Transcript

756: But I Did Everything Right

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Example number one. [BELL RINGS]

When she was 19, Lenore had a job selling tickets at a haunted mansion tourist attraction near Orlando, Florida. And one day she found in a stairwell a wallet someone dropped-- leather, she says, with a green rubber band, tons of cash inside, like a vacationer brings on a big trip.

It seemed obvious what to do next. She should figure out how to give it back. But two of the guys she worked with were like, let's not. Let's keep the money.

Lenore

And if they come back looking for it, we can say we don't have it. We didn't find it. And they'll never know. And I said, no, we have to return it. And they start telling me how ridiculous I'm being, and I'm such a goody two-shoes, and why am I like this?

Ira Glass

Why? Who knows? But the one time that she tried shoplifting when she was 10 on a dare, she couldn't stand it, and returned the pack of gum and apologized. Lenore was also excited at the idea that she could be a hero, that the guy on the ID in the wallet would come in--

Lenore

And be like, excuse me. Have you seen my wallet? And I'd say, Here, it is. And he'd be like, you're amazing! You saved the whole family's vacation. And he and his wife and kids would all cheer. And I'd bow and say thank you, and we'd hug.

Ira Glass

Remember, she's 19. So she tucks the wallet safely in her cash register drawer. Sure enough, a few hours later, the guy in the ID shows up. She very triumphantly pulls it out of the drawer.

Lenore

And I said, here it is. And he grabs it out of my hands. And he starts rifling through it. And he looks through it and he says, some of the money is missing. And I just thought, no. No, I've had it the whole time. And he said, No, some of the money is missing. Did you take my money? You took my money.

Ira Glass

This is not going how she pictured. At all.

Lenore

And my heart started racing. I started sweating. Why does he think I did this? He doesn't know me. I would never do that.

Ira Glass

He keeps berating her, insisting that she stole from him. It's awful. Finally, the guy's wife tells him to just let it go. And he turns and heads for the door.

Lenore

And then as he was leaving, he said, you know, karma will find you. And I just stood there like, what happened? I don't get it. I did everything right.

Ira Glass

She did everything right, and it didn't work out as planned. Ladies and gentlemen, there are so many examples of this. When we're kids, it's one of the hardest lessons we learn. [BELL RINGS] Example number two.

Jordan

So I am, I believe, 10 years old at the time.

Ira Glass

Jordan Pisarcik was, in fact, a lucky 10-year-old, because his parents got tickets to "the" tennis event in the United States-- the US Open. And he'd be seeing the number one player in the world. Jordan had been to baseball games with his parents, but not much tennis.

Jordan

We sat down in the seat, and I said, oh, maybe we'll be able to catch a ball if they hit it out. It was Pete Sampras playing, who I was a big fan of. And so my father, he said, oh, this is-- tennis is not like baseball. You can't keep the ball the way you can if there's a home run or a foul ball. You have to throw it back as soon as you catch it. That's the rule in tennis.

And what felt like 10 to 15 minutes after that, a ball came heading right toward us out of play. My dad, who was a very tall man-- he's 6' 5"-- jumped up and grabbed the ball with one hand and pulled it back down.

Ira Glass

But his dad didn't throw the ball back. It made no sense. He'd just taught him the rule.

Jordan

So of course I started saying, Dad, you're supposed to throw it back.

Ira Glass

Because are you kind of a rules follower kid?

Jordan

I would say I am, yes. And so I'm saying, Dad, you've got to throw it back. And he's kind of gesturing to me. It's fine. It's OK. Don't worry about it. It's fine. He's kind of holding it tight to him. And so finally, he kind of hands it over to me and says, here, just hold on to it. It's fine. And I said, no, you have to throw it back. And as I was saying that, I tossed the ball out. The ball starts flying. The ball lands squarely on the court while play is happening. And suddenly, of course, play immediately stops, and there's this audible gasp that rises from the crowd. It felt like all eyes were on me. So of course, I'm, like, melting into my seat.

Ira Glass

Humiliated in front of all these people and Pete Sampras. You try to follow the rule. You try to do what's right. And see where you end up? [BELL RINGS] Example three.

John Lennon

Morning, George.

George Harrison

Morning, all.

Paul Mccartney

?] Hi, Ringo. Happy new year.

Ringo Starr

?] Hi, George.

John Lennon

?] Hi, Ringo. Happy new year.

Ira Glass

Apparently, this can also happen to you if you're one of the most successful, famous people in the world.

George Harrison

I won't lie. I'm not too good.

Ira Glass

Are you watching that new Beatles documentary series that Peter Jackson just put out where we see them trying to create 14 songs in just two weeks for the concert and album Let It Be? In episode 1, if you haven't seen this, George Harrison shows up at rehearsal on time every morning. John Lennon, by the way, usually late. George Harrison has brought songs that he's written. The band is desperate for songs, and he has songs. When he pulls them out, John and Paul do not seem enthusiastic.

John Lennon

Is this is a Harrisong?

George Harrison

There's no solo or anything complicated.

Ira Glass

George walks them through the chord changes.

George Harrison

Oh, so the chords really are (SINGING) E to F-sharp minor to E to A.

Ira Glass

The song that he's teaching them is All Things Must Pass, which someday, after the Beatles break up, Harrison will release on his own, and it'll be a big hit. The album All Things Must Pass will be the number one album on the Billboard charts for seven weeks and receive near-universal critical praise. Harrison has done everything right.

But in this room, it's not enough. He's completely overshadowed in these sessions by the kind of mind-blowing brilliance of Paul McCartney. If you've only seen one clip of this new documentary, it's probably this one that's made the rounds on social media. It starts with McCartney trying to invent a song out of nothing. And so he starts strumming chords, stumbles into fragments of what's going to be the Beatles single "Get Back."

Paul Mccartney

[INDISTINCT SINGING]

Ira Glass

Really within minutes, it seems like he conjures from nothing first the melody, then the chorus, then the verses of the song that most of us grew up with.

Paul Mccartney

(SINGING) Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.

Ira Glass

By the end of the first episode of this TV documentary, Harrison has walked out of the rehearsals. And it's not clear that he's ever going to return. And who can blame him? He did it right. And Paul and John still don't want his song. It doesn't end up on a Beatles album.

This is one of the most supremely confusing things that happens to us as people. We do what's right. We do what's asked. We follow the rules. We look out for others. We act responsibly. And it does not work out like we hoped.

