I’ve avoided commenting on the Terri Schiavo situation for as long as I could. But even as much as I’d like to avoid it, it seems to be the story that just won’t go away. So, here goes, whether you asked for it or not…
First off, the ironies of this whole situation are numerous, gaping, and might even be funny if the facts of the case weren’t so sobering. I should say that I’ve had the high honor of being with families as they have had to make these kinds of life and death decisions for loved ones.
Trust me, it’s never easy. EVEN IF you have a signed “directive” from the patient, instructing their loved ones and doctors as to their wishes, it’s never easy….no matter what that directive .
Of course, the issue in this case is that there is no directive. And so, everyone is left to try and
guess what Terri Shaivo would have wanted. I have to say that the strikingly high number of judges that have reviewed this case is compelling. You can read a whole timeline here. It’s clear to me, as an outsider, that even before Congress and the President stepped into this mess last week, that this case had gotten far more review than most. I guess that’s one of the things that bothers me most about what they did….that this was a case that ALREADY had far more review than any case involving any of our loved ones ever would. If you’re Terrie’s parents, at some point, you’ve got to say that you’ve simply had your day in court, and that it’s time to accept the verdict. All the President and Congress did was to throw a wrench into the mess.
I have a great deal of compassion for Terrie’s parents. And the hardest truth, yet to come, for them is that long after she is gone, they will feel a gaping hole in the center of their heart that can never be filled. I cannot begin to say I know how they feel. I don’t. But I do know that, long after her death (assuming that is soon…) their grief will be great…even if they live with the consolation that they did all they could do.
I also have a great deal of compassion for Terrie’s husband, Michael Schiavo. This man has been called every name in the book by conservative talk radio hosts in the past few weeks. I can’t imagine trying to make life and death decisions, deal with my own emotions, AND fend off that kind of attack all at the same time.
I certainly don’t think the guy is a saint. However, he IS Terrie’s legal guardian. He is her
HUSBAND. You can fault him for his relationship with another woman. And yet, were I in
Terrie’s place –in a vegitative state, unable to communicate or give my wife any love and affection, I would hope she would do exactly what Mr. Schiavo is doing. I would hope he would fight like hell for my wishes. And I would hope he would take care of his own needs, and perhaps even be willing to move on in life without me. Keep in mind: he’s been dealing with this not for fifteen months, but fifteen YEARS.
And another thing that grabs me about this case is that the same people who claim to be pro-sanctity-of-marriage appear to be claiming that it doesn’t apply in this case. If you REALLY supported the sanctity of marriage, you would be supporting Michael Schaivo in this case. (You will note in the timeline that Mr. Schaivo personally flew with Terrie to California to try experimental treatments, and that he and Terrie’s parents at one point even shared a home together in the early year, before they parted ways concerning her prognosis.
As a person of faith, I am also struck by the religious nature of this case. Conservative
Christians have taken to this case, and it has come to head here, during Holy Week. What strikes me about this is that the entire message of Easter is one of life winning out over death.
Everyone, perhaps on both sides, seems to have lost sight of this. When I was in a Lutheran elementary school. We lots of wonderful songs that we performed for our parents at assemblies. I don’t remember most of them. But for some reason, all these years later, I still remember the chorus to one of them:
“If I live, well, praise the Lord
If I die, well, praise the Lord
If I love or die,
My only cry
Jesus in me,
Praise the Lord.”
Isn’t the Easter message that, live or die, there is resurrection? Whether Terrie Schaivo lives for two more days, or twenty more years…whether I do…whether YOU do….isn’t the “point” of Easter to trust in a life that NEVER ends? How has THAT message gotten so lost in this story?
Finally, one other HUGE irony that really gets me in my bones. And, unfortunately, almost NO ONE on either side is talking about it. And it has to do with Terrie Schiavo herself, and how she got into this state. It has to do with the forgotten tradgedy of this woman in the hospital bed. She is not just a pawn for this whole “right to die” battle. She is also a symbol of what’s often so tragically wrong about women and our society.
By all accounts, she ended up in this persistent vegitative state because she had a heart
attack. She had a heart attack because she had a potasium imbalance. And she had a
potasium imbalance because she was an undiagnosed bulemic. In fact, the malpractice case her husband won was because of this missed-diagnosis.
So now, a woman who starved herself is once again starving. In some ways, it’s the tragic end that perhaps the sick part of herself wanted years ago. The deepest tradgedy in this case is that she needed help years ago and, for whatever reasons, her parents, husband, and all her friends were unable to reach her. Her own disease landed her in this spot. And, arguably, it’s really what is causing her to die.
Here’s hoping that in the cases of future women like her, we can get them help before they starve themselves to death.
I will continue to pray for her, for all her family and friends. And for our nation as we deal
with all these issues.