Empty shoes and full hearts


Hundreds of  empty baby shoes joined together with safety pins lined a banner on Hemming Plaza in Jacksonville this past weekend following a 5K Run For Their Lives benefiting area Crisis Pregnancy centers. The shoes are a reminder of the men and women, the moms and dads who have memories of aborted children.

Affixed to the shoes are notecards with messages signed by the sometimes grieving person who has found forgiveness in a loving father in Heaven. “Catherine, I’m sorry! I’ll see you in Heaven, Mom,” one pink card reads. It is affixed to a pair of polished white baby shoes. A spokesperson from A Cry Without A Voice said individuals are encouraged to pray and ask for a vision of what their little one would have looked like; give them a name, and finally, write out a message.

Especially wrenching are the multiples. Some are for those who believe they aborted twins. Most are by women who have had multiple abortions. One set of four shows an abortion each year from 2000 to 2003 in cities including Charleston, S.C., St. Petersburg, Fla., and Manhattan, N.Y.

One tiny pair of white sandals with bright pink and yellow flowers stands out with a neatly written notecard: “Suzanne, when I look at your brothers and sisters, I can only imagine how beautiful, smart, kind and loving a piece of our family the world is missing. Forgive me for letting fear rob me of that and you. Love you, Mom.”

It’s in those moments, I remember what it was like to go to high school in the 1970’s and sit through what was called, “Freshman Communications.” It was a class where we had guest speakers come in from the community and speak on issues of health.

One day, I remember distinctly a man drawing a tubular shaped image on the chalkboard and telling the young teens in my class that an unborn child, a “fetus,” was nothing more than a blob of tissue and since Roe V. Wade had just made abortion legal, there was nothing essentially wrong with it. That thought was echoed by speakers who came frequently in the guise of “health professionals” to distribute condoms on campus as well.

I’m thankful my church didn’t sit on the sidelines. At that time our family attended a Grace Brethren Church and they were very clear on morality and on abortion. I credit that teaching (and early parochial school teaching) and my mother’s resolve on those issues with my very firm conviction, even when faced with constant indoctrination, on being vocal about where I stood.

My first major story ever published in a secular paper, the Hannibal Courier Post, in Hannibal, Mo., was a front page, above the fold story (and photo) covering a widely attended pro-life rally in St. Louis, Mo. If I recall, my particular victory was that they did not change my terms, “pro-life” and “pro-abortion,” to describe those attending the rally.

It was a story I stayed up all night writing and dropped it off the next morning (the Courier Post was an afternoon paper) on the managing editor’s desk. I was thrilled to death when Marti Hefley, one of my mentors in writing called me to tell me they published it.


With a heavy heart already then this past week, after the passing of dear Bob Schindler, Terri’s Schiavo’s father–gazing out at this sea of shoes, I recalled what I learned in research nearly 20 years ago in my college classroom. It was a study done in advance of Roe V. Wade and it said that women in China were known to grieve over the children they had either aborted or abandoned and left to die.

It’s about time in America, we finally realize that women, and men, suffer–there are no “blobs of tissue,” but instead there are tiny voices waiting to be heard; hopes and dreams waiting to be realized; and little feet, waiting for a pair of shoes.



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