Reflections from Rebecca, a first time vigil participant

The following story is from Rebecca’s blog, at

The Line…between Life and Death

I guess I looked the part.

I was dressed in jeans and my WVU hoodie. I was alone and probably looking a little stressed. I hesitated as I stepped into the cross walk, unsure of exactly where I was going (even though I had driven by first – it looks different on foot). I clutched my purse and my eyes darted from one side of the street to the other; wondering where do I go exactly and will I need to let someone know I’m here? I was still more than a block away, but I immediately noticed the bright yellow vests that Abby Johnson had described in Unplanned.

And then a man approached me, hand outstretched with some sort of pamphlet of information. ”Please look at this before you go in there.”


“Oh, no, I’m actually here to pray.”

And it began.

The man (I’m embarrassed I don’t remember his name) smiled, welcomed me, and started to walk with me. Over the next block I told him this was my first time participating in a 40 Days for Life vigil and asked if there was someone I needed to check in with since I had signed up for the 9:00 hour. He introduced me to another man (again, horrible with names, next time I will take pen and paper in addition to my camera) who was holding one end of a 40 Days for Life banner.

Both men asked where I was from, when I said Morgantown they commented how far of a drive it is. Funny how those from Pittsburgh always think it takes so long to get to Morgantown and those of us from Morgantown don’t think it’s that far at all.

I was told about ‘the line’. The line separating life and death. The line that I was not permitted to cross while praying. And as I was looking at the line, a young woman and what looked like maybe her mother walked into PP. Instantly tears filled my eyes. Was she going in for an abortion? Was I ready for this hour?

There was a group across the street praying a rosary and as I was very uncomfortable standing right next to ‘the line’, I decided I’d head across and join them. Thinking maybe I’d come back across the street in a little while. I had remembered to take my rosary with me and I was glad to have a group to follow. The lady who I needed to check in with was also across the street and while I wasn’t worried about ‘getting credit’ I wanted to be sure they knew that the person who had signed up for the 9:00 hour did indeed show up.

From 9:00 to 10:00 on Saturday morning it was what I thought and expected. And it was not at all what I thought or expected. It was more. so. much. more.

There were men and women. Young and old. All there, praying.

As I watched those who crossed the line, who entered PP, I found myself wondering about their story. Wondering if they thought like I used to – that PP would offer them all of their options; that choice was necessary, even if it wasn’t for me?

After I’d signed in, I stood next to two young girls holding a Gabriel Project banner. “Hold it up proudly, they can see it from inside through the windows.” They can? “Yes, they can.” And the girls smiled and held their sign up proudly. Their hope contagious.

Then there was a woman who crossed the street. Arm-in-arm with her daughter. One of the 40 Days for Life women, wearing a sandwich board sign, immediately approached them as they crossed.

At first, I couldn’t hear her words, but I could hear the mother’s response – and it wasn’t nice. She followed them all the way to the line. Reminding the mother that it was her responsibility to protect her daughter. Almost begging her not to do it. She stayed in the street, just outside the line praying and calling out to the woman and her daughter. Occasionally she’d turn just enough that I could catch a glimpse of her face from across the street. The pain was visible. And heart wrenching.

Tears filling my eyes as I let myself process what was going to happen. My heart breaking as a daughter trusted her mother; her mother who was leading her across the line between life and death. And a voice whispered to me deep from the pit of my stomach ‘that’s what I’d do if it were you.’ A flashback of a conversation from a ride in the car when I was in high school; when my mom and I discussed a friend who everyone suspected had had an abortion. Maybe that’s why this road to being pro-life was one I fought against turing down so hard? Thank God it was never me.

A few decades of the rosary later and two girls about college age came out. One of them was wearing a Duquesne sweatshirt. If our Catholic campuses aren’t reaching their young women, how can any of us expect to?

As I watched the coming and the going, those praying and those working, I couldn’t help but notice that the PP escorts often looked our way and laughed. But it wasn’t a deep belly-laugh. It was more of an uncomfortable laugh. I wondered what they really thought. I wondered if their hearts were being changed.

As the clock neared 9:45, I felt tugged back toward the other side of the road. To move closer to the white line. I thanked the man who had shared their vigil guide with me and told the girls holding the banner I would be praying for them.

And as I started to cross the street once again, I couldn’t help but notice the irony. The PP in Pittsburgh is on Liberty Avenue.

I put my toes on the edge of the white line, next to a lady who later would tell me she is 72 and stood up to the K.K.K all by herself in 1972. I bowed my head to pray, keeping my eyes focused on the line between life and death.

As 10:00 arrived, I was surprised at how quickly the time had gone and a part of me was sad that it was time to leave. I thanked the man who was holding the 40 Days for Life Banner for welcoming me so warmly. I looked to see if the first man was still down the block across from the parking garage and was glad to see that he was. It seemed fitting to say goodbye to him just before crossing the street for the last time. This time, I was walking much more confidently and he knew exactly who I was and why I was there. He greeted me warmly. I thanked him for his help and for welcoming me so kindly, saying ‘God bless you,’ as I walked away.

No, God bless you.

And with that I crossed the street for the last time and prepared to head home.

Forever changed

2 thoughts on “Reflections from Rebecca, a first time vigil participant

  • April 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for coming all that way, Rebecca (after all, it’s not just down the street). May God richly bless you for stepping out and standing in the gap!


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