low voice, “I think he likes you.”

I stared at him.  “Really?  What makes you think that?”  Just then, the rest of the party joined us so Troy didn’t get a chance to answer my question.  Bummer.

The food was delicious.  The conversation flowed.  We were all having a great time.  Nathanael and Gina came by our table and stayed for a few minutes before they returned to theirs.  Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic wedding and the banquet hall was perfect.  Soon, dinner was over and it was time to dance.  We watched as the wedded couple danced their first dance.  They looked great together.  I was so thrilled for them.

I didn’t realize that I was alone at my table.  The others were either on the dance floor or had gone off somewhere.  I had no idea where Troy was.  I thought he was going to ask me to dance.  My heart leapt in my chest when I saw Mr. Eaton coming towards me.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked.

“Yes, I am, thank you.  And-and what about you?”

“Yes, I’m happy with how everything has turned out.”

“Yes, things couldn’t have been more perfect.”

“You look so beautiful, Adah.”

I felt so shy and flattered by his compliment.  “Thank you, Mr. Eaton,” I managed to say.

“May I have this dance?” he asked.

Tongue-tied, I nodded and followed him to the dance floor.  Our eyes met briefly before he took me in his arms and we began to move to the music.  I could smell the aftershave.  It felt so good to be so close to him.  He was a terrific dancer and we moved with such ease.  I caught Nathanael’s eye and he smiled and winked at me. Gina looked very pleased too.

After the dance was over, I was expecting him to lead me off the dance floor and back to my table but instead, we ended up outside of the ballroom. “I need to talk to you,” he said urgently.  “We can talk on the walk out patio.  Here, you can put on my jacket.”  He took it off and helped me on with it.  Then, holding my arm, he escorted me out on to the patio.  We were completely alone and where we stood, no one could see us.

We faced each other.  The night was clear and beautiful.  I couldn’t believe that I was wearing his jacket and that we were out here alone together.  My heart was pounding like crazy.  “It has been a wonderful wedding, hasn’t it?  I loved when they read their own vows and they looked so much in love when they danced their first dance and the food was to die for.” I was babbling because I was so nervous.

“Adah, is Troy your boyfriend?”

I shook my head at once.  “No, he’s just a good friend.  He’s more like a brother to me.”

He released his breath.  “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that.”

I stared at him.  “You’re relieved?” I asked.  Why was he relieved that Troy wasn’t my boyfriend?  Could it be…?

“Yes, I’m relieved because it means that you’re not seeing anyone.”

“I’m sorry that I made you think that I was.”

“When my wife, Joan died, I was devastated.  She was my first love and my high-school sweetheart.  Nathanael was our only child.  After Joan died, I withdrew.  I didn’t want to go out and socialize.  I just wanted to be alone to grieve.  I took some bereavement time off and went for grief counseling.  It was hard going to church because Joan was in the church choir.  I missed seeing her with them.  She used to love to sing to the Lord.  She had such a lovely voice.  Family and friends told me that Joan would want me to move on–to be happy again but that seemed very unlikely until I met you.  I was deeply attracted to you the moment I first saw you and it scared me.  It scared me because you were young enough to be my daughter and you were dating my son.  I tried to fight my attraction for you and when Nathanael told me he was going to marry you, I tried to be happy for him but it was so hard because by then I had fallen in love with you.

“I was so torn up over it that I asked God to help me to get over you but for the first time in my life I felt as if my prayers weren’t being answered.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Then, Nathanael and you announced that the wedding was off.  Instead of being sorry, I was relieved.  I wanted to get in touch with you and be there whenever you needed someone to talk to.  And when Nathanael became involved with Gina, I wanted to see you and make sure that you were all right.  I wanted to be your friend–a father figure if you preferred.  I began to hope that in time you would come to care for me but when you told me that you had moved on with someone else and that your were bringing him to the wedding I was heartbroken.”

“Is that why you had to leave?”

“Yes.  It was torture standing there talking to you and knowing that there wasn’t any hope for me.”

“You said that you were meeting a friend for dinner.  Was the friend a woman?”

