Note: In writing this article, I don’t want to use the sad reality of suicide to make a point or to try to get people to think like I do. I don’t know what was inside of this woman’s soul, how much she was suffering, and all of the events in her life that would have led her to the point of taking her own life. However, doesn’t it make sense to take a tragic situation and asks ourselves, “How can we prevent that from happening in the future? Is there a way to avoid reaching such terrible despair in my own life and in those of the people I love?” I actually think it’s a duty we have towards those who have been led to such a profound desperation to do whatever is in our power to stop this from happening again. That is why I want to write this article.
Charlotte Dawson was a model and television personality. She was married to a potential Olympic champion, swimmer Scott Miller. After being married only six months, Charlotte found herself pregnant. In her autobiography, she said that she knew it even before she took the pregnancy test. Even though the thought of being a mother made her excited, she saw that her husband was reticent – the baby was due at the same time as the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Charlotte realized that her husband didn’t want anything to come between himself and his gold medal.
So did they live happily ever after? Well, the first tell-tale sign was that Scott refused to go to the abortion clinic with Charlotte; he said he didn’t like the atmosphere there. Way to be a man. Charlotte confesses in her book that right after the abortion, she felt the first pangs of what she would later knew well for the rest of her short life: depression. In the end, her husband didn’t get the gold medal – he didn’t get any medal at all. In fact, he didn’t even make it to the Olympics: it was discovered that he had been taking illegal substances. The final blow for Charlotte was that she found out that her husband was cheating on her, after only six months of marriage.
After 15 years of suffering from depression, Charlotte Dawson finally took her own life.
The blatant selfishness behind the abortion is sickening. Charlotte herself said, “Everything Scott had done was leading up to this moment and nothing could stand in his way, so it was decided that we would terminate the child.” And the consequence to selfishness is always unhappiness, depression, and neuroticism. We can be so full of ourselves that we’re blinded to our own horrendous selfishness and its tragic consequences in our own lives, in the lives of others, and – worst of all – in our relationships with God.
“The chief cause of inner unhappiness is egotism or selfishness,” Fulton Sheen once blatantly stated. Sheen gives an eye-opening analysis of what he calls “melancholy,” which he defines as “not simply a disgust, or discontent, or sorrow, or even a suffering. In suffering, the emphasis is generally on external things and circumstances which make one sad; in melancholy, there is something interior which has been wounded, there is a kind of discontent of self, a hatred a being, a desire to be empty. Life almost turns against the very instinct of conservation and against legitimate self-love…It grows angry with itself, it turns on itself…” He says that this kind of existence develops in three successive stages: Selfishness, sting of conscience, and “a preoccupation with death, sometimes ending in suicide.” (Fulton Sheen’s article is too long to place it all here, but if it interests you, you can watch his “Anatomy of Melancholy” in three parts)
Children are a beautiful gift, as long as we’re willing to give up our selfishness. They teach us how to really love, as Christ asked us to love. Mother Teresa relates a beautiful story: “I will never forget one day in Venezuela when I went to visit a family who had given us a lamb. I went to thank them and there I found out that they had a badly crippled child. I asked the mother, ‘What is the child’s name?’ The mother gave me a most beautiful answer. ‘We call him “Teacher of Love,” because he keeps on teaching us how to love.’”
It’s important for people in Charlotte’s situation to know that God always forgives. Take Dorothy Day, for instance. She was a former catholic activist, who before her conversion also had an abortion. Similarly, her boyfriend – who had convinced her in the first place to have the abortion – never came to pick her up from the abortion clinic. Hours later, when she finally got back home, she found a note from him saying that he had left her. After a long and sincere searching, Dorothy Day joined the Catholic Church and found God’s forgiveness. She is even up for canonization. Mother Teresa says that in spite of everything, Jesus still wants us to be holy, to be saints. God’s forgiveness is there, we just have to go to confession and open up our hearts to that forgiveness. It’s in our hands.
Even though God doesn’t talk to us like that, He could if He wanted to. God tries to tell us, tries to warn us that being selfish, choosing to go against the 10 commandments, buying everything the world has to offer isn’t going to make us happy. God says, do not kill. We kill our babies anyway, and we’re unhappy (without asking whether the baby is happy or not about your decision). God says, “Do not commit adultery.” We do anyway, and we make others and ourselves unhappy.
Often, however, we don’t want to listen to God, but to whatever we think will make us happy. We have to learn the hard way to listen. “God always forgives…but nature never does.” We can make choices, but we can’t choose the consequences. Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein), for instance, ran away when she was only 16 with Percy Shelley, who left behind his wife and child. A few years later, his wife, Harriet, was drawn out of a river after apparently committing suicide. God gives us the 10 commandments and His commandment to love in order to make us happy. We just have to believe Him and listen. “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
In her autobiography, Charlotte admits that she had to try to lie to herself, convincing herself that having an abortion was the right thing to do, that she was making the correct choice. Trying to drown out our conscience never brings us to happiness. Listening to our conscience, though it can be hard and require sacrifice, brings it a joy and a happiness of knowing that we did what God asked of us.
Maria Luce Gamboni is a young 18-year-old Italian singer and actress. After trying out, she had been chosen to play the part of Juliet in a musical that was to be held in Rome. It seemed liked the chance of a lifetime and the opportunity to fulfill her dreams. However, in the practices, she found out that she would have to wear a transparent shirt. After talking with the producers, who refused to change their minds, she gave up her part.
I’ll leave you with Maria’s own beautiful words: “I felt like an object at the mercy of those who wanted to use me and my femininity for their own success. In a certain sense I failed because I didn’t achieve what I wanted, but I actually triumphed…because I chose my own self-respect before money or even fulfilling my own dreams.”
Even though it was a heart-rending decision, Maria said that that same night, when she got back home, “I cried out of happiness because I had done what I knew that I had to do.”
We have to let our faith give us the strength to live and make decisions as we know in our hearts that we should.