Fifty Years Later

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A few years before my sister Susan died, she confided to me that, as a child, she had recurring sensations of being born into the wrong family. Often she felt out of place, lonely, with no understanding as to why. Even her name seemed wrong.

Susan described phobic childhood days when home alone while Mom worked. For reasons she could not explain, she feared no one would return for her. Her fears continued so strongly into adulthood that her health suffered, resulting in years of sickbed illness from which she often had not strength to arise.

After years of dread, Susan prayed more intently than ever for enlightenment regarding her emotional and physical afflictions. Within weeks of those prayers, there occurred two key events.

First, our father came to visit me. He confided a long withheld childhood memory. When about age four, he was impressed that a little sister wanted to join the family. The feeling grew until he told his mother that a little sister would soon be born into their family. “I know she is coming,” he concluded.

This was not welcome news to his worn down, discouraged mother. She reprimanded his “silly idea.” She had determined “never to bear another child.” Father’s gaze was distant. “I don’t know what happened to my sister. Perhaps it was childish imagination. But it seemed so real that I’ve never stopped wondering about her.”

Witnessing the sincerity in my father’s countenance, I, too, felt it was true—he should have had a younger sister.

A second piece of the puzzle came later that same week. Mother visited and shared another family secret, apparently unknown to Father. When Father was yet a small boy, his mother had, in fact, found herself pregnant against her desires. Before her pregnancy showed, and in keeping with her promise “never to bear another child,” she made an excuse to go into the city. Uncharacteristically, she insisted on traveling alone. Wherever she went during that week, Grandma had secretly aborted her child.

Shortly after these two events I went to visit Susan, unaware of my bedridden sister’s recent, fervent prayers. Susan was rapt as I shared the stories from our divorced parents. She knew she was the sister her father had sensed at age four. She had tried to come, but Grandmother could not handle the burden. She, Susan, had been aborted and re-birthed in the next generation.

Susan went into mourning. For weeks this middle-aged woman grieved for her own rejected little self of more than fifty years earlier, and for the grandmother who should have been her mother. Susan loved our mother but now understood her life-long affinity for Grandma.

One day Susan asked me to take her to Grandma’s grave. Frail though she was, she insisted on making her way alone from the car to the site. In conversation, Susan was normally stoic, a listener, a comfort to others. When she returned that day, she sobbed in ways I had never seen. I listened as she poured out sorrows pent up for decades.

These episodes endured about a year, near the end of which Susan reported a harrowing flashback, a prebirth memory. She saw herself in heaven watching our grandmother having the abortion performed. Susan, as a preborn spirit, screamed, “Stop, stop! You have no idea what you are doing. Please stop, you can’t do this!” Her intended mother did not hear, nor did she stop. In disbelief Susan watched her forming little body torn out, discarded.

Susan wrote her experience in a journal, providing insight into the feelings of the aborted ones. Key words included fear, abandonment, aloneness, grief, and most painful of all, rejection. Strangely there was also guilt. Somehow she felt responsible—if only she had been better. Next came jealousy, jealousy for others who had never been through this kind of trauma. And finally there was anger that she had to come a second time. She hated her true mother for having her killed, and for creating a lifetime of fear that it could happen again. Strong words, but that’s what she wrote.

Over time, Susan did forgive. Truth can be hard, but with it comes understanding. Truth became her ally. Susan released pain and fear, forgave, and healed emotionally. More, she even healed physically. Gratefully, she enjoyed better health the last four years of her life than ever before. When it was her time to go, although the physical illness returned, the fear did not. There was a contentment about her I’d never seen. It endured through her last breath.

After Susan’s death, our brother, who then knew nothing of what I have told, handed me a written account of a dream. Not many days after her passing, he had seen Susan in heaven with our paternal grandmother. Puzzled but pleased, he said, “They were standing together, both radiant, and Susan and Grandma looked astonishingly alike—like sisters.”

Compiled by Sarah Hinze