Even if you’re not Catholic, it is hard to remain unmoved by the passing of Pope John Paul II. People spanning the globe and from every walk of life are taking pause to commemorate the life and death of a great leader and humanitarian. The sadness I feel at his passing is compounded not only by the court-ordered death of Terri Schiavo but also by the recent death of a personal friend, Anne Kincaid.
Unlike the pope and on a lesser scale Terri Schiavo, Anne’s name recognition does not extend much beyond the borders of Virginia. Even within Virginia’s borders, it is unlikely that anyone outside the realm of politics or personal acquaintances would know her name and life’s work.
But Anne Kincaid was like so many women in our lives. She was a dedicated mother and wife, high-spirited, quirky, hard-working and fiercely loyal to those she loved. What set her apart was a life-changing event that took place 35 years ago. She was a self-described flower child of the ’60s who had an illegal abortion when she was 23 years old.
After that life-changing event she had yet another life-changing experience: She became a born-again Christian and dedicated her life to exposing the truth behind the dangers of abortion and upholding the sanctity of human life.
I worked with Anne on a number of projects when we both lived in Richmond. Through those experiences, Anne Kincaid did me the honor of privately calling me her prot?g?e.
My fondest memory of Anne is sitting on the floor of my living room – literally at her knee. She and my mother sat properly accommodated on the furniture. As I sat, I listened to the two of them talk about living, life and the work to which we three were all committed.
Specifically, Anne was an activist who became one of the most prominent grass-roots organizers in the social conservative movement in Virginia. In 1988, she became campaign director of Virginia Beach evangelist Pat Robertson’s presidential bid. When that campaign faltered, she helped deliver Virginia for George H.W. Bush. In 1993, she helped get George Allen elected governor and then assisted Allen in his bid for the Senate in 2000. Most recently, Anne helped run the gubernatorial bid of Republican Mark Earley in 2001.
In every campaign, her goal and efforts were the same as in life. She focused on courting evangelicals as an important voting bloc. She motivated that bloc largely through her dedication to the unborn and the sanctity of life issues.
I shared in Anne’s passion as well as in her life, however briefly. So it is an understatement to say her death grieves me both personally and professionally. What struck me deepest last week in the passing of Anne, Terri Schiavo and the pope is what their lives overwhelmingly represent: a commitment to living and the sanctity of human life.
Anne battled cancer for 20 years even as she battled for the unborn. Terri struggled for 15 years against a culture of death intent on ending her life because she became disabled. And the pope was acquainted with a lifetime of suffering.
By the age of 25, he already lost a sister, a brother, his mother and father. He also watched countless atrocities against his national brethren by the Nazis and then the Russians as they occupied his beloved country. In the latter stages of his life, he battled against physical illness including Parkinson’s disease. So by the time he died he was old, stooped and slurred his speech. Still, he championed and cherished life, living every moment until his dying breath with dignity and unwavering commitment.
The universal message – that all human life has inherent value and is inviolable despite suffering and disability – was spoken through each of their lives to vastly different people, political arenas and religious persuasions. So how will this message be carried forward?
Admittedly, you and I will never have the influence the pope wielded; nor will our demise likely ignite national debate. Nevertheless, we all need to do what we can within our own circle of influence to cultivate the culture of life – just like Anne, just like the pope.
On the subject of Terri Schiavo and the inherent value of life, a Florida state senator said it best. During a speech, he held up a $100 bill and asked the audience if there were any takers of the money. A good number raised their hands. He then dropped the $100 bill on the floor, crumpled, marred and tore the bill. He asked the audience again if there were any takers of the money. Most in the audience still wanted the bill.
By way of analogy, some people are blessed or just lucky (depending on your worldview) to receive a life like a crisp, new $100 bill. Others are met in life by great challenges that scar us, leaving us crumpled and torn. Some are just worn with time. But no event that wears, scars, deforms or debilitates a human life ever decreases its inherent value.
That is the greatest lesson and legacy to be learned from the lives of Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul II and people in our own backyard like Anne Kincaid.