Today on our program, we see people in all sorts of situations puzzling out that ancient riddle in their own lives-- including, by the way, later in the hour, parents and children who purchase an ant farm. Stay with us.

Act One: Damned If You Don't

Ira Glass

Act One, "Damned If You Don't." So the person in this first story, Rebecca Shrader, is somebody, as you'll hear, who's very committed to doing the right thing in all parts of her life. She works as a sonographer. Ran one of the ultrasound machines at an OB clinic in Durham, North Carolina. Started about a decade ago.

She's great at her job, very diligent. And then, she saw something on her ultrasound screen and had to figure out what to do. By the way, throughout this story, we're going to use the words Rebecca typically uses around pregnancy and fetuses. She says the words "babies," "mothers," "women," though of course, those aren't the words everybody uses.

We found out about Rebecca from reporter Emma Green, who first talked to her a few years ago and has been reporting on religion and the way it intersects with politics for about a decade. Here's Emma.

Emma Green

It never really occurred to me that one of the perks of working in an obstetrics clinic is off-the-books access to an ultrasound machine. But Rebecca told me that lots of pregnant women have daydreamed about this scenario.

Rebecca Shrader

I've had so many patients who have come to me and said, oh, if I had an ultrasound machine, I'd scan myself all the time. And you do, when you're pregnant and you're a sonographer. And so I would try to get into position, and try to straighten out and just scan myself standing up.

Emma Green

What was that like?

Rebecca Shrader

They obviously weren't the best images, but we could at least see a heart rate. And as long as I saw a heart rate, I was like, OK, we're good.

Emma Green

This was back in 2012, during Rebecca's first pregnancy. She was married, in her late 20s. She really wanted to be a mom. And it made her less anxious to be able to see what was happening with her baby.

Rebecca knew exactly what could go wrong in a pregnancy because the clinic where she worked at Duke specialized in complicated and risky pregnancies, things like chromosomal abnormalities or pregnancies with a high possibility of miscarriage or stillbirth. Just to warn listeners, issues like this are going to come up a lot in this story. At work, she prided herself especially on taking really good 3D images with tons of detail.

Rebecca Shrader

And I would do it while the baby was moving. And so it really helped women. I could see them getting emotional watching it on the screen, knowing that maybe my baby might have some disability, but that's OK, because that gave them hope to see that I'm going to love this baby regardless of whether they have a disability or whether they maybe don't survive birth.

Emma Green

Working in an OB clinic made sense for Rebecca. She's from a family of scientists and doctors. And she always loved babies. But her love for her work also came from her faith. She was a member of Summit, one of the most prominent Southern Baptist megachurches in the country. And she believes life begins at conception. Every tiny heartbeat she saw on the ultrasound screen was a living human being.

She thought abortion was morally wrong. She even spent her Thursday nights volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center. These centers are the pro-life movement's answer to Planned Parenthood. They're designed to discourage women from getting abortions. And they do things like provide free diapers, and parenting classes, and ultrasounds. That's what Rebecca helped with.

So anyways, those free ultrasounds Rebecca gave herself-- once she was pregnant going through this new experience, she developed this Monday morning ritual at work. She'd head straight to her ultrasound room, stand up in front of her screen, squirt jelly on her abdomen, and grab the probe, which looks a little bit like a Nintendo Wii controller. Here's what she saw. Week six, the flicker of a heartbeat. Week seven, little arm buds. Week nine, toes.

Rebecca Shrader

And then when I got to the 10th week, I was scanning myself, and I noticed there was some fluid on the back of the neck. And I noticed that there was a bulge kind of right by the abdomen.

Emma Green

Rebecca went to find one of the doctors she worked with. Her boss came too, to do another scan.

Rebecca Shrader

I know. I know the looks between doctors and sonographers. I know what those mean. They weren't going to hide anything from me.

Miki

?] Which was-- what did you see?

Rebecca Shrader

Just them looking at each other, and just kind of an unease between the two of them, knowing that there was something definitely really wrong, but we weren't sure exactly what it was, which is what the doctor told me. It was just kind of like a drop-- my stomach dropped.

Emma Green

Rebecca and her husband, Josh, eventually got a likely diagnosis-- limb-body wall complex. This is extremely rare. By 15 weeks, most of the baby's organs-- the stomach, liver, intestines-- were hanging outside of the abdomen. The baby's spine was bent at a 90-degree angle.

Rebecca Shrader

Those anomalies were enough to know that either the baby was going to have thousands of surgeries when it was born alive, or it could end up being stillborn. I think they said most babies don't live to be a year old. So there's very rare circumstances that the baby even lived a few days or months. But there was no record of a baby of being over a year old.

Emma Green

They had to decide what to do. Rebecca knew her doctor might bring up abortion.

Emma Green

Do you remember how that conversation went with your doctors?

Rebecca Shrader

Yeah, so we had sat down and she said, I know-- they all knew what my personal beliefs were. And so she said, I know normally what you would choose. You might choose to carry to term. But since this is such a low risk of survival, what are you thinking now? This is likely going to end in the baby dying at some point, either before birth or after birth. They still gave me that option to terminate.

Emma Green

Do you remember how you internally reacted to that suggestion?

Rebecca Shrader

Kind of dismissively, I guess. It wasn't even on the table, in my eyes.

Emma Green

How did your husband react?

Rebecca Shrader

Similar. Very like, oh, we're going to carry to term. We were pretty much on the same page.

Emma Green

She would carry the baby as long as she could, even though it would have been safer for her own health to terminate. Generally speaking, pregnancy and delivery carry a lot of inherent risks. But Rebecca believed she had to give her baby a chance. There was a purpose for her baby's life, even if Rebecca didn't quite know what it was yet.

It wasn't her place to change the course of her pregnancy. As a sonographer, she knew there was basically no possibility that her baby would be born alive and survive. But as a Christian, she felt she had to be faithful and keep praying hard that God would intervene.

Rebecca Shrader

There was a tiny bit of hope still there. I do feel like so many people saying, I'm praying for a miracle and stuff, did give me a little bit of hope maybe the baby would survive.

Emma Green

Do you feel like you needed that little sliver of hope in order to continue carrying?

Rebecca Shrader

I do believe that I probably craved it, especially being visibly pregnant and scanning people every day. And everyone's asking me-- every patient that I have is asking me about it. Are you having a boy or girl? And do you have a nursery already? And all of that stuff. So I do feel like I kind of held on to hope for a little bit.

