A Woman’s Right to Choose

One particular person I admire, who is dear to my heart, and remains on my mind every time I pray, is my great grandmother. Nan Uí Bhriain – everyone called her Nan O’Brien – yet she faithfully wrote the full form of her name.

She gave birth to six children, my grandmother was the second; she struggled to carry many children to full term, and so many passed on within the womb. She was a remarkable woman so I’m told. I never did meet her, yet her legacy lives on like a river that never dries up. She died when my own ‘Nan’ was 15. My great-grandfather was stricken with grief from that day on, unable to cope with her loss. He turned to alcohol often, but more often relied on my grandmother – now the oldest; my uncle (the firstborn) had drowned in a boating accident, which added to their collective grief.

But ‘Nan O’Brien’ was a force from God. While her husband worked, she also worked – along with raising a family, she was the housekeeper for the rectory and its four priests. She met many throughout her life, one whose cause for canonisation is at the diocesan level and remains an unofficial patron of the town she loved and lived in. She taught her children that love was an unconditional thing, and that anyone you met was subject to it. I know this is true because of how my own dear nan responds to the people around her: she brings food to her sick friends, and she admonishes those she knows who have gone wrong or members of our family who have made great mistakes, yet she always tells them she loves them. I think whoever meets her confrontation knows her forgiveness is at the end of the tunnel, because she forgives all of her friends, all of our family.

Is that a perfect family? Of course not! Besides the Holy Family, no family is perfect. My grandmother has told me of many lessons she learned in her life, and one of those was about life and forgiveness. Broad topics, eh?

One night as my grandmother lay in bed, her mother came trotting home from her friend’s house. She burst through the bottom door crying, weeping, screeching for her husband. About ten minutes later, after he asked her what’s wrong, he apparently ran outside and cried on the bank behind the house. Half an hour later, everyone was asleep.

Nine months later, my grandmother had a new younger sister.

My dear readers, I confide in you: the dear public, a lesson. That night when love wept, a woman was taken by another’s husband. By force, not by choice. My great-grandmother was raped, and she conceived of a child.

The night of tears wasn’t an ordeal. It was a moment: reality came to light, human vengeance perished, and love overcame all.

My grandmother told me about this after we watched a programme about abortion. Nan always wore her faith on her sleeve. Someone in my family was conceived in an unorthodox way, yet lives today as a mother and wife, an aunt and friend herself.

Abortion is murder.

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