Across the street from the west side of the Colorado State campus is a Planned Parenthood center, tucked behind a Qdoba and a travel agency. Outside it, on the street, when the temperature is over 45 degrees, moralists stand with signs condemning abortion.

I don’t play politics. I think politics is a hateful and toxic realm. I like constructive discussions, but even then they have to be approached casually, open-minded, and usually with some degree of meta-awareness to help keep folks from getting too heated. Most of the time I avoid opinions because 1) I usually don’t know enough about the matter or 2) because whoever I’m discussing the issue with will likely not want to change their mind, and frankly, I probably won’t want to either.

One of these moralists was standing lonely by the brick wall today with a sign reading “Be thankful that your mother chose life.”

And from this I was struck, not in a political sense, but in a cosmic one, where the grandness of the universe dwarfed both moral debates, or late-night heart-pounding decisions, (or next-morning heart-pounding decisions, or next-month heart-pounding decisions).

My mother indeed chose life. As did yours. Whether it was an accident, a plan, a pleasant surprise, or a stressful decision.

But she was one of a series of decisions. Stray bullets missed, ill-timed illness dodged, a “holy shit!” moment and that kind of awkward laughter when you ran a red light and narrowly missed collision, when your horse threw your greatest grandfather and he lay, broken, wondering if he’d be found in time, a long walk on a cold night.

Further still, atoms colliding, hydrogen and helium in supernova spectacle, manifest oxygen, carbon, bubble forth this life, your parents, their parents before them, gasses of space, light years and that perfect distance from a star.

How many hundreds of trillions of voices of those who could-be and could-have-been cry out,

thousands lost in a stray bullet, the silence in the space after shrieking metal where the laugh should have been, the chill wind across cooling skin, a baby’s cries each time the deed is done or a box of contraception purchased.

I don’t know when contraception turns to abortion, where prevention becomes killing,

where

that death so empty,

the part that draws tears, for me, at funerals,

of what could have been,

rings in silence the same way as any other death, but more universal, more pressing,

and so surrounding, emphasizes both the

vastness, our own insignificance,

does it matter anyway, so long as we are alive, were alive, will be alive?

Because equally, from this vastness we came

by design or guide or happenstance or

from gasses we emerged, and somehow beat the odds, and someday too will be

what could have been.

Be grateful your mother chose life,

be grateful the universe so aligned, that from one ripple you rose,

you. only you.

and wonder if it would be a different you had they waited, killed, miscarried, later conceived,

and then wonder at the others until you join them anyway.

But if it makes you feel better, wonder of the ripple, study your hand or your skin or your lungs or just the fact that

you’re here at all.

What Could Have Been

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One thought on “What Could Have Been

  1. Nicola Kirk says:

    Certainly a lot of food for thought there!

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