The Book of Names -- Mom's Pro-Life Lenten Project


The Book of Names

I was shampooing my hair.

It was one of those occasions when my husband was home and I could virtually guarantee there would not be anyone knocking on the door of the bathroom calling, “Mama?  Mama?”  Maybe the added tranquility was why I remembered the date.

It’s almost Lent!  Jeepers!  I haven’t planned anything to do as a Lenten sacrifice.  Lord?  What do you want me to do for you this year?

I rinsed and conditioned, contemplating the standard chocolate deprivation and efforts to be more patient.  My thoughts wandered to an article I had read talking about the long-term effects of abortion – how the death of one child effects the rest of the future as we lose their genetic input for all times.

Not to mention who might have come from their lineage five or ten generations from now, I thought.  And everyday we kill four thousand of these people whose potential is completely lost to humanity.

Mother Teresa, I once read, has asked Our Lord on several occasions for the cure to AIDS, to which he replied, “I’ve sent the cure twice and both times it was aborted.”

How can I present this concept? I wondered.

By the time I was dry and dressed, my Lenten project was in place.

It would be a book listing all the people who died from abortion on one single day.  It would tell the stories of what their lives would have been.  I would stay away from rocket scientists and brain surgeons and instead tell the stories of normal folks, some good, some bad, whose lives were truncated.

Sylvia Dorham

Heck, I thought, if you go back a few generations in my own family, the people were not exactly wholesome, and yet God used them to bring me into being.  How easy it would have been for my grandmother, an impoverished, mentally-challenged woman in an abusive relationship to have aborted my paternal line!  

Forty days in Lent, twenty-six letters of the alphabet.  I could do one letter a day and have time for editing at the end, plus a little leeway in case I forgot one day…

So, when Lent began, I lay on my belly next to the bed and opened one browser window to a baby name website and another to an occupation website.  Choosing names which fit the demographics of abortion – mostly black and hispanic – I started writing.

And when Lent was over, it was done.

Three thousand, eight hundred seventy-seven people accounted for.

With each letter of the alphabet, I included a few ‘would-have-been’ life stories of the lost people.

It has to happen on a specific day, I mused.  It couldn’t be a weekend, because the rates of abortion are higher on the weekends.  It should be in Lent, because that’s when I was writing it.

Of the available dates which fit the criteria, I randomly chose Tuesday, April 5, 2011.

Later, I introduced the book to a Chinese friend.

“Why did you chose April 5th?” she inquired intently.

I explained, a little sheepish about the haphazard choice.

“Do you know what April 5th is in China?  It’s the day we go to cemeteries and honor the dead.”

Of course.  God knew all along.

The Book of Names is just that, a book to honor the dead.  And also to remind the living that we have no idea the enduring consequences when, in our pride, we take the life of another.


The response to The Book of Names has been overwhelmingly positive.

A straight-talking radio broadcaster agreed, with a sigh, to review it.  “I expected schmaltz,” he told me later in a hushed tone.  “But it was realistic. I had an emotional response.”

A newspaper reporter said, “The people being aborted in this book are us.”

Amazon reviews say the same.

In the late 1850s, the daughter of a famous preacher wrote a book to highlight the plight of the slave in America.  Abraham Lincoln, meeting her for the first time some years later said, “Here’s the little lady that started this big war.”

Her name was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The genius of Stowe’s technique was to personalize, human-ify the struggles of slaves and bring about an emotional response in the reader, who could cry out for change.

Her work was undoubtedly one of the catalysts of the Civil War and ultimately, the abolition of slavery.

May The Book of Names do the same.

Order The Book of Names and support with your purchase

Sylvia Dorham is a Catholic wife and mother of nine, including two adopted children. She teaches Creighton Model Natural Family Planning and writes from her home in Northern Virginia.

Copyright 2012 Sylvia Dorham


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