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Leesburg mother hopes painting helps others find healing after abortion

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A ray of light shone through the stained-glass window and onto a veiled easel set up inside the dim church. In the vestibule, a handful of people waited — an artist, a mother of five, her sister and her daughter. As it grew close to the start of the holy hour, the group walked into the church and approached the illuminated painting in the sanctuary. 

The mother and the artist took a moment to pray before the artist pulled away a white cloth, showing the mother something she first had seen in her mind’s eyes many years ago — her three aborted children walking toward her through a field of wildflowers. The mother, Andie Pearson, put her arms around her daughter, Madeline, and her sister, Maria Treon, and the three women gazed at the work of art. 

The abortions

Pearson was raised in a Catholic family in the small town of Northumberland, Pa. She fell in love for the first time right out of high school. Or at least, she thought it was love. “I let those feelings overcome me. It just took that one moment — that one moment just really changed my life,” she said. A few months after losing her virginity, Pearson realized she was pregnant.

The teenager was terrified, worried about her future and what her parents would think of her. When she finally got the courage to tell her boyfriend, he said he wasn’t ready to be a father. “That hurt a lot,” said Pearson. “Here’s somebody that I thought loved me and I thought I loved him. Why wouldn’t he want our child?” 

When she went to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic for advice, they told her abortion was a safe and quick procedure, that she had her whole life ahead of her and that no one would have to know. She scheduled an appointment.

Pearson still vividly remembers that day. She sat in the waiting room with her boyfriend. Every time the clinic door opened, she could hear the pro-lifers praying outside. She wanted to go and talk to them but felt compelled to stay. The intensely painful procedure, which probably lasted only minutes, seemed like hours. 

When it was over, she was led to a hallway lined with recovering women on hospital gurneys. Some moaned, others cried. Each of their faces wore a vacant expression. No Planned Parenthood employees came by to ask if they were OK. When they did escort her out, Pearson was told to call her physician if she had any problems. A few weeks later, she ended up in the hospital with a high fever from an infection related to the abortion. 

Pearson had hoped the abortion would save her relationship with her boyfriend. But afterward, she couldn’t stand to be touched by him or even to look at him. She grew to hate him, and the relationship soon ended. 

She fell into a depression, reliving the abortion over and over again. Certain sounds, such as the suction of a vacuum, would remind her of the procedure. She was haunted by the faces of the women in those gurneys. 

She began to dabble in the party lifestyle, drinking heavily, then using drugs and sleeping around. “I felt disgusting. I wanted to feel loved again,” she said. “It was pretty bad. There was a point where I was partying every night. You name the drug, I did it. If you had the drugs, I slept with you so I could get the drugs. That went on for years.” Sometimes she wouldn’t come home for weeks at a time. Her mother and sister didn’t know what was going on, but they began to pray intensely and ask others to pray for Pearson, too. 

Eventually, her sister invited her to move to Virginia. Pearson hoped it would be a fresh start, but she fell into the same bad habits. During that out-of-control period in her life, Pearson had two more abortions. 

“A lot of people say, didn’t you learn from your first one?” she said. “But I try to explain, with that first one, a huge part of me died, too. I hated myself.”

The healing

At her lowest, Pearson decided she needed to go back to her foundation — her faith. She walked into St. Joseph Church in Herndon and knelt down in front of the tabernacle. “If you don’t help me now, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she prayed. At that moment a priest walked by — Franciscan Father Andrew Draper. “It took every ounce of strength I had to go over and talk to him but I knew if I didn’t, I didn’t know what I would do. He listened to me and I just let it all out,” she said. “That was the beginning of my journey out.”

After coming back to the faith, she also decided to join the pro-life movement. While attending the March for Life, she found Silent No More, an organization for post-abortive men and women. “As I listened to them, I thought, wow, I’m not alone. It was like hearing my story over again. I felt like they were sort of family,” she said.  Pearson soon got involved but was too ashamed to admit she had had three abortions. “I was still lying and hiding and stuffing things down,” she said. 

Friends recommended she attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat through the diocese. Eventually, she did. “There was still a lot of pain, things that were affecting me in my daily life. It was the scariest thing for me to do,” said Pearson, who now attends St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg. “(But) it was the best thing that I have done for myself. I left that retreat no longer feeling bound to my sins. I knew God had forgiven me. I got to name my children — they were somebody.” She believes her first two children were boys and the last one was a girl. 

Pearson got married around the time of her reversion, and she and her husband have two children — Gabriel, 26, and Madeline, 20. When she felt the time was right, she told each of them about her abortions. “I’ve been blessed,” she said. “They both were very loving and forgiving.”

The painting

During meditation at one retreat, Pearson had a beautiful and painful interior vision. The image stuck with her, and after a while she felt God calling her to have it painted. She remembered that Michael Corsini, whom she had met at a pro-life event, was an artist as well as a musician. He quickly agreed to bring the image to life. 

Pearson sent Corsini a simple description. “There were three children playing. As I approached them, I recognized them — they were mine. There were two boys, one slightly taller than the other, and a little girl. As they approached me, I knelt in sorrow, holding my heart. The little girl had flowers in her hands that she was giving me. She was beautiful: long, brown, wavy hair with a ring of flowers in her hair. She wore a beautiful, long, white dress with a blue ribbon tied around her waist. Standing behind her were her older brothers.”

lr painting

Corsini did the rest. Creating the painting was a cathartic experience for him as he also lost a family member to abortion. “I've done a lot of paintings and this one in particular just felt like a great privilege,” he said. “It wasn't just a gift for Andie and her family but for others who have suffered this.” 

He painted the bottom of Pearson’s dress red, a symbol of the wound of abortion, and the top of her dress white, a sign of the restoration of her beauty in God. A dead branch lays among the wildflowers as a sign of rebirth. The little girl’s touch is an invitation for her mother to receive the forgiveness she and her brothers offer. 

When Corsini sent a photo of the painting to Andie, she was blown away by how much her daughter in the painting resembled her living daughter, Madeline. “How did he know that? He didn’t — his hand was guided by God,” said Andie. She plans to use the powerful painting when ministering to post-abortive women. She believes that her aborted children, like all children, have a desire to know and love their mom.

“(Our aborted children) do forgive us. Just as Christ wants that relationship with us, so do our children,” she said. “I think of them as intercessors now. I pray to them, I ask them for help. Can you pray for your siblings down here? Pray for all these (post-abortive) mothers to come and recognize their own children.”  

Find out more

Call Project Rachel at 703-841-2504 or go to helpafterabortion.org

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019