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December 16, 2009
Family gives courageous pro-life witness
By Eileen Love
I couldn’t miss the pregnant woman in the front row. She was sipping something and visiting with her friends at the start of class. (I was leading a facilitator training class at this year’s ENDOW Conference.) During the introductions, I learned her name was Susan Kingsley and that she was the 46-year-old mother of five children. Number six was due shortly.
I’ve always loved the sight of a pregnant woman, especially one who is … oh, how do I put this? Seasoned. Susan looked mature, contented in a way that career mothers often are, and she smiled easily. She was at the conference because she is part of an ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) group in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Longmont. Though she and her husband Chris, 50, had relocated their family from northern California only a year before, they were thoroughly established with lots of friends and plenty to do.
At lunchtime that day, Susan left class for a doctor appointment and didn’t come back. When I saw her the next day her friends shared the sad news. Susan had gone to the hospital where she and Chris learned their baby boy had died in utero. Labor would be induced in few days.
This bad news was not altogether unexpected. Susan and Chris had learned well that on the Christian journey, one encounters both crushing sorrows and soaring joys. They had seen their share of both.
After college and moving to California, Susan met Chris and they happily set about beginning their married life. Jake was the first baby to come along and make them a family. A miscarriage followed and then came the gift of Claire, who was adopted from China. Adoption turned out to be a great plan—Chris always said his desire was to be a father, not necessarily to pass on his genes. The family expanded when Alex and Anya came from Russia and soon the family was in full swing and up-to-here busy. Chris worked as a software engineer while Susan home-schooled.
Sometime in the midst of all this, Susan received a shocking diagnosis that a “little thing on her arm” was actually stage 3 melanoma, an often deadly cancer. The stunned shock had barely worn off when the treatments started. The couple followed doctor’s orders “most of the time” except when they were advised to adhere to a strict regimen of birth control; they told the oncologist they used NFP (natural family planning) and were confident about it. The regimen they did rely on was prayer.
“I could never have gotten through it without my faith,” said Susan. Amazingly, she made a full recovery.
It was a good thing, because at age 43, with four children ages 8 to 13, and a cancer scare under her belt, Susan learned she was pregnant! Sweet baby Olivia entered the world and made their lives complete.
Well, not quite. Shortly before Olivia’s 2nd birthday, Chris and Susan discovered they were pregnant again. But this time, a dark shadow hovered over the family as the good news was followed by bad. Tests indicated that the baby had a chromosome disease that would likely be fatal. When grave looking doctors suggested the option to terminate the pregnancy, Susan and Chris explained that for them, such a plan was out of the question. In the roiling waters of medical ethics, the couple held onto the life raft of their Catholic faith. They would carry the baby, love him and accept whatever was God’s will. Along the way, they were blessed to meet others, both in the medical field and outside, who were ardently pro-life and offered prayers and encouragement.
On Sept. 28, Susan was delivered and little Mark Benedict, who never drew a breath outside the womb, was cradled in his parents’ arms and they surrendered him to God. His funeral Mass was an event that one friend, Arleen Mack, describes as “the most incredible witness to our family.” In a tiny donated coffin, Mark was buried at the cemetery beside Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder. Arleen was in charge of setting up meals to be delivered to the family. She actually turned down offers of help because they were swamped.
“I couldn’t believe how many friends they had made in such a short time,” she said. “Families like theirs strengthen the faith in all of us.”
Eileen Love works for ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) as an editor, speaker and teacher, training women to become study-group facilitators.