Ramona sank down into the stout hospital chair next to his bed. She hadn’t figured her father struggled with anything. He was always so settled and determined when it came to his faith. He seemed to act with unquestioned commitment as he dutifully followed the Pastor’s directives. If he, the one who was so careful to do the right thing, the one who always backed the Pastor fully, the one who was always there at church even if he was sick, if HE had questions . . . well, how could she ever make it?
That brought back a memory that made her shudder. In her mind she could hear a ditty that two of her friends sang years ago. Pastor Marlowe loved it! He had them sing it several times in front of everyone. One verse went like this:
“If we all backed our pastor, our pastor, our pastor
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.
When your friends are my friends and our friends are God’s friends
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.”
Well, she wasn’t happy! Maybe other people in the church thought it was because she wasn’t “backing the Pastor.” But, her dad was. Why didn’t he act happy then?
“You’ve been awfully quiet. What are you thinking about?” She snapped back to the reality of the sterile hospital room.
“Nothing, Dad. Um, did Mom always go along with Pastor Marlowe’s preaching? I mean, did she agree with all the rules and stuff?”
“Well, we had, shall I say, spirited conversations about different things. Sometimes when he had a Bible teaching about something, she would disagree. I always thought Pastor meant well and was truly concerned about making sure we were ready for Heaven.”
Ramona was puzzled. She had the impression that her mother was pretty supportive. She never talked bad about him anyway. Well, there WAS that time that Sister Jacobs had all the girls line up on their knees to check how short their dresses were. Her mom was not happy about that but what could she do?
The duty nurse slipped into the room. “I think we should let your father rest for a while now. Pretty big ordeal he’s been through today!”
“Sure.” Ramona said. “I’ll see you later, Dad.” He didn’t respond. He had drifted off to sleep.
Ramona was deep in thought as she exited the hospital. The distinct medical smells from inside were supplanted by the organic wetness of nature outside. The crispness of this spring evening was such a contrast and seemed to portend a feeling she couldn’t quite identify; something peculiar. Was it simply the known promise of the approaching warmth of summer? Was it the impending unknown experience this life growing inside her would bring?
A baby would change her life trajectory, of course. Many times in the last few weeks this thought had both frightened her and brought anxiety. She struggled to picture a daily routine which included feeding, smelly diapers, tiptoeing at nap time, the inevitable noise of a crying child, the virtual death of her social life. She didn’t want her future completely hijacked by a baby!
As she walked the fifteen or so blocks back to Becky’s, a possible solution she once rejected out of hand took form on the shadowy horizon of her consciousness. She needed to find a doctor though.
She had to figure it out; needed to think this thing through. It made sense because she just wasn’t ready; besides people did it all the time. How could she get a job with a baby? It would be too hard!
She tried not to think it might be a solution she could regret later but she was already filled with guilt and regret. With a baby she would still have that, plus the added burden of being responsible for a child. At least with an abortion she would only have guilt and regret.
Becky pulled a couple of shots of espresso to add to the Americano she was making. She had been thinking about Ramona all afternoon.
“Lord, how can I help her see you?” she breathed. “I know that her church experience has been hurtful and right now her faith is especially vulnerable. Let me just be a friend to her and listen.”
“Paul, your Americano is ready. Paul?
A good looking guy stepped up to claim the drink. “Thanks! Hey, what time do you get off work?” he asked.
“In a few minutes,” she returned, “but I have plans. Thanks anyway.”
“Well maybe some other time?” he offered.
“Probably not. My boyfriend wouldn’t like it.”
“Oooooo. Ok then. Have a nice life.”
He turned and walked out, to Becky’s relief. She clocked out and went to get her coat. Leaving the small shop she headed to her apartment.
Ramona was standing at the back kitchen window when Becky walked in. She hung her coat on the hall tree and walked across the small room to the overstuffed chair. She waited to see if Ramona would acknowledge her presence.
Seconds seeming like minutes passed and finally Becky ventured, “Ramona, you Ok?”
“Does God forgive all kinds of sins, forever?” Ramona asked, almost monotone.
“Yes, yes, of course Ramona. He has already forgiven all of your sins and mine. You know this; that Jesus died once for all of us and for all time. Sin has been paid for completely and entirely. You are forgiven.”
“Well, I don’t feel forgiven.” She shot back. “I feel dirty, I feel rejected, I feel embarrassed, I feel wronged, I feel like I’ve disappointed God, my family, church and I’ve gone too far, made too many mistakes and used up all of God’s patience.” She was gathering steam now. “That’s why I’m pregnant! God is punishing me because I went too far this time. I didn’t listen to him or the Pastor and now I have to pay for it.”
Ramona turned to face Becky. There were tears running down her face from reddened eyes. Becky was moved deeply as she sensed the pain Ramona was trying to express. But the next statement from Ramona shook her.
“I am going to fix part of the problem.” Her voice was strong and resolute now. “I can’t let a baby ruin the rest of my life. I need all my energy to get back on track. So since God forgives sins forever, I’m about to commit one more.”
“Ramona, how can I help?” Becky hoped this would slow down the girl’s speedy journey into more trouble.
“Well, for starters, you can take your “God stuff” and stuff it where the sun don’t shine! I’m tired of everybody’s sanctimonious attitude like they know what I should be doing. I know what I want and it isn’t a baby!”
She strode out the front door slamming it with a finality that chilled Becky to her bones.
“Ramona, Wait! Don’t do it. I can help.”