Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo: Thoughts, Prayers and Conclusions

  • Terri on her wedding day.

  • Terri celebrating a Christmas past. These pictures are located on Terri's Fight Website, a website that advocates that her feeding tube remain in place, keeping her alive. I wanted to post pictures of Terri as she was, not as she is. The photos of her now are heartbreaking but oddly depersonalized. I feel that in discussing a human life, we should see this person as she was at her best and most active.

  • I really have tried to stay out of the Terri Schiavo fight and for the most part I have succeeded. However, over the weekend, this fight was brought to a whole new level by the intervention of the United States Congress. I'm almost feeling compelled to throw my own two cents in because of the omnipresence attained by this situation.

    I am not qualified to address the medical or legal merits of this case, so I will not do so.

    I am a human being, a father to be, a husband and a son; I can comment on my feelings as a human being.

    I have read many crass accusations directed at Michael Schiavo: that he wants Terri dead for money, he has been unfaithful to Terri, that he beat her and put her in a coma; that the whole thing was a setup to get Terri's life insurance.

    I have not walked a mile in Michael Schiavo's shoes. I do not know what he has been through, or indeed, anything about the man. It is difficult for me to believe that anyone would be willing to go through the emotional and spiritual pain of a fifteen year battle over money, especially the paltry sums involved here. The total settlement awarded to the Schiavo's as a result of Terri's collapse was $2,250,000 which sounds like a lot until you think about what caring for Terri coupled with the lawsuits over 15 years must have cost. According to a website advocating on behalf of Terri's parents, there remains $761,507.50 in the trust fund as of 2003. Based on all that has happened since, I would speculate that there is a considerably less now. I doubt Michael Schiavo will ever see a significant portion of that money.

    Charges of womanizing levied against Michael Schiavo are also problematic for me. Terri collapsed in 1990; it was not until 1997 that Michael Schiavo became engaged to another woman. That's hardly like he rushed out and grabbed the first tipsy chick he met in a bar. From all appearances, he is in a comitted relationship, not in some sort of tawdry fling. As to those who say that he pledged to be at Terri's side in sickness and in health, that very phrase ends with the words 'till death do us part. It is pretty clear that Michael Schiavo truly believes that the Terri he married is dead. I cannot honestly say that were I in his shoes, I would not have done as he has done by seeking to continue to enjoy my life.

    I have not met Terri's parents, the Schindlers. I have not walked a mile in their shoes. So I just cannot speak against anything they have done regarding their daughter. But it is not clear to me that they are able to put their daughter's needs, desires or perspectives in place against their needs, desires and perspectives. But I can't say that I don't see some validity in what they are seeking to do.

    So what would I do if Terry Schiavo's life was in my hands, if I was the final judge to decide if that feeding tube needed to be removed?

    First, I would pray. I would pray that the Goddess' will, not mine, be done. Then I would ask for guidance, clear explicit guidance. I would meditate and wait and hope that an answer would be given to me, either by Divine declaration or by human or animal messenger.

    But it is my suspicion that I would be on my own here. We were given free will and often with these toughest questions, there are no easy answers. I did not get an answer regarding my cat, Smokey, and while it seems disingenuous to compare the life of a human to that of pet, we are all children of the Divine, and it is not clear to me that my life has any more weight than my cat's in the eyes of the Goddess.

    For the sake of the discussion, we shall stipulate that I have no Divine answer and I must decide on my own.

    The basic rule of almost every religious faith, philosophical and ethical system is the rule that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So, there is Laura, my wife, and Anwen, my daughter, looking at my comatose body on a hospital bed. There is no indication of consciousness or cognitive awareness. I have been through therapy and not improved. The best doctors have assured Laura that I will never regain consciousness, that my brain has been irreparably damaged. I have been in this coma for years.

    What do I want done unto me? My wife deserves a full and wonderful life. I don't want her life to end with my own. I'd like her to get her Masters degree. I'd like her to maybe meet and date another wonderful man. I hope he is a caring lover and will hold her close at night. Maybe he will become a loving husband.

    My daughter deserves a father. If it cannot be me, well, there are many men in this world who would make a good father for her. I'd like to think none could be better than me, but who really knows? Only our Creatress and She is not telling. Anwen, may She fill your life with love, no matter what happens to me.

    Let me go. Let me go with love. Let me go in faith that there are better things Beyond. I have to see my grandparents again; I have to meet my friend Jim. Let me go to my Goddess, that loving, creative Spirit.

    Terri, if it were up to me, I would let you go. Not because I am sure that it is the right thing to do; but because that is what I would want done to me. Goddess forgive me if I am wrong, but from where I sit now, I would let you go. I wish you did not have to face starvation and dehydration. But our society will not give you the comfort of passage from a painless needle, as they will offer my cat. So I would let you go, and pray and watch and hold your hand.

    See, I already know that Terri is in the hands of a loving, forgiving Creator. So are Michael Schiavo and the Shindlers. Somehow, someway through that Creator there is healing, but it will not happen here, not now, not today. So Goddess, go with them all, be with them all.