Emma Green

In a strange way, she wasn't surprised that something had gone terribly wrong with her pregnancy. Rebecca always had this feeling in the back of her mind like God was going to use her or test her in some way, because she worked at a place where most of her coworkers were pro-choice and where the doctors referred patients to get abortions at a nearby clinic all the time.

Rebecca started a blog called "Afflictions Eclipsed By Glory," a line from a popular Christian song. She made it to share all of the complicated medical details she was sorting through with her family and friends. But she also hoped it would reach beyond her circle with a specific message.

Rebecca Shrader

I do feel like I wanted to empower women by saying, I made this choice. And if you feel like you can, then I'm telling you I did it so that maybe you feel like you can do it too. And I just wanted to be used by God in whatever way he had me. So I just kind of wrote every blog with very honest feelings.

Emma Green

In one of her entries, she wrote, quote, "You may not notice, but I cry a lot. Usually alone in my car, apartment, or ultrasound room, but always silent and always in control." At 18 weeks, Rebecca and Josh announced on their blog that they were having a girl. They named her Cora Kimberly.

Rebecca came to see her pregnancy as a personal cross that would provide some inevitable redemption. And this idea was reflected back to her at church. When Rebecca first started going to Summit, it felt really large. But she volunteered in the baby room during services, and got to know people, and found this group of women who she could really talk to-- her small group. That's the term in evangelical-speak for the people she prayed with every week.

These were her closest friends in Durham, the people who invited her and her husband to baseball games and had them over to their houses for cookouts. When Rebecca shared the latest on her pregnancy, they'd tell her how strong she was. People knew the Shraders when they walked into church.

They'd sometimes stop Rebecca in the halls and say they'd read her blog, and they were praying for her. At Summit, she was like this pro-life darling. One Monday in her third trimester, Rebecca went into work and started her week like she always did-- alone in her ultrasound room, running the probe over her belly.

Rebecca Shrader

And I saw that she didn't have a heartbeat, and it was just-- all of a sudden, everything became surreal at that point. One of my first thoughts was, now I'm going to have to go through labor to deliver her, and she's not going to be alive.

Emma Green

Thinking about everything she was about to have to do made her incredibly anxious.

Rebecca Shrader

I've never labored before. This is my first baby. And then I was going to hold her, and I had no idea-- I hadn't held my own baby, ever. And so here I am, I'm going to hold a baby who's no longer living. And so it was just a lot of feeling of dread.

Emma Green

At the hospital, doctors gave Rebecca a drug to start her labor. Church friends were in the room when she started pushing. Cora was so tiny-- just 1 pound, 2 ounces-- that it only took about five minutes for Rebecca to deliver her. The room was silent. Later that day, two pastors from Summit came by to pray with Rebecca. They read her verses from the book of Lamentations.

Rebecca Shrader

I don't even really remember crying that much when I was in the room, I think, because I was surrounded by so many other people. And I just didn't allow myself that moment of grief until everyone had left, and I was by myself at night.

Emma Green

Did you still, in this moment, feel that God was using you?

Rebecca Shrader

I mean, I felt like I was completely still kind of in shock, I guess, in the moment. But I felt like maybe God was using me in a way that I didn't even know yet.

Emma Green

Cora's headstone bears the title of the classic hymn It Is Well With My Soul. Rebecca got the same phrase tattooed on the underside of her wrist. After Cora died, Rebecca and her husband decided to adopt a kid. This is pretty common in the evangelical and pro-life worlds. And it was something her church really supported.

And while they were going through this process, they also started trying for another pregnancy. It happened fast. Rebecca's due date was just a couple of weeks before the first anniversary of Cora's death. She scanned herself every week, just like she had done with Cora. But this time, everything was perfect.

Rebecca Shrader

I was a little anxious, but she came early. So that was helpful. She came at 38 and 1/2 weeks, so I didn't have to worry too, too long. And my labor was really easy and good. And everything about it was great. And so when she came out, it was just all joy. And so I thought maybe this is my gift after being through something so horrible.

Emma Green

They named her Lydia. She was their rainbow baby, which is what the pregnancy loss world calls a birth after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death-- this glimpse of brightness. People at her church were extra excited for her. They told her and Josh how much they deserved it. And then, the adoption went through. The Shraders' son, Aben, came to North Carolina from Ethiopia. He was about two years older than Lydia. The Shraders wanted a big family, something like four kids. They bought a minivan.

But little by little, in the background of all of that life unfolding, Rebecca was thinking about her pro-life stance and questioning it. Her questions came from little observations, things she felt in her body. Like after losing Cora, Rebecca learned that the drug doctors use to inducer labor is also used in some abortion procedures. And Rebecca realized that some women who had abortions-- some, but not all-- were part of the very small group who could viscerally understand one of the hardest parts of what she went through-- laboring to deliver a body that will never cry out.

Rebecca Shrader

It made me realize that for a lot of people-- not for everybody, but for a lot of people, abortion can be a very traumatic, unwanted procedure that they feel like they have no choice to go through. And that's kind of how I felt like I was going through this birth. I didn't want to deliver her. I didn't want to deliver her body. I didn't want to have to go through that.

Emma Green

The strangeness of that shared experience started to make her feel a new kind of empathy for women who'd had abortions. Her pro-life world at Summit started looking different to her. The way people talked about abortion was so black and white, and she was starting to see some gray. But she knew she couldn't say anything about all of this at church.

In 2017, Rebecca found out she was pregnant a third time. And seven weeks in, scanning herself, she noticed something was wrong with the baby's head. Against all odds, the worst thing was happening, again-- another pregnancy with a fatal diagnosis. This time, anencephaly, an extremely rare disorder where parts of the brain and skull are missing or develop abnormally. Babies with this diagnosis are usually stillborn or die within a couple of hours or days. There's no chance of survival.

Emma Green

How did it feel to have another challenging diagnosis? Did you feel like God was playing a joke on you? Did you feel like you were just profoundly unlucky? What was that like, to be there again?

Rebecca Shrader

I was like, maybe God put me in this situation again to, I don't know, test me, or show Himself again. But why did He have to do it this way? I was mad that we were doing this again. I was mad that I was going to-- I was almost mad that I was going to have to choose life. Like, I wanted to, but I was also mad at the decision that I was having to make, it felt like. Because this was different than Cora. I didn't have any hope. There wasn't any hope.

