Life First

He didn’t need to say a word ... I could see a smile in his eyes

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

I don’t think I have ever re-printed a previous column I had written until now. Twenty six years later what I wrote in an August 1991 issue of OND seems to be as relevant as ever. The little girl mentioned in that column was married the Friday before Memorial Day at St. Joseph’s Church in Moorhead. Those eyes ... those beautiful eyes. From August 8, 1991:

The most important thing that happened this summer in the pro-life movement took place on a rainy summer night on August first when three sets of eyes helped me realize what my work in the pro-life movement was all about.

I had just finished a meeting in Fargo and although it was nearly 10:30 p.m., I decided to stop by Dakotah Hospital to visit Elmer, a parishioner who had had major surgery that same day. So, I parked my car, dashed into the lobby to escape the rain, looked up and there was Michael, a friend who I knew had been waiting any day for the birth of his child. He didn’t need to say a word because I could see in his eyes a smile as big as he was tall! Ashlee Mae had come into the world just a few hours before and “Daddy” was still walking on air.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the nursery gazing upon the little girl who made her daddy’s day. She was beautiful! When the world outside was madly racing toward power, wealth and prestige, there was Michael hovering over his daughter in awe at the power of her tiny hands, the wealth of her helplessness and the prestige of now being called “Daddy.”

Just as we were about to leave the nursery, Ashlee opened her eyes just far enough to take another peek at the voices which had surrounded her with love. In the coming days, those eyes would see a Mom who was ready for the title and worthy of the honor, and a Dad who was (and probably always will be) trying to figure out why he deserves so much happiness.

Although I could not see Mom (Nancy) because she was asleep, I told Michael to give her my greetings and then I took the elevator up a couple of floors and down the hall to visit Elmer in intensive care. As I walked down that hall I could feel the excitement of Ashlee’s arrival slowly give way to the apprehension of wondering what I would find when I walked into Elmer’s room.

As I stepped in I had to take a deep breath. Ashlee’s room was so filled with the energy of life, but Elmer’s room was filled with the machines used to avoid death. He was awake but could not speak and his eyes shouted out the pain he was feeling. It took only a second for those eyes to lock on to me and in that brief and quiet moment I felt so helpless as I stood before the eerie battle for life. I wanted to fix Elmer and end the pain. I wanted to bring the hope that his eyes so desperately searched for as they clung to my face. All I could do was hold his hand, wipe his forehead and let him know I cared.

Just minutes before I had gazed into the eyes of a newborn which hesitated to open almost in fear of the life that would leak in, now I was with Elmer whose eyes didn’t dare close in fear of the life that would never return.

Those eyes. The eyes of a Dad who were filled with peace after seeing the power of a Creating God; the eyes of a little girl whose first experience of this world is one filled with love; and the eyes of a gentle and fragile man who knows how human he really is.

Those three sets of eyes taught me that no matter how much suffering, hatred, violence and death this world manages to dish out, God will still stand tall and offer hope, courage, strength and love to those young enough and old enough to accept it!