“No.  It was Jim, an old buddy of mine.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “I was so afraid that it was a woman.  That’s what stopped me from coming after you.”

“Why did you want to come after me?” he asked.

“I wanted to tell you that I hadn’t moved on with anyone and that my date was just a very good friend.”

“If you had done that I would have told you right there and then how I felt about you.”

“I didn’t think that you had feelings for me because of my age and my past relationship with Nathanael.”

“Adah, is there any hope for me?”

“So, you don’t want to be friends?”

“No.  I want more,” he muttered.  “Much, much more.”

I moved closer.  “Me too.”

He reached up and cupped my face between his hands.  “I love you, Adah,” he murmured huskily.

“I love you too, Mr. Eaton.”

“Call me Robert.”

“I love you, Robert.”  I put my arms around his waist and closed my eyes when I felt his lips on mine.

We got engaged a couple of weeks later and married in May.  It’s funny when I think about it.  Things didn’t work between Nathanael and me for one very good reason–he wasn’t the Eaton man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.

If two people are meant to be together, nothing can keep them apart – Sarah

Amos’ Story

People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes – Sheila McKechnie 

My name is Amos.  I became homeless because an untreated bipolar disorder.  I lost my job and ended up on the streets.  I was afraid to go to a shelter because I heard so many stories of how dangerous shelters are.  They’re full of drugs and drug dealers, people steal your shoes and there are bedbugs and body lice.  I preferred to take my chances outside of the shelter.  So, I slept on the streets, abandoned buildings and parks.  I didn’t sleep in parks often because at night they weren’t safe and my sleep was often interrupted by the police asking me to move along.

My life changed when I was arrested for stealing food.  I had begged all day but nobody gave me anything.  Usually, I would get at least five dollars in change and I would buy a hot chocolate and a chicken sandwich from Tim Horton’s.  But that day, I was out of luck.  Maybe it was because it was cold and people were anxious to get home.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I was starving and I had to have something to eat.  I ducked into a supermarket and grabbed a loaf of bread from off one of the shelves but I got caught as I tried to make my escape.  I was arrested.

Fortunately for me, the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge said that I wasn’t a criminal but I needed help.  They told me to go to a homeless shelter and to get treatment for my bipolar disorder.  I had to go on medication and see a psychiatrist.  I can see now that getting arrested was the best thing that happened to me.  I got treatment and got better.  Thanks to my psychiatrist, I was placed in transitional housing and received job search assistance.  It was at one of their health and wellness activities that I met Vivica, a Christian woman.

She shared with me that she was a battered woman who was forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and homelessness.  She wound up on the street and stayed there for a few nights until she went into a church to pray.  One night, she fell asleep in one of the pews and the custodian found her.  He referred her here, a safe place where she received the emotional support she needed.

Just recently, she found out that her abusive boyfriend was arrested for aggravated assault.  He would serve 14 years in prison.  I could see the sadness on her face.  “I hope that he will find God in prison,” she said.  “I will pray for him.”

“Do you still love him?” I asked.

She thought about it for a moment.  “To be honest, I don’t think I ever loved him.  I cared for him and stayed with him because I thought that I could help him but I was wrong.”

“I’m sorry that you wound up with a guy like that.”

“Sometimes we meet up with people who hurt and spitefully use us but they need our prayers.  Something happened to them and that’s why they’re that way.  Maybe he was abused too.”

“I wish I could be as forgiving as you.  I’m still sore with my boss for firing me because of my illness.  I guess I should have been taking my medication and gone for treatment but the medication I was taking was making me sick.  I tried to explain that to him but he wouldn’t listen.  He said that he had to let me go because my mood swings were affecting my co-workers.”

2aada538b73f386fc0c3a5cc2396f9be2“I’m sorry you lost your job.  Didn’t you go and get help?  Maybe see a psychiatrist who would prescribe different medication that might be better for you?

