Eight Hours: A Family Values a Boy’s Short Life

Opinion   |   Melissa Anderson   |   May 23, 2012   |   8:20PM   |   Washington, DC

Grayson Walker lived for eight hours. When Grayson’s mother was sixteen weeks pregnant she and her husband received the devastating news that their son was anencephalic, a devastating brain and skull deformity which would lead to the baby’s death shortly after birth.

The Walkers were advised to have an abortion. The Walkers refused. Instead of an abortion, the Walkers chose to allow their son every second of life he would live. He would meet his big brother and sister. He would be held by his mother and father. A kiss on his forehead, a soft touch across his cheek. Grayson Walker would live, even if for only eight hours.

However, some critics have condemned Heather Walker’s choice as selfish. They have argued that she should have had an abortion and saved her son the agony of life. I can’t wrap my mind around the logic of tearing a child limb from limb in the womb to save him from breathing. Is that not agony? Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that if we can’t see the agony, it doesn’t exist.

Critics fail to realize that for eight hours Baby Grayson was cuddled, hugged, spoken to, doted on by siblings. In his short eight hours, Baby Grayson got the very best life has to offer: the sound of big sister’s giggle, the touch of a mother’s gentle hand, the sight of a loving father. For eight hours Baby Grayson lived. He died gently in his mother’s arms.

How is that selfish? How is it selfish to hold your baby boy knowing he will die but being willing to pour every ounce of love you possess on him for eight precious hours? How was it selfish to refuse to kill Grayson and instead allow him to live for his beautiful eight hours?

Heather Walker isn’t the only mother to make such a painful and absolutely selfless decision. A very dear friend of my family found during their pregnancy that their baby boy had a brain tumor that would end his life soon after birth. They chose life. And for two minutes their son had life. Their son lived long enough to feel the warmth of his mother’s embrace and feel her kiss on his forehead. Then he gently passed away having experienced the very best life has to offer.

Though not hydrocephalic and not born with a brain tumor, my own son was born with a disability. My seven year old is Autistic. Sam didn’t say his first word until he was over three years old. He didn’t make eye contact, wouldn’t communicate in any discernible way, got frustrated and hit himself because he couldn’t communicate and refused to eat. When he wasn’t completely silent, Sam was screaming in frustration. I questioned whether he would ever speak, let alone make eye contact. I questioned whether he even knew who I was, whether he would ever understand how much I loved him when he didn’t even like to be hugged or touched.



Words cannot describe the joy I felt when Sam said his first word: in sign language. His little boy hands signed one word. Ball. My four year old baby wanted a ball. It was the first communication I ever had from my son. It was the first indication I had that he was even aware of his surroundings. My boy communicated something. He wanted a ball and a ball he would have.

Disability does not make life less worth living. A life of eighty years or a life of eight hours is still a life. Whether that life is spent in the safety of mother’s arms for two mintues or learning to sign a single word, it is a life worth living.

So to Heather Walker, I applaud you. I applaud your selfless choice. I applaud your willingness to feel so much emotional pain to allow your son a short and precious life. I applaud your motherhood.

LifeNews Note: Melissa Anderson is a lawyer in San Antonio, Texas. She is the mother of seven crazily adorable children and an author of children’s books. In her spare time, Melissa volunteers extensively with Court Appointed Special Advocates educating the community on issues related to child abuse and neglect.