Emma Green

Doctors later told Rebecca there wasn't any genetic or medical explanation for why she and Josh had two pregnancies that went so wrong. They just got very, very unlucky. They had to sit down again with a doctor to talk about what to do. It ended up being the same doctor who had talked them through their decision with Cora.

Rebecca Shrader

She said the same thing again. She was like, I know that you carried to term before. I don't want to assume-- because I remember this. She said, I don't want to assume that you're going to carry to term again. She was like, so I just want to put termination on the table. She was like, and if you need to talk about it, I can be here to talk about it. If you want to talk about it with just your husband alone, you can do that.

And I remember looking over at my husband like, me saying, yes, we're going to carry to term, and him saying at the same time, I don't know. We both said it at the same time. The doctor noticed that we both said different things, stepped out, and we had a conversation right then and there about it.

And I guess I felt like I couldn't live with myself if I personally chose knowing that I had done this before. What would I be saying? Would I be saying Cora was more worthy, that I like this baby more than this baby? Or this baby deserves a chance and this one didn't? And he was like, I don't know if we can do this again.

Emma Green

Eventually, they decided together that Rebecca would continue the pregnancy. They also gave this baby a name, Layla Kate. But Rebecca's pregnancy with Layla was very different from the one she had with Cora. Back then, she talked with her small group at church constantly about what was going on with Cora and how she was feeling. With Layla, she didn't really want to talk about it at all.

Rebecca spent most of her days at work trying to dissociate from what was happening. But she couldn't ignore it entirely. Layla was way more active than Cora, kicking and tumbling around. For a while, Rebecca stopped reading the Bible. She couldn't pray. She couldn't sing hymns.

Rebecca Shrader

I grieved with Cora in a sad way. When Layla came along, I came out more in a rage.

Emma Green

What does that mean?

Rebecca Shrader

I remember a very specific incident where I was doing laundry. I started freaking out and throwing the laundry. And then I ended up punching the dresser and jamming my finger. And it was just-- I had just held it in for so long, being at work, trying to hold it in, holding all my emotions. It all came out at one time. And of course, it was at home. So it happened kind of in front of my kids and stuff. And they were confused as to why I was so yelling and angry. And I was like, I just can't pretend. My pretending was just at a-- we were at a limit.

Emma Green

The thing Rebecca wanted most of all, her number one prayer request, was to hold Layla alive after she was born. She became hyper-focused on the idea that Layla's organs could be donated to medical research. She was grasping for a sense of purpose, still hoping she would get some kind of redemption. And then one night, roughly a week before she was scheduled to be induced, she felt like something was off.

Rebecca Shrader

And I was like, well, maybe she's just tired and doesn't want to move. Maybe this is just a day she doesn't move. And I went into work-- even though I wasn't supposed to be at work-- I went in to scan myself because I just couldn't handle the anxiety. And that's when I found out that she didn't have a heartbeat. It almost felt like an immediate rejection, and like my prayer hadn't been heard. And I felt like I asked for so little in these big situations. And I felt like I didn't get it.

Emma Green

Because Layla wasn't born alive, her organs couldn't be donated. The family buried her in a plot near Cora. When Rebecca returned to work after Layla's death, it felt good to be back at first. She felt especially drawn to helping families who knew their babies were not going to survive, so the doctors specifically gave those cases to her.

But her grief was persistent, a debilitating fog in her head. All day, every day, she performed ultrasounds in the very same room where she had discovered that both Cora and Layla's heartbeats had stopped. There's this picture of tulips, her favorite flower, in her ultrasound room. She used to love it. But now it was a constant reminder of what she had lost.

Rebecca Shrader

Just seeing the ultrasound machine and being in that room was enough to make me nervous. My heart would race when I had to take a patient in sometimes. I was always fearful that the same thing was going to happen. I was going to scan somebody who had a surprise abnormality, and I was going to have to tell them. I just didn't-- I didn't want to go through those feelings again.

Emma Green

Rebecca got a therapist, went on depression meds. But after an entire year of feeling so unsteady at work, she decided she actually had to leave her job. She found a new position at a regular OB clinic, where the patients were mostly young, and healthy, and had uncomplicated pregnancies. On her blog, she posted a picture of herself holding a pill in her open hand. The entry is titled, "It's OK to Have Jesus and a Therapist Too." You can see Cora and Layla's names tattooed on her wrist below that phrase, "It Is Well With My Soul."

This time around, Rebecca really felt like she wanted to talk openly about how hard and painful all of this had been. She saw an opportunity to speak publicly at this event her church holds called, Sanctity of Life Sunday. Lots of conservative churches use Sanctity of Life Sunday each year to preach about the pro-life cause.

Rebecca Shrader

I did, many times, reach out to our church and say, hey, Sanctity of Life Sunday is coming up. I would be happy to speak out, and this is my story. And I sent that to our head pastor and many of the other pastors, and it was never brought up or answered. It was just amazing to me that I had been through this twice. I could go up there and speak about it. And I was in the church. I was a member of the church, and they never asked me to.

Emma Green

I asked some leaders at Summit about this, including a lead pastor. And they said that they're often choosing from multiple stories and don't have enough time at services for each one to be shared. But Rebecca believes she wasn't given a chance to speak because only a certain kind of woman gets featured at Sanctity of Life Sunday, the woman who chose life, sometimes against doctor's advice, and certainly against all odds, and God rewarded her for her faith.

She was given some heart-wrenching diagnosis, but her baby was born completely fine. Or as she was told her son would have severe disabilities, but here he is at church, thriving as an adult. With Cora, Rebecca easily fit into this archetype. Her church community rallied around her with their prayers and their presence. And she did get her redemption story in a way, with Lydia arriving so soon after Cora's death, and Aben's adoption not too long after that. But now, Rebecca felt like her life no longer fit a clean redemption storyline.

Rebecca Shrader

I can't imagine going up there at the front of the church saying, this is what happened, and then my baby died. And then it was really hard, and I was really depressed and mad at God. They didn't want to be told that it was hard. They wanted to hear me, when I was with Cora saying, I had hope, and I was OK. But I think my grief after Layla was way more authentic than it was after Cora. And people felt uncomfortable about that.

