Saturday, September 23, 2017

Double Jeopardy: Mom Conceived in Rape, Dad Conceived in Incest, by Van Atkins

Of course, our precious Savior always perfectly knows what went on, is going on, and will
go on in our lives. For us, the reasons why our life has unfolded the way it has only begin to come into focus when we can look back and see the footsteps of Our Lord as he walked with us at every moment. Recently, the 50th anniversary of the precious matrimonial sacrament of myself and my beloved Maureen was a huge such opportunity to reflect on my journey home so far. For me, I see more clearly every day how even the very moment of my conception was so unlikely it could only have been God’s mysterious will and divine providence.

You see, my father was the result of incest,and my mother was the result of rape. The fact that both occurred in the early part of the last century, when such things were “dealt with” via cover-up or keeping them secret -- instead of the now ubiquitous abortion solution -- was certainly a providential blessing in disguise. 

Through my now 7+ decades, every time I’ve marveled at the numerous blessings God has bestowed on me, in those same moments, I’ve also been acutely aware that almost all folks judge that in such situations of conception -- let alone in the double jeopardy I was in -- should be able to be murdered, in their mother’s womb, well before birth. Yet, praise the Lord, here I am. And here also are 4 children, 7 grandchildren; a sister; 7 nieces and nephews; and 6 grand nieces and nephews -- all of whom are certainly intensely pro-life and also making other real differences, for good, in the Body of Christ.

It arouses deep gratitude, in the depths of my soul, to realize that God loved me so much
and so hungered for my role in his salvation plan. But it’s also almost immeasurably humbling -- not infrequently accompanied by a palpable sense of “why me?” -- and difficult to accept that I was chosen to be born when so many other tens of millions were cast away as easily and dispassionately as the day’s trash. 

Yet, as I know without doubt that I exist per God’s will, I’ve come to a more full, and peace-filled, resolution of my internal guilt conflict. And such resolution has emboldened my willingness to clearly stand up and be counted everywhere -- workplace, neighborhood, friends, extended family, parish -- as 100% pro-life, with no exceptions. 

The “Save the 1” mentality took deep roots in my spiritual journey. There are folks alive today because we shared, with their confused and frightened parents, the beauty and sanctity of every conceived child.

It has never seemed to me even remotely understandable that those in authority can think they can play God with his precious children’s lives. The very thing they tout as a wonderful “good” for society seems so clearly to actually be a death rattle for society. And then there’s that almost universal tagline “except in the cases of incest and rape, or danger of the mother’s health” that’s endlessly and mindlessly used by those who purport to be pro-life, but are actually “let me chose which life is more important”. 

Every time I hear that phrase, I become almost physically ill: “What about me and how I came to be”?

But how did mom and dad deal with the circumstances of their births? Dad knew he was
born in a very rural home, located in a backwoods area called Gopher Valley. So, when he
needed a birth certificate to go with the Army to Panama in the late 1930's, he wasn’t
surprised that local record keepers didn’t have his . He was able to get some birth affidavits from the delivery doctor and relatives, and didn’t think any more about it. 

But then, later in his civilian life, he got a job in Morocco and the need for a U.S.passport-compliant birth certificate arose. Through that process, the old family rumors which he’d always discounted -- that some “farmer” had been involved in his birth -- began to seem at least possible. Dad still pretty much still was a man who lived in the present and looked forward. But doubts about his origin did make him more introspective and reflective. 

He was non-Catholic. But thereafter, he took real interest in Catholic perspectives (beware getting between him and watching his favorite program, Bishop Sheen!) and got to the point where he could argue Catholic dogma -- including about life issues -- better than most baptized Catholics. And, sure enough, on his deathbed, he requested baptism, and was received into the Catholic Church where he felt he’d found his real Father. 

After he passed, DNA testing done by me, in connection with my genealogy hobby, proved the rumors -- and the farmer turned out to be his maternal great uncle, in whose home he’d been born.