I shook my head.  “No, I thought I could manage it but I was wrong.  I didn’t go for treatment.  I took the medication which was making me sick because I wanted to find another job.  Once I got a job, I was going to see a psychiatrist and get new medication but I couldn’t get a job.  As soon as I told them that I was let go from my last job because I had bipolar disorder, the interview was over.  My rent increased and I couldn’t pay it so I had to leave.  I don’t have family here.  They are all back in East Jerusalem.  I’m the only one who moved to Canada because I wanted a better life for myself.  I was tired of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“So, you’re Palestinian?”

“Well, my father is Israeli and my mother is Palestinian.  So, I’m both.”

“That explains why your name is Amos.  It’s the name of a Jewish prophet in the Bible.”

“I was brought up in the Jewish faith.  Before my parents married, my mother converted to Judaism.”

“So, you’ve read the Bible.”

“The Hebrew Bible called the Tanakh.    It contains only the Old Testament.”

“The Bible I read and study contains both the Old and the New Testaments.”

“I know that Christianity is one of the three major monotheistic religions.”

“Did you know that the first Christians were Jews?”

“I don’t know much about the faith except that they believe in the Trinity and that Jesus is the Messiah.”

“We also believe that salvation is by faith and not by works.”

“I’m curious to learn more about your faith and what you believe.”

She smiled.  “I’ll be more than happy to talk to you about these things.”

“How later after dinner?”

“Okay.  We’ll find a quiet place where we can talk.”

“Vivica, would you go out with me even though I’m not a Christian and am mentally ill?”

She sat down beside me and put her hand on mine.  It felt nice and warm.  “Amos, of course, I would go out with you.  There are so many examples of interfaith couples and your mental illness isn’t something you should apologize for or feel ashamed of.  It doesn’t define you.  You and I have known each other for a while now and I have never treated you differently from anyone else because of your illness.”

“That’s true and I’m really grateful for that.”

“I really like you, Amos and to be honest, if you didn’t ask me to go out with you, I would have asked you.  It’s the twenty-first century.  Women are not waiting to be asked anymore.”

I laughed.  “Good for them.”

“Do you think your parents would object to you dating a Christian woman?”

“They might but I can always remind them that when they were from two different faiths when they met and fell in love but then again , they might be happy for me.”

“Happy for you? Why?”

“Happy because something good came out of all of the bad stuff I have been going through lately,” I replied as I reached for her other hand.  “I got to meet you.”

She was so moved by what I said that she couldn’t say anything.  She just smiled and reaching out, she touched my face.

Out of bad situations, God could bring good into our lives.

Sources:  National Public Radio; Daniel Pitino Shelter; Salvation Army; Solutions Center; Treatment Advocacy Center; York RegionDare2Share; Psycom

Sewing for a Better Future

Seven Wells is “a faith-based development organization raising up a generation who will transform Africa.”

In 2005, they started a sewing school for mothers.  The women attend Monday to Friday for 9 months with the goal that at the end they have a trade.  About 300 of them have graduated and are now self-sufficient and able to afford the basic necessities of life.  This helps them to feel good about themselves because they can take care of their families.  They have a purpose in life now.

This December 10 to 12 women are graduating and Seven Wells is hoping to provide each one with her own sewing machine so she can start her own business.  This is where you come.  The cost of a sewing machine is approximately $150, but you can donate any amount you would like to empower these women, making it possible for them to have a better future.  Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped a woman take care of her family but if you donate $50 or more you will receive a special gift sewn by these women mailed to you.

Help to make a difference in a woman’s life in Rwanda by making it possible for her to have her own sewing machine.  If you would like to make a donation visit here or if you would like to learn more about Seven Wells and the work they do, visit here.  These women are sewing for a better future.  Let’s do what we can to help them.

Sherry’s Story

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I want to tell somebody but who will believe me?  Who will believe that the man who uses me for a punching bag is one of New York’s finest?  I’m just a former exotic dancer who had the misfortune of getting hooked up with the wrong man.  I guess I was flattered by the attentions of a veteran cop whose face has been plastered in the newspapers numerous times for his exemplary work, cleaning up crime and cracking down on drug dealers.  He has had the most arrest records and commendations than anyone else on the force.  He is a hero in the communities, feared by the criminal element and admired by his colleagues.

