Thursday, March 31, 2005

Truly, A Crying Shame

Today is a dark day. It will be remembered as the day a tragedy turned travesty, a day that one man's pride robbed a family of their daughter and sister.

Terri Schiavo died today.

She passed away nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed, at the request of her husband. It was 13 days that were undoubtedly brutal on her physically, brought unbearable anguish to her family, and divided a nation. She has gone on to a much better place now, shedding the pain of her final hours, only to have that suffering become the burden of those she has left behind.

And, for many, there is another strong emotion to be dealt with... Outrage.

From the start of this case over a decade ago, it has always been about more than simply whether Terri would want to be kept alive artificially or not, despite what her husband may say. As events have been allowed to unfold through media coverage, the world has been given a glimpse of evil in the form of Michael Schiavo. Her 1990 heart attack certainly crippled her, left her in a supposed "permanent vegetative state", but, in the end, it was the man she pledged to love "until death do us part" that killed her.

Michael Schiavo murdered Terri.

Almost from the very moment that Terri became incapacitated, Michael has done everything in his power to ensure that she would die. Over the course of more than a decade, he has systematically denied her access to therapy, rehabilitation, social interaction, and, ultimately, food and water. He claims he has only been abiding by Terri's wishes, that she would not want to be kept alive in her current state. And how does he know? Because she told him, apparently. Of course, since she hasn't been allowed speech therapy, this communication can only have occurred prior to her heart attack. And was she speaking of a condition such as the one she found herself in,
or is it more likely that, like the rest of us when we speak of such things, she was referring to a coma or brain-death?

Terri was neither in a coma nor brain dead. On the contrary, she was likened to a "6 to 11 month old baby". Does a mental state such as that warrant letting her die? Would a man be allowed to let his 8 month old baby starve to death and walk away?

Time and again, he has proclaimed his love for his wife, insisting that he is only doing what is best for her. But this is only from one side of his mouth... At the same time, the other side has been telling doctor's not to try to improve Terri's condition, has been telling Terri's family and spiritual advisors that they can't see Terri, and telling another woman (the mother of his 2 children) that he loves her. The worst part is that he was never even subtle about it. He simply refused to answer questions about his lover, claiming that she had nothing to do with the whole ordeal.

That is a load of crap.

My girlfriend asked me just last night why Michael Schiavo, once he realized he was in love with another woman, didn't simply turn custody of Terri over to her parents. I obviously don't know the man, so I can't say for sure what was going through his head, but here's what I suspect...

Chances are that he truly was in love with his wife and, at the time of her tragedy, truly wanted to do what he felt was best for her. At that time, he took a stand... A stand that was contrary to the wishes of Terri's family, but one that he believed in, none the less. However, as time went by, Michael's connection to his wife, both mentally and emotionally, waned. He began to feel the need for companionship, as any of us would, and found it with Jodi Centonze. Now, here was his first chance to turn Terri over to her parents. He could have done so with very little face lost (who can blame a young man for not being strong enough to endure the ordeal before him?), leaving Mary and Bob Schindler to care for their daughter, a task that they would have been overjoyed to take on.

But Michael found himself in a bit of a predicament... Being a Catholic, he couldn't divorce Terri and marry Jodi. His only hope was for Terri to die, leaving him a widower that would be allowed a second marriage in the Catholic church.

Poor man.

You'll notice that his religion didn't stop him from living in open adultery with Jodi. Must be nice to only follow the aspects of your faith that appeal to you...

Anyway, the more time that passed, the less able Michael Schiavo was able to turn custody of his wife over to her family without looking like a complete loser. But here's the funny thing: He still ended up looking not only stupid, but cruel as well. He created his very own no-win situation. Too bad it was Terri that had to pay the ultimate price for his mistake.

There is a silver lining here, though, as there usually is if you look hard enough. A couple of them, in fact. First, this case has brought to everyone's attention the fundamental flaws in the judiciary system that allowed a woman to be starved to death, and we aren't likely to let it happen again. Terri lost her life but, because she did, countless others might not need to. But the biggest solace has to come from knowing that, no matter how Michael Schiavo was able to use U.S. law to his benefit, no matter how eloquently he talks his way out of responsibility for his wife's death, there will come a day when he stands before the One Judge that sees to the very core of his existence and will demand atonement for this horrible sin.

The day will come.
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