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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Am I my brother's keeper?

Or my sister’s keeper, as the case may be?

The vigil for Terri Schiavo is over. The debate, however, will, and should, continue.

I am not capable of adequately eulogizing Terri, so I will leave that to the better equipped. But my heart goes out to her family on both sides.

I was disturbed by this article at this morning (from the AP). It shared details from Terri’s life while criticizing the recent very public debate concerning her wishes and whether she should live or die. According to the article, the Terri remembered by friends is
not the heartbreaking figure whose every facial tic was scrutinized for evidence of a conscious mind within. Not the central figure of a maelstrom, silent as multitudes debated her life and death.

For those multitudes who never knew her, it was easy to forget that this was a real woman who led a real life. But for her friends and family, it was impossible to forget.

Who forgot that this was a real woman who led a real life??

The article ends with this:

...on Feb. 25, 1990, when she collapsed in the hallway outside of her bedroom....She was 26 years old, an ordinary woman about to be thrust — unwillingly, unknowingly, unconsciously — into an extraordinary adventure. She died 15 years later, a symbol to millions around the world, a person to those who knew and mourned her.

If Terri would not have wanted to be thrust into the public spotlight near the end of her life, why would she have wanted the world to know that she “spent hours in her purple-and-white bedroom arranging [her collection of 100+ stuffed animals]? Being the “shy girl” that she was, would she have wanted the world to know this or anything else about her life?

And just what exactly was Terri a symbol of?

Why would someone who never knew Terri personally not comprehend that she was, in fact, a real person who led a “normal” life, before her fall? The grief resulting from realization that she would never again be what she once was surely contributed to the public sense of wanting to protect her. And why should anyone not care about what happened to her? She was helpless; completely at the mercy of the competent.

Why should we “mind our own business” in a case like this?*

People can gossip and manipulate their way through life, never seriously being accused of not minding their own business, yet when they take up the cause of an innocent person’s life – a person who is not able to speak for him/herself and whose prior spoken word lies only in the dubious memory of those still living – they are told to mind their own business.

If I hear my neighbor beating up his wife, should I mind my own business, or should I call the cops?

Am I my brother’s keeper? You betcha.

On a personal note, I was originally drawn to Terri’s story not just because of the circumstances, but because I identified with her somewhat. We are (or were), almost to the month, the same age. We both grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. Etc.

This is not to say that I necessarily believe that Terri’s feeding tube should’ve remained, though I lean very strongly in that direction. No one should care what I think, though, because my opinion means absolutely nothing. What really matters is the truth of the situation, which few of us will ever know. What matters is that the weak need to be protected and honored by the strong. As President Bush said, where there is element of doubt, we ought to err on the side of life.

*note that I am not referring to instances of, for example, trying to smuggle water to Terri in hospice. I am referring to public concern for her welfare.


  • Bonnie, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. I had something to say in my own blog today about this issue...

    By Blogger Amanda, at 3:21 PM  

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