I had an astonishing experience the other day. On a whim I went to see a Japanese movie which won the Oscar for best foreign film earlier this year. Entitled "Departures", it was a huge hit in Japan and I remembered only that it was the story of a young cellist whose orchestra disbands, forcing him to accept a highly stigmatized job. So you get the connection even before I begin. Being an abortion provider is also a stigmatized job.
Daigo, the ex-cellist in the movie, accepts a position preparing the dead for the undertaker. In Japan, this work is done with the family in attendance watching their parent, child, or sibling being prepared for cremation. Daigo's boss and mentor knew instantly that Diago would carry on the tradition of providing a loving, respectful honoring of the life that just ended. Watching, I felt like my work assisting during abortion procedures was much the same as Daigo's. I can't recall ever having these same feelings while watching a movie!
As a long-time abortion provider, I have so many thousands of times had the same experience of wanting to do all I could to respect the wishes of the woman yet honor the life within her. Often it is possible to do both simultaneously since she might tell me how she loves her baby and longs to continue the pregnancy if only her circumstances were different. Women want my reassurance that I understand and will do as she requests. I promise her and/or her partner that we always treat the pregnancies with respect, and agree to perform a baptism if asked. Knowing that our clinic has that commitment to honor both lives allows me to love my job and how we offer our abortions.
Daigo, to his surprise, comes to love his work too. Even when the townspeople taunt him and his new wife leaves him because of the shame of his work, he cannot stop. Of course, this being a movie, his wife returns and is able to join with him honoring a deceased person who was important to her. The cultural differences abound but the feelings are the same. Those who have a calling for the work of attending to end of life processes will find it: think of hospice workers.
I suspect that Dr Tiller would have loved this movie had he lived to see it. This same respect for the passing of life moved him and kept him performing abortions despite the personal risks. Transporting the intentionality to another culture through this young man, the cellist, will resonate with anyone who can find this movie in a theatre, online or via Netflix. If you do check it out, please post your thoughts here.