Yeah, who would believe that this man of the law was beating me up?  When we first met, I thought he was a real decent guy.  He used to come and watch me dance.  One night after I finished my number and was at the back of the club about to smoke a cigarette, he joined me.  He lit my cigarette and asked me my name.  I told him.  He didn’t introduce himself.  He didn’t need to.  I knew who he was.  To tell you the truth, I was surprised that he was talking to me.  There were other dancers that I thought were more up his alley.

“What are you doing here at a strip club?” I asked him.

He lit his cigarette, took a few drags before he answered.  “I’m off-duty,” he said.  “So, what’s fine looking woman like you doing in a joint like this?”

I shrugged.  “To make money.  Besides, I like to dance.”

“Do you have a man?”

I shook my head.

“How much money do you make?”

“There’s a man who comes in every night and he pays me $2000 to dance for him and then we would spend the  rest of the time talking.”

“Is that the man I saw dressed in the expensive suit and wearing a hat?  He reminded me of JR Ewing.”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“He’s married, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“I bet his wife doesn’t know what he’s been up to.”

I finished my cigarette.  “I’d better be getting back.”  I turned to leave when he caught hold of my arm.

“How about you dancing for me this time?”

“Sure.  Whatever you want.”

“And afterwards, we go back to my place.”

“Sure.”  We went back into the club.  I danced for him and then we drove to his place.

He lived in a nice neighborhood.  After his wife died and their kids moved out, he Tiriansold the house and moved into a penthouse apartment facing the Hudson River.  I stood at the window looking out.  He fixed the drinks and brought mine over to me.  In person, he was a very attractive man.  He looked younger than 55.  His hair was dark with touches of grey at the sides.  His brown eyes met mine.  For a long time, neither of us say anything.  In the background, soft jazz played.  And then, he suggested,  “Let’s go over to the sofa where it’s more comfortable.”

I followed him over to the sofa and we sat down.  We talked for a while and then he took my glass and set it on the coffee table next to his.  While he placed on hand on my thigh, he leaned over and began to kiss me.  I didn’t resist.  I was attracted to him.  The kisses became wild and passionate and we ended up having sex on the sofa.  After I got dressed, I was going to phone for a taxi but he insisted in giving me a lift home.

He dropped me home and there weren’t any plans to see each other again.  I was disappointed but then I asked myself, What did you expect?  He’s a cop and you’re a stripper.

I didn’t see him for a while and then one night, he showed up at the club.  He saw me with the rich married man.  I was sitting on his lap, talking to him.  After he left, my cop friend came over to me and told me to meet him outside for a smoke.  I got dressed and went outside.  He was waiting for me.  I walked up to him and was about to say something when he grabbed me roughly by the shoulders.  “You’re quitting your job right now.”

“But I need the money,” I protested.

He struck me hard across the face.  “You heard me.  You’re quitting.  Now, let’s go.”  He gripped my wrist tightly and dragged me behind him to the parking lot where his car was parked.  He opened the door and shoved me in.  I cringed when he slammed the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, holding my face, shocked as we drove off.

We went to my place and as I stood there, still in shock, he said, “Sherry, honey, I’m sorry I hit you.  It’s just that the thought of you dancing for other men drives me crazy.  I’m sorry.  I promise I won’t hit you again.  Forgive me?”

I nodded.  “Yes, I forgive you.”  He looked and sounded so sincere.  I wanted to believe that he would never hit me again.

He pulled me roughly against him and began to kiss me.  I kissed him back.  We ended up in bed.  He spent the night and left early the next morning.  I went to the club and told the manager that I quit.  He was understandably livid, especially since he knew that one of his best customers was the rich man who always asked for me.  I had no idea what I was going to do now that I was working at the club.

