Clark Gable’s Baby: This is a Story of Faith and Immortality
Modern Screen magazine, May 1961
Kay Gable ignored the advice of her doctor. “Your own heart’s not in such great shape, you know,” he’d said. She ignored the advice of her friends. “It will be too much of a strain for you, Kay—with the baby only four weeks away,” they’d said. But it was February 1, 1961. And Clark Gable—her husband of five years, till the night of his death six weeks earlier—would have been sixty this day. And she was going to celebrate his birthday, her way, exactly the way she wanted to celebrate it. Just her. And him. And their unborn child. Together. In a little building somewhere between heaven and earth…She awoke early that morning. She had a light breakfast. She kissed her children good-bye—Bunker, ten, and Joan, eight—children by a former marriage. And then she got into her car and began to drive away from the house…As she drove, she remembered his words, among the last he’d ever spoken to her. Clark had never much of a man to talk about prayer, or church. So the words mi8ghthave come as a surprise to some. But Kay had understood them.”When I’m gone,” he’d said, “when I’m there, on the other side of eternity say a prayer for me once in a while, go to church for me once in a while…” She pulled up to the church now, a small Catholic church. The priest stood outside to meet her. “I’m sorry, Father,” she said, “that I haven’t been able to get here since the funeral. But the pills, the sedatives—“ “I understand,” the priest cut in, softly. “Do you feel better now?” “I feel better,” she said. “Are you sure you can go through with this?” “Yes,” she said. She got out of the car. She stood there a moment and looked up into the blueness of the sky above her and smiled a small, secret smile. And she and the priest began to walk into the church.
It might have seemed a strange sort of Mass to some, with Kay there, in a rear pew, kneeling, her eyes closed—alone, completely alone in the church; only Kay and the sound of an organ playing softly from somewhere above her and the sound of the priest’s voice, coming from the altar, praying softly. But Kay had wanted it this way—to be alone with him, her husband, in a place such as this; cool, dark, quiet, sacred, distant, far from the world they had known together—yet, somehow, a link to things as they were now. The priest, on the altar, stood—his head bowed—over a black-draped book: “Requiem aeternam donna eis, Domine,” he intoned. “Grant him rest eternal, Lord. Et lux perpetua leceat eis. And let perpetual light shine down upon him.”
But Kay barely heard what the priest was saying now.
Because she, too, was speaking now—softly, so softly that only one person on earth or in heaven could have heard her. “Clark,” she was saying, “oh, Clark. Are you worrying about me? Don’t. Please don’t…I know you. The way you could worry sometimes. But don’t. Please don’t worry. Not now. Not ever…I will get through the days ahead all right. And the nights. You said to me once ‘You are not weak, Kay. You are strength to me, Kay”…So I will get by. And I will feel as I do now. That you are still with me. I know that you are still with me. And I will get by. And take care of myself. Myself. And your child…You’re going to have a big son, I think. A strong son. And he’s going to be such a lucky son, too, my love..To have had you for a father. The kindest, the best of men…There are others who will weep for him. Let them weep. But I, I will not weep. I will think of you, his father, and I will not weep…”
“Exaudi orationem meam, ad to omnis caro veniet,” the priest intoned. “Give ear to my supplication, O Lord. Unto Thee all flesh shall come at last. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”
“…I played with Bunker yesterday,” Kay was saying. “I was feeling better and I went downstairs and outside. He’s looked so forlorn since that night I had to tell him about you…He cried when he heard you were gone, his dear stepfather, his favorite of men. And then he said, ‘I guess Goad wanted a good strong guardian angel up there to help out with things, don’t you think, Mom?’…I said, ‘Yes, that’s right, that’s right’…And he threw his arms around me, the little new man of the house. And he cried some more. He cried until he fell fast asleep…I held him, and his head was on my breast as he slept that night. On my breast. Not far from his new little brother. Your child. Who slept too…Peacefully…Unknowing…”
“Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domine,” the priest intoned. “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in excelsis. Hosanna in the highest.”
“…The new nursery, Clark,” Kay was saying. “It’s all finished now. And waiting…It’s yellow and white, just as you planned. Happy colors. Such soft and happy colors…And there’s a crib, big, with four posters and a canopy. Like a little king’s. And there’s a playpen, already filled with the toys you’d bought for him. It’s all in yellow and white, Clark. And those colors—they are so happy. Just like the house, Clark. It is still so happy, too Because it is filled with happy memories. Of you, my darling. Oh yes, of you. Because, you see, it is still your house. And everything in it that was yours, is still yours…And around it…Even that spot under the big elm, near the stables, that cool and shady spot where you used to like to sit, where you would read your scripts and books, where you would go off to think sometimes—your dog still sits beside you there. Because you are still there to him. Just as you are there to the rest of us…Just as you will be there to your son, when he comes…”
“Sed significer sanctus Michael repraesantet eas in lucem sanctam,” the priest intoned. “Let holy Michael, leader of hosts, bring you forward into His holy splendor. Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus. As unto Abraham He did promise, and his seed forever.”
“…and I keep speaking as if I am certain the child will be a boy,” Kay was saying. “I don’t know, love. Nor do I care. Just as I know that you did not—do not—really care…If it is a boy it will be named, as we planned, either John Clark or Charles Clark. If it is a girl it will be named Gretchen, as we planned…But whichever, it will be our child. My child, and your child. And all I hope is that it comes to me soon, this child. So that, in a way, when I hold it, I will be holding you again. So that when I place my cheek against its cheek—as I will do for hour after hour after hour after hour—I will feel a part of you again, a part of your warmth…”
“Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth,” the priest intoned. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra Gloria tua. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.”
“…and I used to think that there would never be a child for us,” Kay was saying. “We were not young any longer, either of us. And, too, I used to think that I would go before you, before we had a chance to create a child, even if the possibility existed…My heart had been bad, for so long. You had been so healthy. Nothing could happen to you, I felt. But me, things were always happening to me…Do you remember? Do you remember?…I would feel pain. You would put me to bed. You would take me to the hospital. I was sick. And you were strong. Yet now you are gone and I am strong…
“And yet, I know why it all happened this way. And the strangeness of it all is clear to me now…
“For I know now that this child, is a gift, given by God, to you…
“ I know now that without this child, despite all that you had in your lifetime, you would have gone away from this life leaving nothing…
“And now you leave something—something special and blessed, beautiful…
“Something you always yearned for.
“And it is because this gift was finally granted that I am not sad today…But proud…And happy…And grateful…”
“Inter oves locum praesta,” the priest intoned. “With Thy sheep, Lord, deign to place him.”
Kay Gable looked down at where her child lay, inside her and smiled.
“Pie Jesu Domine,” the priest intoned. “Gentle Jesus, gracious Lord. Dona eis requiem. Grant Thy servant peace and rest. Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christe eleison. Christ have mercy.”
Kay Gable looked up toward the altar now, and she was the priest lift his head from above the black-draped book.
“Amen,” she heard him say.
“Amen…” she whispered.