I met Doctor Tiller in Victoria, British Columbia. He guided me through the process of digoxin injection over a fascinating pregnant-belly model with needles and ultrasound. His hands were warm. He was patient and attentive and described me as a natural in my approach to pumping salve into the umbilical cord and heart of a mock fetus. Never mind that I was simply curious and was not licensed to utilize his fascinating skill and wanted to touch his hands.
He sat next to me in Minneapolis, MN, during a session regarding patient counseling at an annual meeting. During the Q &A, he was offered a spotlight to share his vast insight. He stood statuesque, valiant and jolly and urged us to proceed fearless, with love bountiful in our hearts. When the session concluded, he offered me a few of his precious moments: we shook hands warmly and with energy and I asked with tears welling—who would provide when he no longer provided. He assured me the outcome was faith-full, that others would carry-on.
I rode in the elevator with him during our annual meeting in Portland, OR, in April. He wore his usual leather coat and sense of balance and compassion. He asked me of my evening in the city. Relentless lawsuits, harassment and recent clinic vandalism aside, he was calm. Carrying on.
He was shot point-blank in his church lobby this sun beaming morning. He was ushering and his wife was singing and they killed him in their place of peace.
I’ve had a creeping sense that something terrible would happen. I’ve begun to fear the safety of my clinic as anti-abortion extremists begin to lose their grounding in political clout but I didn’t imagine Dr. Tiller in this sense of doom. He seemed to glide through relentless opposition spiritually unscathed. I imagined him until 100. With years of peace to follow his tireless battle to be subtly, significantly good.
I could only give him these things in my merciless hope for magic: roses from the bishop’s garden, prayers 38-40 in the Bethlehem Chapel by the Way of Peace in the National Cathedral, the sunshine, the drum circle, the half moon.
Oh, Dr. Tiller. I will miss how I adore your daily perseverance, your swift and enlightening presence, your hands. Your eternal and expansive heart.
Thank you for your elegant words, and your purposeful work, Elisabeth. A powerful thank you to every person who works, fights, and lives for reproductive rights and health. You are brave, strong, and empowering. Please don't let any act of domestic terrorism deter your important LEGAL, medical, and ethical work.