My cop had it all figured out.  Several weeks later, he asked me to marry him.  It didn’t seem to bother him what other people would think of him marrying a former stripper.  We got married and I moved in with him.  I wanted to find another job but he refused to let me.  So, I became a housewife.  I felt like a prisoner in our home.  I couldn’t go anywhere without him.  If I needed to go to the supermarket, he took me on Saturdays.  If I needed to go to the salon, he took me.  I don’t know how he managed to get away from work just so he could take me where I needed to go.  I guess when you’ve been with the force as long as he has, you can pretty much do whatever you liked.

We stopped going to the policeman’s ball because he felt that I was too friendly with the younger officers.  Two years ago, after we got home from the ball, he beat me because he said I was flirting with the desk sergeant, a young Nigerian man.  It wasn’t true of course, but my husband was blinded by rage and jealousy.  I was black and blue and had a black eye.  Once when I was in really bad shape, he took me to the Emergency but never left me alone with the nurse who tended to me.  And he answered all of the questions and as soon as the examination was over, we were out of there.

We went home and I was laid up in bed for a few days in bed.  He took care of me.  He apologized for what he had done and brought me flowers.  He told me that he loved me so much it drove him crazy to think that I would leave him for another man.  And as usual, he promised that he would stop hitting me and get help.  I stopped believing him.  I stopped hoping.

We hardly had company over and when we did, I had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms.  There were times when I could hardly move because I ached all over.  During the day, it was a struggle to do the chores and I was always so exhausted.  At night, I lay there in bed, long after we had sex, staring up at the ceiling, wishing I could just go to sleep and never wake up.

We didn’t have any children because he didn’t want to have any.  He already had two from his previous marriage.  “Besides, I want you all to myself,” he said and then, he would take me into the bedroom and have rough sex with me.  Sometimes, he liked to pretend that I was under arrest so that he could hand-cuff me to the bedpost while we were having sex.  There were other kinky things that he liked to do to me  and wanted me to do to him.  I went along with it because I loved him and he was my husband.  He told me that he never  wanted to do these things with his first wife but he wanted to do them with me because I was beautiful and exciting.  I brought out the animal in him, he said.  And he was like a wild animal in bed.   Sometimes it was thrilling and other times it was terrifying.

Then he started to blame me for the abuse.  “I never hit my first wife.  In fact, I never hit a woman in my life until I met you.  You make me do it.  There’s something about you that drives me so wild with jealousy that I lose control and I hit you.  Do you think I like hitting a woman?  It’s your fault that I do it.  I love you so much it makes me go crazy just thinking of you with another man.  I swear if you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.”

I began to hate him and wish that something bad would happen to him but I always felt guilty afterwards.  I couldn’t go on the computer because he was afraid that I would go into those chat-rooms and pick up men.  I had the Bible which my grandmother had given to me a long time ago when I was finished with the household chores, I sat down and read it.  It gave me comfort.  I quit smoking.  I began to pray every night when he was sleeping.  I asked God to help me.  I claimed His promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

My help came through a neighbor who was out of sugar and she came by to borrow some from me.  After we exchanged pleasantries, she followed me into the kitchen.  As I reached up in the cupboard for the bag of sugar, the sleeves of my shirt moved back and the bruises on my arm were exposed.  As I closed the door and turned to face her, I saw her staring at me.  Her expression was grave.  “How did you get those bruises on your arm?” she asked.

“I bumped into stuff,” I lied.

“I’ve seen bruises like those before and I know that they are not from bumping into walls or doors or from falls.  He’s beating you, isn’t he?”

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sherry, you need help.  It will not get better.  It will only get worse.  Do you have family or friends you can go to?”

“I have family and friends but I’m too ashamed.  And who will believe me?  He’s a cop.”

“I’ve known women whose abusive husbands are cops, doctors, professors and even judges.  And I’m sure someone in your family will believe you, especially when they see the bruises.  If you prefer, I can take you to a shelter where they will take care of you.  All you have to do is pack what you need and I will drive you there myself.”

“All right,” I said.  Maybe this was God answering my prayer.  I got what I needed and I walked out of the apartment.  I didn’t leave a note or anything.  When my husband came home that evening, he would find me gone.  My neighbor and I went to different shelters but I was turned away because they were full.  As I tried to figure out what to do next, I remembered Lucy.  Lucy still worked as a waitress at the strip club where I used to work.  She and I were good friends.  I let her stay at my place when she walked out on her cheating boyfriend.  She always told me that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call on her.