Emma Green

To be clear, Summit leaders say they don't only want to hear happy stories. But that's not how Rebecca sees it. When her experience of making a pro-life decision got more complicated, when she felt more ambivalence, it was like they didn't want anything to do with her. Rebecca was feeling incredibly alienated in the pro-life world.

But she slowly started to realize that other evangelical women were feeling the same way. They were coming to her, quietly-- sometimes at church, sometimes online-- telling her their stories, messy ones that also wouldn't make the stage at Sanctity of Life Sunday. There was this one woman from church named Jen. She was pretty involved at Summit. Rebecca first met her when they were both helping with child care during Sunday services.

They had a lot in common. Jen also grew up in a really conservative Christian world, really wanted to be a mom. When she got pregnant for the first time, she also got this diagnosis that came out of nowhere-- Trisomy 13, a rare condition with little chance of survival. When Rebecca heard about Jen's situation through the grapevine at church, she immediately thought about what she'd been through with Cora and Layla. But Rebecca learned that Jen might be considering an abortion. Rebecca texted her.

Rebecca Shrader

I had said something like, regardless of the choice you make, I'm here with you. If you need to call me and vent, or need to talk to me, just know I'm safe.

Emma Green

They didn't know each other very well back then, but Jen told me Rebecca's message allowed her to admit to herself that she might get an abortion, and it would be OK if she did. Ultimately, Jen chose to terminate her pregnancy. Afterwards, at church, Jen didn't hear from any of the pastors.

Summit didn't want to comment on this specific situation. But they said, in general, they aim for their ministry to be shaped by the approach of Jesus who went to people in crisis. Jen didn't feel like she could have a straight conversation with her small group. Sometimes, she just told people she'd lost the baby, letting them think it was a miscarriage.

Rebecca saw this and felt sad that Jen didn't feel like she could be honest. Rebecca believed church should be the place where people who are hurting can find comfort and a community to walk alongside them. She was disappointed that Summit could be so cold, especially in Jen's case, where it wasn't even a choice between a healthy baby and an abortion, between life and death.

Rebecca Shrader

The baby was likely going to die. And so here we are in a situation where it was death and death. And there's no real choice there. It's just-- it is what it is. And so that really changed my view on abortion.

Emma Green

Rebecca understood why Jen chose to have an abortion, and believes she should have the right to do it. This idea would have been unthinkable to her only a few years earlier. She still struggled with the thought that healthy women with viable pregnancies would choose to terminate. But she also believes she couldn't know exactly what their reasons were, and it wasn't up to her to dictate someone else's decision.

She decided to share all of this in a blog post-- a post that her family, and friends, and many online followers would see. It was scary. Rebecca worried that people would think she wasn't a Christian anymore. She wrote, quote, "I am an evangelical, pro-life, registered Republican who believes Roe v. Wade doesn't need to be overturned in an effort to decrease abortions. I chose life for two babies knowing they would die, and I do not believe that should be a choice women are forced into making."

Rebecca Shrader

And then once I hit Publish, I was just like, OK, here we go. Because I knew there was going to be some sort of backlash.

Emma Green

Did you get pastors trashing you? What kind of feedback were you getting?

Rebecca Shrader

"Jezebel, pro-abortionist, liberal."

Emma Green

When you hear somebody calling you a Jezebel, what do you think they're trying to say to you?

Rebecca Shrader

Like, a non-biblical woman, I think, is what they were trying to get across. Somebody who is controversial, non-biblical, somebody who should be kind of cast aside. I'm just saying, we don't know everyone's circumstances, and we can't force women to make a decision.

Emma Green

So you felt like the fact that you had, with your own life, chosen to do this really, really, really hard thing based on your convictions basically counted for nothing after you came out and said that you supported legal abortion.

Rebecca Shrader

Yes. So some people-- some people even told me I didn't do enough, that I should have had them all-- had the babies resuscitated. And I should have done all of the surgeries possible and all of the interventions possible, because I didn't do enough.

Emma Green

One evangelical blog wrote a couple of posts about Rebecca, deriding her as a, quote, "very confused person." Other bloggers screenshotted comments she made on Twitter and sent them to her pastor in her church, trying to prove that she wasn't a faithful Christian. Her pastor was a big deal in the evangelical world, and bloggers started attacking him just for being associated with her.

They wanted Rebecca kicked out of her church. That didn't happen, and Summit leaders say they get attacked online all the time. They tend to ignore nasty comments rather than responding to them directly. But to Rebecca, it felt conspicuous that Summit leaders never reached out or stepped up to defend her.

After everything that happened, Rebecca spent months agonizing over whether she and her family should even stay at Summit. It wasn't just the abortion issue. There was other stuff too. In particular, they didn't think the predominantly white world of Summit would be a good place to raise Aben, who's Black. Rebecca and Josh are white. They finally left last winter. Rebecca still strongly identifies as a Christian. And she's still close with her small group. But she's unsure where her place in the Christian world should be.

Rebecca Shrader

While it feels hard to not be the pro-life darling that I once was, I feel like, it almost feels like churches and stuff don't know what to do with me. They don't know where to put me.

Emma Green

When it comes to abortion, Rebecca says she's personally pro-life. When she looks at her ultrasound screen at work, she still sees a human being. But she's less sure than she once was that life begins at conception.

Rebecca Shrader

I was talking about this with a friend recently, who's also very similar to me. I do feel like there's a lot of us out there who are kind of in between, and we just don't know which side to go to. Because we don't fit in the pro-life movement. We don't fit the pro-choice movement. We're kind of in the middle, and we see good in both, and that we don't know if they will ever mesh or if they will just go further apart.

Emma Green

In all my years of reporting on abortion, this is the one thing that struck me over and over again. Most people are actually like Rebecca and her friend, caught between pro-life and pro-choice in some way or another. Polls show that most Americans think abortion should be legal in some form. But when it comes to spelling out the exact circumstances of when it should be allowed, or the morals of it, people are much more ambivalent. Most of us land in a gray area.

And in this moment, where the Supreme Court is about to make decisions that could dramatically change abortion in the United States, it's useful to remember that most people, most experiences, have never really fit into a neat binary. When you're trying to figure out what the right thing to do is, it's not as simple as picking which team you're on. It's way more murky and complicated than that.

Emma Green

So do you feel, having gone through everything that you did, do you still feel like that was God's plan for you?

