I love my sleep. I need eight hours each night to feel like I've had enough. I am pretty wimpy about the cold. But at the urging of a friend, I arose at 4 a.m. on Jan. 25 to catch a bus with 47 others to join the March for Life in Washington, an annual demonstration against abortion around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
I dressed as if I was going skiing: warm socks, long johns, layers and a down coat. When I arrived at Sts. Philip & James Church in St. James, a coach bus was waiting. I entered the church for Mass before our trip.
I was surprised to see a toddler in the back pew in footy pajamas. Wow, how ambitious, I thought. It was enough just for me to get there. I couldn't imagine preparing for a long day with a small child. In his homily, the Rev. Tony Stanganelli, the church's pastor, said the toddler was the son of Katie Farrell, a 23-year-old college student who was stabbed to death last March by the boy's father, who then took his own life.
Not long before her death, Katie wrote in a college essay that she planned to travel to this year's March for Life. She wrote that she "got pregnant at 21, unwed, young, and with a minimum-wage paying job."
"I had health professionals insisting I have an abortion and that raising my child was simply something I couldn't do at this point of time," she wrote. "Abortion was convenient, but I rejected the idea. I had no support, but I stood my ground to keep and raise my child."
Tyler turned 2 on Jan. 22, the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
After Mass, we boarded the bus. Someone gave me a gray scarf with pink lettering that said "Katie's Way." That's the name of a pro-life website inspired by her life.
On arriving in Washington at 11:30 a.m., I was handed a sign. It was aqua with white letters, with words from Katie's essay: "The birth of every child changes the world: Let every child be born for a better world."
Katie's son is now in the care of her mother, Clare Farrell of St. James. She took him to Washington with Katie's brother and sister, Brian and Rebecca Farrell. He is Katie's gift to her family as they grieve her senseless death.
At the March for Life, there were speeches as the crowd gathered. Each group united with their signs, scarves and hats. There were so many young people: young families, college students, and young priests, nuns and monks from so many states. As we proceeded from the Mall to the Supreme Court building, I realized that we were in a parade of sorts, but there were no crowds to watch us. It felt more like a religious procession.
At the U.S. Senate's Russell Building, young people chanted, "We love babies, yes we do. We love babies, how about you?"
After a full day, we arrived back in St James at 2 a.m.
I've been reflecting on those events. I believe that people on both sides of the abortion debate have things in common. We all love babies. We also love the suffering pregnant woman who is overwhelmed. I am saddened by the millions of abortions in the last 40 years, but I am hopeful because of people like Katie Farrell, who left this world better for her selfless act of love and sacrifice.
Reader Jeanine Murphy Morelli lives in East Setauket.