My daughter will be graduating from high school this June. This class is special in that many of these young people were born in the last year of the last millennium — or at least were supposed to be.

February 1999 would have been the month of his birth. He could have been a Valentine baby…

As she and her classmates process, smiling, down the middle aisle of the auditorium in red caps and gowns to take their seats, our eyes will follow. After only two-thirds of them have walked by, we will turn our attention forward.  The missing graduates will cross my mind, but they are invisible. I will wonder if there is anybody in the audience thinking the same thing and missing a daughter or a son.

He would have been eighteen by now. He would have been as tall and broad-shouldered as some of these boys. Maybe even handsomer…

Family members will watch with pride, hearts bursting with bittersweet emotion. There will be a slide show of pictures of our children with missing teeth, of first communions, Halloweens, passed driver’s exams, and proms. We will watch their transformation through puberty with a mixture of laughter and awe. Time has the power to change people — and so much time has passed, but it feels like it flew.

Nine months is nothing… why was I so afraid? I would have given him a Thomas the Train party for his third birthday if he had wanted one. Oh God, I would have bought him anything he wanted if I would not have been afraid!

The graduates are now at height of youth, beauty and promise — so much promise. We will cry in part for the memories of their childhoods behind us and in part for the years full of promise before us. Our children have reached a milestone. Well, two-thirds of them have. 

There will be some whose tears will be for the child whose life was snuffed out, whose picture never made it into the slide show. A million mothers and a million fathers in the nation today will be grieving silently for what could have been. They will be watching neighbors’ children, colleagues’ children, or nieces and nephews graduate instead of their own.

The valedictorian and salutatorian will give their speeches. Would they still have been at the head of their class had the missing children been allowed to join them? Or would another, had he been given the chance, stood out as smarter, more innovative, more ambitious, kinder?

His dad was an engineer. He would have been good at math. Maybe even gotten one of those awards. Or maybe not. Maybe he would have been an artist and had his picture framed in the hallway.

The missing third will not be graduating this year. They didn’t even get to show up for their first birthdays. They were killed by abortion. We have hope, as Christians, that they will be silent and forgiving witnesses, watching from heaven, praying for those who stopped them from living.

But, nonetheless, let us not forget the missing children this year. Would it not be appropriate to give the silent grief of so many people an expression and acknowledgement at the commencement ceremonies about to take place? Perhaps an empty chair at the graduation ceremony, in honor of the missing children, or a lit candle, or a short prayer of remembrance.

Indeed, let us remember them this year and every year until abortion is abolished in this country. Let us pray for an end to abortion and the renewal of our generation with the promise of new life.

—Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi is a wife and mother of five who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She works as Public Outreach Associate at Priests for Life and also handles Hispanic Outreach.