Rebecca Shrader

Yeah. I feel like there's a reason why it all happened, whether I see it or not. I don't feel like it was a mistake at all. I do feel-- I mean, I still feel anger to this day that it even happened, period. But I don't feel any regret. I feel like it was the right choice for me. I would do it all over again. I would choose life for Cora and Layla, as much as I know that it caused pain, because they were my daughters, and I loved them, and I cared for them.

And similarly, I'm not getting pregnant, because I know that I would have to have another baby that could have another diagnosis. And I don't want to put myself in that situation where I might have to choose. I might not choose life. I don't know.

Emma Green

For all of the clarity Rebecca has come to over the last few years, she's ended up with much less certainty about her life and life's big questions. She never got her picture-perfect minivan full of kids. This grieves her, leaves her feeling unsettled. But maybe that's where God meets us, she thinks, in that broken, uncertain place.

Ira Glass

Emma Green. She's a staff writer at The New Yorker. She reported this story in collaboration with The Atlantic and the podcast The Experiment, where this story is also appearing. Coming up, two people disagreeing about something so big, so fundamental, so important in their lives, but I have to say, doing it in the nicest possible way. That's in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two: Brian and Peg

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, "But I Did Everything Right," stories where people do what they have been told is best, they do what they think is right, and it doesn't come out the way they thought. We've arrived at Act Two of our program-- Act Two, "Brian and Peg."

So when we started to put together today's program about trying to do everything right and where that leads, I remember this conversation that I had this past May with two people, Brian and Peg, who had tried to do everything right. The day I met them was also the day that I learned about this disagreement they have. This was in an outdoor amphitheater in a public park in Queens.

Ira Glass

So Brian, can I record you for a little bit as you're organizing things?

Brian Walter

[? It's cool. ?]

Ira Glass

Is that OK?

Brian Walter

Just understand that I'm not very organized. [LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

That day, Brian, Walter, and a bunch of other volunteers were setting up a local memorial event for people who had died of COVID in Queens in New York, which was especially hard-hit by the pandemic early on. The memorial was Brian's idea, to have an event where portraits of Queens residents who died of COVID would be placed on empty chairs in this amphitheater. People who loved them would gather around. There were speeches remembering those who passed.

Brian Walter

When we first came up with this idea, I mean, we did not imagine the scope of what it is today. We thought there was just going to be a few of us in the park with a few benches, maybe 20 or 30 of us.

Ira Glass

How quickly did it grow?

Brian Walter

It took off. All of the tickets were gone in 25 minutes. Yep, 200 tickets.

Peg Walter

I'm sorry. I'm going to bother you one more time. If we can just raise it--

Ira Glass

An energetic, gray-haired woman interrupts us. That's Peg.

Peg Walter

But if you can just raise it, it would help.

Brian Walter

Have to do manual labor now. [LAUGHS]

Peg Walter

But get that done first.

Brian Walter

Mom's always the boss.

Ira Glass

Is that your mom?

Brian Walter

Yes, that's my mother.

Ira Glass

What's been your role in organizing this?

Peg Walter

[LAUGHS] What's been my role? Oh, that's a good question. I kind of help Brian flesh out his ideas. We discussed/argued over many things. It's, why don't you try this? I don't know if that's going to work. Why don't we do it this way? Back and forth. I guess, in some ways, I'm the more practical person.

Ira Glass

Peg's practical experience running things includes 30 years as director of religious education for a couple of Catholic churches, supervising over 20 teachers, hundreds of kids. Her husband, John, Brian's dad, got COVID right at the beginning, April 2020, and he died a few weeks later.

Peg Walter

And of course, he's right over there today, and-- right here.

Ira Glass

Oh, right here, right up front.

Peg Walter

Yeah, it's my husband of 57 years.

Ira Glass

Wow.

Peg Walter

So-- so that's him. Yeah.

Ira Glass

In the portrait, he's wearing a New York Mets hat and a plaid shirt.

Peg Walter

So it's been very difficult. It's one of those things that [SIGHS] you just have to take baby steps to get over.

Ira Glass

Which brings me to the thing this story is actually about-- this disagreement she has with her son Brian. Brian has told other reporters, and he's told me, that he was wracked with guilt with the knowledge that he gave his dad COVID. Brian lives in the apartment upstairs from his parents in kind of a traditional Queens two-family house.

And when COVID happened, he would go out each day to his job at the MTA. He would ride in the subway. He would work in the tunnels with other people. And he believes he brought home the virus to his dad. Peg is certain he's wrong, that her husband John did not get COVID from Brian. In fact, it was the other way around. John got sick first. And Brian--

Peg Walter

OK, Brian got sick-- I am positive that he got it the night that he took John to the hospital. From sitting next to John-- well, first of all, he had to help his father down the stairs into the car. And then he sat in the car and drove him first to the urgent care, and then into Manhattan, to Mount Sinai.

Ira Glass

And you think that's when Brian got it?

Peg Walter

I'm sure that's how Brian came down with it. Because two days-- three days later, he tested positive. And he had not been sick the whole time. And even though he lived upstairs from us, in an apartment upstairs, he used to come home from work, go upstairs. And sometimes John would say, he didn't even stop in to say hello. And I said, I know that. He's taking a shower. He'll be down in a few minutes.

And he'd come down with mask on, with gloves. I mean, he was being super careful. And I really don't think that he got it any other way but from John. And I don't know how John or I got COVID. And believe me, I've stayed awake long enough at night trying to figure it out.

Ira Glass

But Brian worries that he gave it to his dad.

Peg Walter

He worries he did, but I'm positive he didn't. I'm sorry, I keep--

Ira Glass

No, no, no.

Peg Walter

I talk with my hands, and I keep hitting your mic. I'm sorry.

Ira Glass

That's interesting, though, that he's chosen to believe that he's to blame.

Peg Walter

I know. I know that. But I'm positive that he's not. I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I'm positive that he's not. Because for John to have been that sick to go in the hospital, he must have gotten it days and days earlier. And then why wasn't Brian sick until after John went to the hospital?

Ira Glass

Why do you think he thinks that he gave it to him?

Peg Walter

I just think it's-- that's the way he is, that he feels he gave it to him.

Ira Glass

It's funny. I've heard about people who blame themselves. It's almost like it gives him more control of the situation if he thinks he was to blame. It wasn't just, like, a bolt of lightning or something hittting him.

