These last few weeks watching the Terri Schiavo story unfold have been very difficult for me, because every time I see a picture of Terri I am reminded of my brother.
Like Terri, my brother could not feed or take care of himself in any way. Like Terri, there were moments when he could react to someone’s voice or presence. Like Terri, my brother did not have a living will. Like Terri, my family had to face the questions and even accusations that my brother’s life was not worth the effort and expense.
The real question the accusers wanted to ask is, “What is the purpose in keeping him alive?”
This question makes sense only if the person asking the question cannot conceive that there is anything important beyond themselves. Through the distorted lens of selfishness and pride they define their lives with statements like “I accomplished this . . .” “I did that. . . ” “I can do. . . ” or “I want to do. . .” If a person can no longer do or get what he or she wants all purpose or meaning in their lives is therefore removed.
Without purpose or meaning, as defined by the accuser, how can a person really be a person anymore? Terri — or my brother — can’t do anything, they are therefore purposeless and not people. It isn’t murder to kill something that isn’t a person, right?
At this point in their reasoning the accuser gets scared. Why? Because they know that it could just as easily have been them lying there in that bed. Whatever befell Terri or the sickness that afflicted my brother could have just as easily struck anyone. Can you now see how horrifying it must be to them, as they look on a broken helpless body in a hospital bed with no “purpose” and think, “That could be me!”
So they cover their fear by removing (killing) the object of their fear.
What they fail to see is that human existence is an accomplishment and purpose in itself. My brother never once spoke an intelligible word, but managed to acknowledging my presence. My brother never once lifted himself from his bed, but I learned the value of serving our fellow man as I lifted him up. My brother never fed himself, but I learned what it meant to feed those less fortunate. My brother often screamed in pain for hours at a time and as I held him I learned what it meant to bear another’s burdens.
In short, my brother taught me what it means to serve, to sacrifice and to love. He taught me what purpose in life is. And it wasn’t just me he taught. I know at least seven other people, brothers, sisters and parents who learned the same lesson. How many walking, talking, self-feeding people can say that their mere existence has affected even one person, for the better, in such a profound way?
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Terri’s parents and family have learned what I have about the purpose of life. My brother has since passed way after 19 years of a “purposeless” existence and I miss him greatly.
As you read, this Terri has starved to death because a judge decided to believe the hearsay of an unfaithful husband, and because others in power lack the courage to act to save an innocent life.
Judge Greer, Micheal Schiavo and gang, I have one question for you. “Would you have killed my brother too?”