The Healing Power of Love
Here is an encouraging real-life account for anyone going through a period of darkness to understand that things may seem bleak but God is there and we have to reach out to Him in our need. Instead of wondering why graces like these happens to others instead of us, let us instead try to gather the important lessons we can learn and put into practise.
The Healing Power of Love
It seemed impossible that the vast emptiness I had known all my life could grow deeper, but when I was abandoned to a Catholic orphanage at the age of six it grew to a bottomless chasm. In 1963, my father had my mother committed to a state mental institution. He then made me and my five younger siblings wards of the state of Tennessee. We were loaded into a station wagon and dropped off with no good-bye or explanation. Each of us was immediately separated to various floors of the orphanage according to age and gender.
Ironically, it looked to the world like I had been born into a life of privilege. My mother’s family were Catholic and multimillionaires. My grandparents owned a popular nightclub in Wisconsin where my glamorous Irish grandmother often performed in her younger years. There was a dark side to all that wealth, however. My grandfather – nicknamed Spider – did side jobs for Al Capone, the well-known Chicago Mafia gangster. Grandfather eventually committed suicide, as did my grandmother and several other relatives. Alcohol, gambling, and extramarital affairs were deadly combinations.
My own mother was a remarkably beautiful woman. She was a Rose Bowl princess in 1955 and screen tested for motion pictures in Hollywood. Instead of becoming a film star, she returned home and married my father. He was a Lutheran and from a poor German/Norwegian family. I believe he married my mother for the money. My only memories of him are of an abusive, violent man.
From my earliest memories I believed I was of little value to my parents. As a girl, I often stood in my mother’s closet and touched her beautiful dresses to my cheek. Her dresses were as close to her as I could get. When I was about four, I announced I was going to run away. My father swung open the front door and said, “Good, I’ll help you.” Only after becoming tired, hungry, and scared did I return home. No one seemed to notice or care.
My father eventually moved us all to Tennessee. He and my mother grew to bitterly despise each other. When I was six, I saw my father hold a butcher knife to his throat. “I’m going to do it, Sheila,” he shouted. “I’m going to do it!” “No, Daddy, no!” I screamed, while my mother encouraged him with her applause. At that moment I realized that they did not love each other and could not possibly love me.
Shortly thereafter, my father had my mother committed to a mental hospital in Memphis. Eventually, she gave birth to her seventh child by my father, who was also abandoned to the orphanage. According to regulations, we were not allowed regular contact with our siblings. However, on baby Timmy’s first birthday, I sneaked away to catch a glimpse of him. As I peered through the nursery window at the babies lined up in high chairs during lunch hour, I was devastated to realize I could not identify my own baby brother. With tears of a profound sense of loss streaming down my face, I whispered, “Happy fist Birthday Timmy, whichever one you are.”
When Timmy was ten months old, my mother committed suicide. A volunteer at the orphanage handed me a newspaper clipping about the horrifying incident. I was mostly emotionally numb at the orphanage, but just below the surface was anger. One day, I felt drawn into a schoolyard flower garden that featured a life-sized cement statue of the Blessed Mother. I looked at her with a combination of awe and anger. “You are Mary and you are perfect,” I jealously chided her. “You have never sinned and your son is Jesus and you are in heaven. How could you even know what pain is?” I accused.
In spite of my childish envy, I returned regularly. One afternoon, when I was nine years old, I became aware of an unfamiliar sensation. It was peace. Instead of venting, I began sharing my life with the Blessed Mother. A desire grew in me to pick some of the garden flowers and place them in the statue’s hand, but it was against the rules. This temptation lasted a whole week. Finally, I looked up at the stone image of Mary and said out load, “I just can’t pick those flowers for you.”
Suddenly I heard a sweet, unearthly voice that penetrated the depths of my soul: “I am more honoured by your obedience than by having the flowers in my hand.” I was delightfully stunned. It was Mary’s voice; she understood the intentions of my heart. Although this experience would remain my own special secret, the hardship that was still to come would bury it deeply.
By the time I as fourteen, my father was granted custody of all seven children by a Tennessee juvenile court judge if he agreed to leave the state for good. My father moved us to the outskirts of a Wisconsin town to a home in deplorable condition. He kept his own selected foods chained up in a refrigerator while we survived mostly on lard, bread, cereal, and powdered milk. We were beaten, bullied, and tormented daily when he was home.
I ran away back to the orphanage when I was sixteen. While volunteering to help out with the younger children there, guilt at the fate of my own siblings left with “the monster” pulled at my heartstrings. I reluctantly returned home. My father’s only reaction was to say, “What are you doing back here?”
