In one of the old Sherlock Holmes yarns, there is a dialogue where Holmes tells a Scotland Yard inspector that he should be aware of “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time,” responds the inspector. “That,” rejoins Holmes, “was the curious incident.”
It’s natural to focus on events that have happened instead of those that haven’t, and on people we have interacted with as opposed to those we’ve never met. But today it seems worth reflecting on some of those people we haven’t met: the 54 million who have died in abortions in the past four decades.
It’s hard to mourn them because we know virtually nothing about them, except they once existed. So much of them remained potential. We don’t know how many of them would have been eager and well-behaved, and how many would been hellions, and how many would have been, like most of us as children, a mixture of earnest affection and efforts and tantrums. We don’t who of them would have been the clowns, mugging it up behind a teacher’s back. We don’t who of them would have been quiet dreamers, spending long hours staring at the clouds and thinking. We don’t know who of them would have been able to hit home runs, and who would have been able to do math equations in their head in the blink of an eye.
So it’s tough to mourn, because when we mourn, we talk specifics. We talk about how the departed one loved certain things, whether it be cult movies or fashion or basketball. We talk about the memories we have of him or her, of the specific things done in the past. We talk about his personality, his approach to life – whether that be glass half full or half empty – and so much more.
But for these kids, we have none of that. We know some of them already had heartbeats and finger prints by the time they passed, but we don’t know much more. That’s the way it is with human beings: our personalities unfurl slowly. To some extent, our love for small babies is faith-based. We don’t know who they are, these squalling urchins who stare at us. We get little glimpses as they age. We see that one baby loves crawling and scooching everywhere, while another is fascinated by the ground and stares at it constantly. Eventually, we’ll know them more fully; we’ll get more than a hint of their personality.
But we don’t have that for these kids. We’ll never know. And we don’t know how having them around would have changed us. Could they have been friends, spouses, relatives, colleagues who we would have connected with, who would have awakened or encouraged an aspect of our personalities that may now remain dormant? Perhaps.
It’s curious to notice who isn’t there. But it’s even stranger that we spend so little time wondering who they – and we – would have been if they were still with us.