I couldn’t remember her phone number off hand so I called the club and asked Bill, the bartender for it.  He seemed happy to hear from me.  It was he who got me the job at the club.  I called Lucy and she told me to go right on over.  My neighbor dropped me.  She hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself.  When you’re ready, get help.”

I thanked her and watched her drive away before I went into the apartment building.  Lucy was standing at door when I showed up and she hugged me tightly.  “It’s so good to see you,” she said.  “Ever since you got married, you’ve been a stranger.  Come in and tell me everything.”

We went over to the sofa and sat down.  I told her everything and showed her the purple marks on my arms.  “I had to leave him,” I said.

“Yes, you did.  The brute.  He thinks because he’s a cop, he’s above the law.  The first thing you do is to report him.  He belongs behind bars.”

“Who will believe me?  I’m accusing my husband who is an exemplary cop of abuse.  No, going to the police is a bad idea.”

“All right.  We won’t go to the police.  You don’t have to make any decisions right now.  You’re welcome to stay here for a long as you need to.  Whatever you decide to do, you have my support.  Are you hungry?  I’ll fix you something before I head off to the club.  When I’m gone, please make yourself at home.  Call me if you need anything.”  She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to fix me some supper.  I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat.

“I should be home around 2.  I have a spare room.  You can put your things in there.  See you later.”  She hugged me and then she was gone.

It was a nice, modest apartment and quiet.  It was in the heart of Soho.  After I finished eating, I washed the plate and went into the living-room to watch some television.  I rested my head against the back of the sofa.  I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes the room was dark.  I got up and turned on the floor lamp beside the window.  I stood looking out at the street below when I heard the key turn in the lock.  I glanced at the clock above the fireplace.  It was ten-thirty.  Lucy said that she would be home by 2.  Perhaps, she decided to check on me or she wasn’t feeling well.

I called out to her but there wasn’t any answer.  Puzzled, I started for the foyer when I froze in horror.  My husband stood there.  Fear and panic gripped me.  “What are you doing here?”

He came into the living-room.  “To take you home, my Love.”

“How–how did you know I was here?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“You’re lying.  Lucy wouldn’t have told you that I was here.”  And I knew it couldn’t have been my neighbor who brought me here either.

“Who said anything about Lucy?”

Then it hit me.  It was Bill who told him where I was.  He was the only one beside Lucy who knew I was here and I had begged him not to tell anyone that I had called.  He had promised to keep his mouth shut but somehow, my husband had gotten him to talk.  “Where–where did you get the key?  Did you steal it from Lucy’s bag?”

He laughed.  “Of course not.  I showed the landlord my badge and told her that I had a warrant to search this apartment.   If she had bothered to check she would have seen that the paper I showed her was the lease for my apartment.  Now, get your things, we’re going home.”

I backed away from him, shaking my head.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  I want a divorce.”

His expression darkened and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me.  “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you divorce me so that you can run to another man,” he muttered through clenched teeth.  “I would kill you first.”

Although this wasn’t the first time he threatened to kill me if I left him, I was really frightened because of the look in his eyes.  I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the devil himself.  I wanted to run for my life.  I shoved hard against his chest and managed to get free.  I headed for the door but he grabbed me back the hair and dragged me back into the living room.  He shoved me face down on the floor and raped me.

When he was finished, he stood up.  I lay there for a while, trembling and crying.  Then, I slowly got to my knees.  My back was turned to him.  He yanked me to my feet.  “Clean yourself up and get your things because you’re coming with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.  You raped me.”

“How can you call it rape when I took what is lawfully and rightfully mine?” He demanded.

I was shaking so much that I could hardly stand.  “You’ve beat me and raped me for the last time.  I’m going to file for a divorce and get a restraining order put on you.”

“Over my dead body.  You’re my wife, Sherry and the only thing that’s going to separate us is death.”