Mom’s revelation about her birth was more of an immediate surprise. The Morocco move
meant she also needed a passport. That caused her mother to tell her, for the first time, that
she was not her parents' natural child. Indeed, she’d never been formally adopted. 

Her parents had recently lost a child and were visiting North Dakota. They heard of a baby girl who’d been abandoned at the local Catholic hospital. A local farmer had brought his pregnant 13 year old daughter, who’d been raped by a malcontent hired hand, to that hospital to ask the good nuns for help, as no facilities existed anywhere in the county to handle such events. 

The nuns took her in and a very premature -- a nearly certain death sentence in those days -- little girl was born soon thereafter. Since the child was dying, the nuns baptized her Catholic. (To this day she’s still the only Catholic ever in her birth mother’s bloodline.)  But she miraculously survived (God’s plan at work again!) and ultimately mom’s parents agreed to take the child with them as they returned to Oregon. 

After mom learned about her birth circumstances, she tried hard to locate her birth mother.
She was enormously grateful, and in awe, that such a young child should so bravely give birth to her. Especially as the world, in mom’s later years, began to see such bravery as utter foolishness, and such babies as out and out “tragedies”. 

Mom began to more concretely recognize and accept God’s plan in her life. To bring her to life -- and such a long-lived and loving one (she lived to age 96) -- just had to be part of specific plan God had for her. When mom died, she’d come through 3 marriages, 2 divorces, and much physical pain, to die in full concert with the Church, receiving all the anointing sacraments, and revered as a long-time pillar of her parish. 

Even mom’s 13 year old birth mother’s life was distinctly affected by being raped yet choosing to still have her child at such a young age. The physical event rendered her unable to have other child and ”Aunt _____” became the favorite mentor and counselor of everyone in her sibling’s extended family. When that bloodline family learned their beloved aunt’s child had been found, there was an incredible outpouring of joy and love from them.  

And, . . . hard to believe, but there’s still another remarkable aspect to our family story:
My wife Maureen’s own mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but refused treatment so she could choose birth Maureen -- at the expense of her own life. The knowledge of her mother’s ultimate sacrifice has hovered over Maureen’s entire life and strengthened her Catholic faith throughout. It’s been integral to her on-going spiritual awareness and growth, and has played the major role in her always being the leader in faith in our family.

As I humbly look back on the life God has thus far gifted me, I daily thank him that he so lovingly allowed the role my family has played in his plan.  It breaks my heart when those who wantonly disregard life's sanctity start their delusional, self-congratulatory mantras about how it's not life; or "my body" -- which is really "my avoidance of the consequences of my actions."  Evil!  God's plan to populate his kingdom with precious souls he brings forth out of his perfect love has NO exceptions.  When our selfishness and lack of trust causes us to take a tiny life that is God's, it is a far greater travesty than the terrible loss of that life.  It is a complete denial of God's love and of that child's absolutely necessary role in God's plan for the happiness of us ALL.

I started my genealogy hobby and created our family tree so that my immediate family and extended family -- and all those who come after us -- would always know and be able to reflect upon the heroics of so many of our ancestors, but most especially of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and great- grandma. These dear souls believed all life was precious and worthy, no matter how it came to be or what it cost, and so willingly sacrificed that we might enjoy God's gift of life.  I ask that they never be forgotten because, without their selfless love, we would not be here, and I genuinely believe that the world would be a lesser place.  Our lives will be so much more God's if we can also have, as they did, at least one great and defining moment of unselfishness.  Thanks to them all!!!

My Bio: Van is a husband of 50 years to his beloved Maureen, father of 4 and the
grandfather of 7. He and Maureen presently serve as their parish’s RCIA Coordinators.
Additionally, they own a thriving health coaching outreach that specializes in all areas of
permanent better health change -- weight, nutrition, supplementation, diet, home safety and
detoxification, stress, exercise, and sleep.