Carrying the Torch of Life
by Nancy E. Head
In January of 1979, I had two children, a husband and a house, and cable television. The cable company ran scrolling public service announcements, and for the first couple of weeks of that New Year, one announcement, in particular, kept catching my eye.
The message declared that buses would be heading toward Washington, DC, to mark the sixth anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the US Supreme Court decisions that eradicated every abortion regulation in every state.
Two phone numbers ran along the bottom. I called one or the other at different times, finding out what was involved, what I’d need to arrange for my children for the day, what I’d need to wear and bring with me, and how much it would cost. I learned that the two numbers led me to sisters with multiple children, (They would have 14 between them, one or two not yet born).
On January 22, I got on the bus while it was still dark. I had a sandwich and most of a large bag of M&Ms in a brown paper bag. I had on my new boots and coat and thought I looked great.
When we arrived, we walked from the Ellipse to the Capitol where we heard many inspiring speakers. It was a balmy 50-something degree day. I carried one or two of the layers I’d piled on to protect me from the expected cold.
We visited our legislators and walked back to meet our bus—late, even though, or more likely because, one of the organizing sisters Anne was leading our way.
We sat down on the bus physically exhausted. Remember the new boots? I wanted to chop my own feet off.
But we were internally energized.
Over the years, Anne became a mentor to me. My own mother had passed away in 1975. This woman was a wise sage who walked with me through my adventures of young motherhood, held my hand through my years as a single mom, and celebrated with me as I married again.
Her house was a must-stop for me and my kids on trick-or-treat nights. Halloween came before Election Day, which made for enlightening conversation and the chance for me to gather poll working materials.
But Anne was not one-dimensional. She was a fully engaged mother who made amazing homemade pierogis and, with her children, designed elaborately painted (not just dyed) eggs for Easter. She was a Registered Nurse.
And she was our community’s spokeswoman for life. Despite the plates she kept spinning at all times, she was humble.
When I would ask her: How do you do it all—eight kids, a husband, a house, a job, along with volunteer work? She would say, “Sometimes, not very well.”
For anyone who knew her, she led the way by example, sponsoring refugees from Vietnam and housing unmarried pregnant girls.
On January 22, 1980, I stayed home with a new baby. Iranian radicals had invaded the US embassy in Tehran capturing the diplomatic staff. Like today, inflation was high, in double-digits. That winter brought the Miracle on Ice—the 1980 Olympic hockey victories that garnered the gold medal for the US team. I adjusted to having three children, attended the March again in 1981 with my baby, missed 1982 caring for another new baby, attended in ’83, and carried my unborn son, my youngest, there in 1984.
Most of the following years, we attended, various children and I. One year when I had to work, Anne took my younger daughter with her.
When my kids went along, they knew the trip involved a long walk followed by hot chocolate in a legislator’s office. They learned about peaceful protest. They learned about life.
As my children grew up and got busy with school, jobs, and their own families, I began to take students to Washington for the March. In 2002, that meant a few phone calls from parents wanting reassurance of safety in the wake of 9/11 the previous September. The trip came off without incident.
I write as we plan another trip to DC, this year on January 21—the Friday closest to the anniversary—a change from the vision of Nellie Gray, the March’s founder who insisted the event be held on the 22nd every year. This alteration allows for an extended program, helps those who travel from afar (and many do), and more easily facilitates visiting legislators.
Except this year.
Because of COVID, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has forbidden Marchers from entering legislative offices. We are to be allowed inside public buildings only to use the restrooms.
So be it. We go anyway.
It’s been a few years since Anne has gone. Her years of activism were a flaming torch she has passed to those of us still able to make the trip. May we carry it well.
From our private school, we’re to be a small group, my husband and me, several students, a parent, and grandparent or so.
COVID and perhaps the aftermath of January 6 cancelled the March last year.
Pro-lifers head to DC this year with renewed hope, unprecedented hope of seeing Roe and Doe turned into their own grave. Anticipating this turn of events, 15 states are said to have “codified” Roe. Three have absolutely no restrictions “throughout pregnancy.” That means a woman could be in labor, change her mind, and have her baby killed before birth. Others allow abortion until viability, a slippery definition reliant on guesswork and subject to “exceptions” that allow the killing of the allegedly less than perfect.
Further, nineteen states allow “caregivers” to refuse treatment to newborn abortion survivors. Living, breathing little ones, left to die.
Perhaps Roe and Doe will die this year.
There is still much work to be done.
We March on our feet.
We pray on our knees.
We carry the torch of life to the next generations.
About the Author
Author Nancy E. Head was a single mother with five children under the age of 14 when many in the Church came to her aid. Her story illustrates common problems in our society such as the fracturing of families and communities, reflecting a splintering Church.
Alienated families and a riven Church cannot minister as effectively to their own members or others until they find accord. Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ's Love Through the Church in One Accord. She leads a small group ministering to the needy in her community.
You can read Nancy’s HEADlines column on the 4th Saturday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.