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An Act of Compassion

James Sauer

Things were looking up for Carol Johnson. After taking off four months for her maternity leave, she was going back to work at her old job as Assistant Office Manager at Firmwell Industries. Her daughter Melissa would be dropped at the Jolly Family Day Care Center each day on Carol's way to work. Sure, it cost some, but how else is a single mother going to live? Carol depended on this job, and it was a tight budget. Looking over the coming year's personal economic situation, however, brought some confidence to Carol. Things were looking brighter. Then tragedy struck:

* Her car brakes need replacing -- $497.45.

* Her company took a bad turn in the profits for the quarter. No promotion, no raise. And there was rumor that middle management positions like hers might have to give back 5%.

* One worker in her department was laid off: Carol would have to fill in for half those duties plus her own.

* John -- the significant other in her life -- was cheating on her. That would have been bad enough, but it was with another man. For all she knew, she might have AIDS.

* Her friend Nicole called and cancelled their planned trip to Bermuda in July.

* Her rent went up $65 a month.

* Her aerobics instructor became a born again Christian.

* They cancelled her two favorite soap operas. No more after work evenings with the VCR.

* The price of Brie cheese doubled.

Carol was at wits end. Her whole life was collapsing. The stress was incredible. "Something had to give, I was falling apart," said Carol to a friend. She felt alone, no one to turn to. Her emotions were a wreck. She just had to work things out for herself.

The worst thing of all was that Carol began to have negative feelings about Melissa. "I began to resent her. My time. My freedom. My rights as a human being. She would cry. There were diapers. I was not feeling good about myself. I began to have negative feelings about everything. My sleep was off. I didn't even want sex. And all this seemed to come to Melissa's door. I even had guilt feelings about my resentment. I knew I wasn't giving Melissa the quality time she needed; yet I just didn't have that time. I had things to worry about."

"Finally, I realized that my love for Melissa transcended the present situation. If things continued as they were, my negative feelings would grow worse. Melissa would be unloved. She would suffer. That wasn't fair for either her or me. Little girls need love; and Mommies need their freedom. It was a difficult decision, but I struggled with it. The answer was obvious, but I didn't want to admit it. Melissa had become a financial and emotional drain on me.

I loved her too much to let her have a mother who couldn't live to give her the things she needed in this life -- the things the other children had: children's designer jeans, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and an education in the best prep schools. I knew what I had to do. I called friends and shared my decision. They all supported me, acknowledging that it was my choice. One must go on living. That afternoon I made arrangements to have Melissa quietly put to sleep. Cremation would follow."

"When I went to Rev. Charolette Forting-Wordsworth at the New Ecumenical Church of Personal Development, she gave me just the words and comfort I needed." The Left Reverend Forting-Wordsworth said: "God wants you to do what is best for you and Melissa; she doesn't want either of you to suffer. It isn't right to burden Melissa with your life problems. Perhaps later on in life you will have found yourself, and gotten your life together; perhaps then you'll be ready for a child again. Until then, you've got to make these difficult decisions. God understands, believe me, she loves you dearly."

Carol is now readjusting to life without Melissa. "What I had to do was painful. Some people don't understand that. It took bravery and a special kind of courage that I didn't know I had. I had to recognize that sometimes infanticide is the most compassionate thing a mother can do. It was for Melissa. It was for me. It was for everyone involved. I loved Melissa so much -- the thought of her being unhappy broke my heart. I had to put her down."

James Sauer is Director of Library at Eastern College, author of over one hundred published articles, reviews, and poems, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1990
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