Then, I saw him pull out his gun and point it at me.  I screamed and then everything went black.

When I came to I was lying in a hospital bed.  I learned that the bullet caught me in the shoulder because I had moved.  If I hadn’t it would have gone straight into my heart.  My husband shot me and then he shot himself.  The police were called to the apartment when a neighbor reported hearing two gun shots.  The landlord told the police that my husband had shown up and told her that he had a search warrant for Lucy’s apartment.  The landlord believed him because she knew who he was.

I told the police about the years of abuse I had suffered at the hands of a man whom they had respected.  When they asked me why I hadn’t reported him, I told them that I didn’t think that they would have believed me.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I stayed with Lucy and went for counseling and psychotherapy which really helped me.  A couple months later, I decided that I had had enough of New York.  I sold my condo, packed up and left for Lisbon, Portugal.  Years ago at the strip club where I worked, I met a visitor from Lisbon.  He was a very nice man who gave me $1,000 each time I danced for him during the three weeks he was there.  I always promised myself that if I were to go and settle anywhere in Europe it would be Lisbon.

Lucy and I are in touch.  She is dating a guy she met on the tube.  I told her to bring him to Lisbon the next time she visited.  I’m not dating at the moment.  After being in an abusive marriage, I’m not ready for another relationship.  The men in Lisbon are very attractive but I want to remain single for a while.  I’m working at a boutique and love it.  I have become a member of an English speaking church where the members are like family.

I love living in Lisbon.  Sometimes, I wish that I had come here when I first thought about it and then I wouldn’t have met my husband or been a victim of domestic violence.  Then, I tell myself to forget about the what ifs and be thankful that I’m still alive.  My life could have easily ended that night in Lucy’s apartment if it had not been for the grace of God.   I was a victim of domestic violence and now I’m a survivor.  I have survived to tell my story.  Other women have not been so lucky.  I think about them often and that’s why I want to join in the fight against domestic violence.

There are times when I meet couples who are still madly in love with each other after thirty or more years of marriage and I’m filled with a heavy sadness.  That could have been my husband and me.  I sometimes ask myself why couldn’t he have loved me the way the Bible says a man should love his wife?  And I wanted to love him the way the Bible says I should but how could I respect a man who beat and violated me?  How could I submit to his violent and controlling ways?  He claimed he loved me but his love was was cruel, selfish, demanding, easily provoked and abusive.   I believe that if he really loved me he would have gotten the help he needed and our marriage would have survived.

Today, I’m speaking fluent Portuguese and am a volunteer at a Domestic abuse treatment center here in Lisbon.   God spared my life and I want to use it to help women who are going through the same thing I did.  It is my earnest prayer that one day very, very soon, domestic violence will be eradicated.  Marriage between a man and woman who love each other the way the Bible teaches could be a very beautiful thing.  Love shouldn’t hurt.  It shouldn’t kill either.

March 7, 2019 was a national day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Lisbon.  Portugal’s Cabinet went out into the street to observe a minute of silence as part of a day of national mourning it decreed for victims of domestic violence.  According to police, 12 women have died this year in domestic violence incidents — the highest number over the same period in 10 years.  On the eve of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that domestic violence is “a collective challenge” for society as a whole – National Post

Sherry’s story, though it is fiction, it is the reality for many women.  Some have survived domestic violence and others have not.  There are resources for women who are in abusive relationships and for the abusers as well.  Here is a list:

Victims of abuse often feel guilty as if they have done something to provoke their abuser or that they somehow deserve the abuse they receive. Abusers are often skillful at making their victims feel responsible. But no one deserves to be abused by another, and abusers are responsible for their own choices and actions – Bible Info

Join the fight against domestic violence.  If you are a victim, please seek help as soon as possible.  Your life depends on it.  Be a survivor not another statistic.  If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive marriage or relationship, please reach out to that person.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Take action today for the many women who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse and feel that there is no way out for them.  Domestic violence affects all of us.

Sources:  Huff Post; Bible Gateway; Bible GatewayTVO

Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;