Shortly after I graduated from high school, an acquaintance from a nearby farm had his way with me against my will one night. Having hidden in my closet, he had waited until I was asleep. I told no one out of shame. Years of victimization had left me completely helpless. Three months later, a doctor confirmed I was pregnant. Before my father learned of the news, he had kicked me out onto the streets one night.
Two girls I knew from high school with an apartment agreed to let me sleep on their couch. When the biological father of my unborn baby learned I was expecting, he called to threaten and then bribe me with money to have an abortion. I hung up the phone. Although my life could not have seemed more desperate, the memory of all the abandoned babies that were occasionally dropped off at the orphanage came to my mind. We had all loved them.
When my daughter, Jennifer was born in June of 1975, I was struck with awe as I gazed upon my blue-eyed, dark-haired beauty. Even the delivery room nurse told me that in her twenty years of nursing, Jenni was one of the most beautiful babies she had ever seen. I immediately recognized her as a true gift from God. Even though I had no plans for the future, I stubbornly refused to give in to the heavy pressure to release her for adoption.
A relative reluctantly took me in from the hospital. Very shortly afterwards, a great uncle and his wife approached me to offer me a place in their home. They showed me a dainty, yellow room of lace and ruffles and a canopied crib, I agreed to move in. However, I never saw that yellow room again. I was treated like a slave, banished to their basement. Rarely did I even get a chance to hold my own baby. When Jenni was three months old, my great uncle’s wife let on that they planned to have me declared an unfit mother and gain custody of my daughter. The thought of losing Jenni filled me with a lion’s courage. I literally pulled her away from my uncle’s grasp and fled with just the clothes on our backs.
I stayed with a friend for six months until I went on welfare and found an apartment in another town. Unfortunately, my life continued to spiral out of control. I allowed myself to be pressured into a loveless marriage to an abusive, adulterous man. Abuse was all I had ever known, so I believed that there was no way out. I had a son, Jason, by him. One day, after another episode of physical abuse where my children were endangered, something in me snapped. I told him to leave and never come back. Jenni was around five years old and Jason was nearly three.
The following month I was hospitalized with toxic shock syndrome seemingly only hours from death. As I lay helpless and in pain, I readily accepted leaving this world. It was then that I experienced a familiar, motherly presence and heard a voice: “You shall not die and I will be with you on your journey.”
It was the sweet, heavenly voice of Our Blessed Mother whom I had heard so many years ago. Peace filled every part of my being. I realized I was not spiritually prepared to die. So on that day, July 2, 1981, my spiritual journey began. From that point on I craved a personal and intimate relationship with God and desired to fully embrace my Catholic faith.
Shortly after I was released from the hospital, I was still extremely fragile, both physically and emotionally. I also felt profoundly alone. As I shakily climbed the stairs in my townhouse, I glanced up at a crucifix that hung in the hallway. I said to Jesus on the cross, “See how alone I am, there is no one to love me.”
I distinctly heard His gentle voice in reply: “I know how you feel, for you have abandoned Me.” I broke down and cried. I took the crucifix off the wall. Sinking to the floor, I cradled it in my arms and rocked back and forth. “I am sorry Jesus I never turned to you,” I sobbed. “You are my best friend now, Jesus.”
My life was never the same again. I returned to the sacraments and started taking my children with me to confession and daily Mass. I soaked up everything I could read on my faith and worked on instilling its richness in my children. I also went through five years of intense counselling and therapy to deal with my personal issues. I learned that not all men abuse women and children.
Then, on October 1, 1987, I felt an urging, surely from the Holy Spirit, to attend Mass at a church in another town. That is where I first laid eyes on my future husband, Tom. He was nearing the end of a 54-day rosary novena, asking God to lead him to find a good Catholic wife. The Church had granted me an annulment several years earlier. Our courtship proceeded slowly but was surely grounded in our relationship with God. On September 30, 1989, we were joined in holy matrimony. Tom later adopted both of my children.
In spite of my past, I have a heart filled with gratitude and joy. A friend from church once stopped me in the hallway and said, “To look at you, one would think you never had a bad day in you whole life.” Her comment was an affirmation of my healing through God’s love. By the grace of God, I have experienced the joy and love of motherhood and become part of a family I never knew as a child.
Jesus once said, in John 14:18, “I will not leave you [orphans]; I will come to you.” I believe that this verse was meant for me.
Written by: Cindy Speltz
Cindy Speltz has been married to Tom for fifteen years. Jennifer and Cindy often speak together to pro-life groups with the message that children conceived through sexual assault are God’s children. Jenni, 28, has recently married, and Jason, 26, works for a finance company.
Taken from “Amazing Grace for Mothers” by Emily Cavins & Patti Armstrong with Jeff Cavins & Mathew Pinto, Ascension Press, Pennsylvania, 2004, pp. 83-89