Peg Walter

Right. It could be. I don't know.

Ira Glass

Of course, so many families are in this situation, wondering how somebody they love got COVID. Why did Brian choose to believe this about his dad? Why wasn't he convinced by his mom? He was too busy, that particular day, to have a real conversation with me about the whole thing, but I dropped by his house later. His dad, John, was a history buff, and a Civil War expert and researcher. And by the doorbell, there's an example of John's sense of humor. There's a bronze plaque that reads, "On this site in 1897, nothing happened."

Brian told me, back when his dad first died, he felt so guilty. Since he got COVID too, he says, it really hit home what his dad must have gone through to have a case that was even worse than his. And he says he thought about it all the time. How would he let this happen to his dad? And what made it especially hard? They were doing everything right, being as careful as they knew how.

Brian Walter

We thought we were doing everything correct. I mean, everything that the CDC said-- my mom watches CNN on a good day. She was watching it double during that time. And everything they said, we would wipe everything down. We had bleach outside. We had wipes outside. We and everything. And yet he still got it.

Ira Glass

Remember March 2020, when all this was so new, and we were figuring out how to deal with it?

Brian Walter

And I was the one who was shopping for the family, and I would separate their groceries. [LAUGHS] We had a grocery drop-off procedure. And we discussed it at length, about how we were going to do this. Through text messages, we had meetings where I would be at the top of the stairs, and they would be at the bottom. And we'd go through about, I'm going to drop the stuff off for you. I'm going to leave it there. Do not come out until I tell you that I'm upstairs.

And that's what we did. And then they would come out. My mother would come out, and she would wipe everything down. And we had a whole decontamination station set up in the front of the house. I did the whole gloves in the store, and not touching the phone. And I even had, in my car, a bottle of water and a container of soap that, more than once, I would just wash my hands in the parking lot before coming home. And we thought we were doing everything correct.

Ira Glass

So when you picture giving it to your dad, what's the scenario that you run-- that runs through your head?

Brian Walter

You don't know what happened. I mean, I can tell you that my dad didn't leave the house, and I was the only one going out. So my mom couldn't have given it to him. My kids didn't see him, so they couldn't have given it to him. So I was the only kind of link at that point. So of course, it had to have come from me. How else did he get it?

Ira Glass

Oh, wait. I hadn't put that together. You're the only one in the whole house who's coming in and out?

Brian Walter

Yeah. Yeah, since St. Patrick's Day-- since even before St. Patrick's Day.

Ira Glass

Again, this is 2020, very beginning of lockdown.

Brian Walter

My parents did not leave this house since the beginning of March. And I was the only one coming in and out.

Ira Glass

So you're the only contact with the outside world.

Brian Walter

Yep. Yeah.

Ira Glass

So if the virus got to him at all, you were the only one who could have brought it in.

Brian Walter

Right. That's why I keep thinking that. Yeah, because I'm the only one going out.

Ira Glass

I've got to say, it's really hard to see any way around that. Brian knows all of his mom's arguments, that when you look at the dates, that Brian started showing symptoms after his dad got sick, so Brian must have gotten COVID from his dad and not the other way around.

Brian Walter

Yeah, I mean, her accounting is definitely correct. I guess what it doesn't explain is, it still doesn't explain how he got it. In my mind, it still comes back to the fact that I was bringing everything in. So it's not even so much if I personally had it in me. Because again, we did not connect, so we were not together. So it wasn't that I breathed it on him.

But bringing everything into the house, I worry about, did I grab the wrong lemonade? Did somebody sneeze on this lemonade before I brought it in? And he got it, and he picked it up, and that's where he got it? I'm not saying she's wrong. We just don't know.

Ira Glass

That's funny. You're not saying she's wrong. She is definitely saying you're wrong.

Brian Walter

[LAUGHS] That's my mom. Yup, that's Mom. But I can also tell Mom also doesn't want this hanging over me. A mother's first job is to always console her child, and help her child think the best, and whatnot.

So I'm not saying that she's saying this just to help me get over it. But of course, she's never going to say-- even if she knew definitively, she is never going to say, oh, you did it. Never going to say that. She's going to say, Brian, you don't know that you did it. There's nothing to prove it. Don't beat yourself up about it. Let it go. And that's the way it's always going to be.

Ira Glass

In the end, of course, they'll never know. His mom can believe what she wants. Brian will believe what he believes. But this is really a classic situation, eventually, with something you can't answer. You think, and you think, and you think.

Brian Walter

It gets to the point where you just can't think about it anymore.

Ira Glass

At that point, the only comfort you have is, if you did screw up, it wasn't for lack of trying. Peg said to me that at some point, you have to let it go because you did everything you could. You did everything right.

Act Three: Bought the Farm

Ira Glass

Act 3, "Bought the Farm." So we close out today's program about people trying to do the right thing with something that happened to one of our staffers here, David Kestenbaum, and his family. They got this kid's toy, an educational toy that's been popular for decades. And his family followed the instructions that came with it to the letter. And they ended up learning a lesson I feel pretty confident the manufacturers did not intend. Here's David.

David Kestenbaum

The ant farm was a gift to our kids from their grandparents. We were all excited for it-- though if I'm honest, maybe mostly me. I'd suggested it. I never had one growing up, but they seemed so cool. It's basically two sheets of see-through plastic, a half inch apart, made it into this frame. You get a bunch of sand to put in it. And then when you mail in the coupon, two tubes of live ants come to your house in the mail.

The promotional material read, "See the amazing behavior of live ants," with a photo of the ants digging elaborate tunnels. "Clean tunneling sand," it said, and also, "2016 National Parenting Product Awards winner." So we set it up, put the ants in as directed. There were, like, 100 of them.

The instructions say to feed them a crumb every week and add a few drops of water now and then. And at first, it was amazing. The ants got to work running in all different directions, over top of each other, picking up little bits of sand in their jaws. It was this chaotic construction site. Here's a little daily diary based on photos I took at the time. "March 9, we put them in. 10:50 PM, digging first exploratory tunnels. Energetic, fast-moving. Digging, digging, digging. March 10, morning, 8:00 AM, they made a loop, connected two tunnels, reached the bottom."

