As an adult, there have been a few significant moments that, although they did not happen directly to my loved ones, changed me and my worldview forever.
One is 9/11, of course. Another was in 1987 when 18 month-old Jessica McClure fell down an 8" pipe (a well in her back yard) in Midland, TX, and I waited and prayed with the rest the country for 60 hours until she was finally rescued. I held my own baby girl on my lap for most of that gut-wrenching time and grew in my understanding of how deep and strong and mother's love is.
No mom is perfect, especially me, but I believe that 99.9 times out of 100 a mother's love is as pure and selfless as can be experienced between humans. I mean, spouses love their spouses deeply, and may even lay down their lives for the other, but for many, spousal love is not completely unconditional. For instance, if my husband began a second life with someone else, I would divorce him. On the other hand, if my kids hurt and disappointed me, I would not disown them. There's a different aspect to parental love.
Here we are at March 31, 2008. This is the third year since I was reawakened again to the depth and breadth of a mother's love, when for days I watched Terri Schiavo's mother, Mrs. Mary Schindler, beg for her daughter's life. Terri's husband had moved on to a life with another woman and wanted this chapter of his life closed forever. I truly believe this was more about Michael Schiavo than about his concern for Terri. After all, her mother didn't replace Terri with a new daughter. She loved Terri as she was. Schiavo may have loved Terri at one time because she could be his wife, but her parents loved her because she existed.
I have not forgotten Terri. I have not forgotten her mother's pleading for her daughter's life.
I have also not forgotten that the government of my country, the one I have been so proud of for fighting against atrocities from World Wars to recent genocides, allowed Mrs. Schindler's daughter to starve to death. There were some good people who tried to save Terri, but I realized that given just the right set of political circumstances, private citizens could come after my daughter someday, too, and my country could turn its head. Because apparently, our judges have a lot of power.
I don't want to argue the details of the case--deprivation of oxygen, cause unknown; questionable persistent vegetative state; political, self-serving judges; Terri smiling at Mother; no written directives or eyewitness of her alleged request of her husband; hearsay accepted in court; an attorney for Michael Schiavo who hears from the dead; monies received by Schiavo not spent on care; being kept alive artificially--if you consider dependence on food and water artificial life support.
Because for me, the issues that trump all of that debate are 1) There was no plug to pull 2)There was a mother begging for her daughter, "Just let me take care of her; it's not a burden for me ... I love her." She who carried Terri in her own body for 9 months and put Bandaids on every scrape and treated every fever, was practically on her knees begging just to take care of her daughter. If Terri truly couldn't feel pain or be conscious of anything at all, how would it have been so terrible to let her mother have her body to care for? Why couldn't we have let God decide when to take Terri?
Terri passed away March 31, 2005, after over 13 days of being denied food and water. Even animals are euthanized more humanely. Her parents were with her every moment they could be, although they were restricted as she neared death. Another knife in the heart.
My stomach still churns at the memory of this ordeal that, for me, equals the most egregious, heinous sins ever committed against any aborted baby or prisoner of war or defenseless elderly person or mentally/physically incapacitated person. I have the same visceral reaction to the decision as I do to torture.
March 18 until March 31 is how long Terri withered away. Her mother, who would have died a thousand times in Terri's place, finally had to accept that no one heard or cared about her screams for help for her helpless daughter--not even the most powerful country in the world, the defender of the weak and downtrodden. At that point, no one was more weak than Terri; no one was more downtrodden than her mother.
I encourage everyone to pray for Terri's entire family and to support their foundation which strives to keep this nightmare from ever happening again. Finally, put yourself in Mrs. Schindler's shoes for five minutes today. See your daughter's or sons' face in that bed. See yourself begging the world for help, and see yourself watching your child dehydrate. When you feed your child today, see if you can imagine someone then taking that away from her. See if that doesn't move you to remember the Schindlers in prayer today and help fight this battle.