I shot a time-lapse video of them working, like you'd see on a TV nature special. It really was like a secret cross-section of an anthill. But then came the thing they don't touch on it all in the brochure. And for us, it really became the main thing. Later that day, 1:25 PM, our second day with the ant farm. There's a photo on my phone-- close-up of a dead ant buried in the sand. And a few days later, this video I happened to take--

David Kestenbaum

And that's where the bodies are, in there. And over here. [GROANS]

Not only were some of the ants dying, but the other ants were picking up dead ones and carrying them, like soldiers in battle. And they'd been taking the bodies and body pieces-- there's an ant carrying another's head-- over into the corner and burying them. It was this mass grave.

David Kestenbaum

[GROANS]

It seemed kind of outrageous that this is a kid's toy. I mean, I suppose death is part of other kid's games, but it's imaginary. This was not imaginary, and it really was hard to watch. Every morning, I'd look at the ant farm sitting on the counter in our kitchen. Day after day, they'd carry the new body to the corner and add them to the pile.

David Kestenbaum

That guy is still a little alive, yeah. [GROANS]

The ant farm was basically a six-week exercise in watching things die. Eventually, there were just two ants left, and they did not seem well. They were having trouble walking.

Our kids honestly were sort of fine with this. Our younger son, who is eight, said, this is horrible. But I think mostly because he had in his mind that they would be pets, like a dog or something. His brother, who is one year older, nine, said, we could just buy more. They stopped looking at it and went on with their lives. But my wife and I felt terrible. The ant farm made us anxious. We felt responsible, like maybe we'd failed the ants. But also just so much death. There on our kitchen counter every morning, the mass grave.

What exactly were we looking at? What was this kid's toy supposed to be teaching us? So I called up a scientist, Deborah Gordon at Stanford, who has studied these kinds of ants, to ask, what the hell? She calmly explained the mass graves. She says, they're actually middens, meaning garbage heaps. The ants aren't burying their dead as much as taking out the trash. She says this may have evolved because dead ants sometimes carry disease.

Deborah Gordon

Well, they take the dead to the furthest possible place, which ends up being the corner. If you gave them a really large space to move around, they'd take them even further away. I've seen them go out on the foraging trails 10, 15 meters away and dump the ant.

David Kestenbaum

Wow.

Deborah Gordon

So those are ones that I think must be infected in some way. That's a lot of work.

David Kestenbaum

What are they dying of in here? Do they die of old age? Is their heart-- do they have a heart? Like, the way a heart is only good for however many beats. What fails in them?

Deborah Gordon

I don't think anybody knows how ants die of old age.

David Kestenbaum

Ants do have something like a heart, and a tiny brain. The ants in the farm, they're all females, she says. Males are only alive for a couple of weeks to mate. They have wings.

Deborah Gordon

One of the things I've come to appreciate about ants is how alien they are. And maybe the most alien thing about them is that they don't seem to get discouraged.

David Kestenbaum

How do you see that in them?

Deborah Gordon

Well, I've done lots of mean things to ants in my time. One of the experiments that I did was to put out piles of toothpicks for them to clear away. And you can just keep putting out the toothpicks, and they keep taking them to the edge of the mound. And if more toothpicks show up, they just take more toothpicks.

And I've never seen an ant sort of sit down and say, oh, come on, not another toothpick. There's no way I'm doing this. They just keep doing things. And in fact, if you watch ants closely, a lot of what they do just doesn't work. I mean, if they were easily discouraged, they'd never get anywhere. It's very hard to watch ants without wanting to help them.

David Kestenbaum

Have you ever done that?

Deborah Gordon

I used to try to help them, in the beginning. But I don't anymore, because I'm not very good at helping them. They respond mostly to smell. And so if you see the ants trying to carry something, and you try to carry it for them, as soon as you pick it up, you've changed the smell, and you've changed what it is for them.

David Kestenbaum

The thing she told me that stuck with me most about what their lives are like in the little toy and farm is that their lives are pointless, because there is no queen. These are just worker ants separated from their colony in this fake little Truman Show world, where if they dig too far, they hit a plastic wall. In fact, she says, they're stuck in a little repeating loop, waiting for a thing that never happens.

She says basically, these ants are supposed to be going out, foraging for food, and bringing it back to the nest, and then waiting until they come into contact with enough other ants coming back before going out again. They can tell if an ant has been outside because the sun changes how they smell. But of course, there is no going out. No one leaves the ant farm.

Deborah Gordon

So they're probably in some kind of a feedback loop that isn't what they usually do.

David Kestenbaum

Because when they go up to another ant, they're never getting a signal that, oh, I've been out and I found food.

Deborah Gordon

And I found food, yeah.

David Kestenbaum

I see. I wonder what the last ant is going to die of.

Deborah Gordon

The last ant is just going to stand around, because nothing will happen to it that has any meaning.

David Kestenbaum

Knowing this somehow changed things for me. Toward the end of our time with the ants, the daily check-ins felt a little less like grim death watches. I found myself rooting for them and their meaningless lives. It was impressive, how they just kept going.

One day, we were sure it was over. That morning, I hadn't seen any motion at all on the ant farm. But then my son saw something down in the corner. There was one left-- the last ant. "What's it doing?" I asked. "It's doing what it needs to do," he said. I saw the ant again the next day, emerging from a tunnel, carrying a piece of sand in her jaw to nowhere.

Ira Glass

David Kestenbaum. He's our program's senior editor.

Our program was produced today by Aviva DeKornfeld and Chloee Weiner, with help from Diane Wu. The people who put together today's program include Bim Adewunmi, Elna Baker, Susan Burton, Sean Cole, Damien Graef, Miki Meek, Stowe Nelson, Katherine Rae Mondo, Alix Spiegel, Robyn Semien, Laura Starcheski, Jessica Soriano, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Julie Whitaker.

Managing editor is Sarah Abdurrahman. Our senior editor is David Kestenbaum. Our executive editor is Emanuele Berry. Special thanks today to Eve Sneider, Gemma Bauer, Emily Patel, Aimee Baron, Katherine Wells, Emily Botein, Julia Longoria, Nick Baumann, Brent Beck of Grandpa Beck's Games, Nina Krstic, and Phil de Vries.

Our website, thisamericanlife.org, where you can stream our archive of over 750 episodes for absolutely free. Also, there's videos, there's lists of favorite shows, tons of other stuff there. Again, thisamericanlife.org.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, his family has the weirdest Halloween tradition I have ever heard of. Every year, they all dress up as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and go trick or treating.

Brian Walter

Mom's always the boss.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.