Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What are we forgetting?

The Terri Shiavo case, emotional as it is, is churning up a lot of issues in the nation. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, frankly, though it is extremely painful, no matter which side one stands on.

In my personal quiet time, I've come to think that this was Terri's purpose in life, to act as a focus for these great debates. Absolutely she did not choose this role for herself, and certainly her family, including her husband, did not choose it for her. Prophets are not chosen by human wish.

It's not my purpose here to argue pro or con on whether certain actions should be taken. I will state, clearly, my opinion right now: I do not agree with removing food and water from any living person, whatever quality their life may have. God has His way of sorting out the living from the dead, and He is very good at it. Terri will survive until her purpose here is completed. But the removal of nutrition and water, especially water, will cause her final death. There's no two ways about that.

I don't agree with Terri's parents that there's a great deal of hope that she can return to a "normal" life. But I do believe that miracles happen. I've seen too many of them not to believe. There's a huge leap, however, from expecting Terri to arise and walk out of her hospital room and denying her food and water, so clearly I disagree with the decision to remove those basic elements of comfort and support.

Having said that, I'll return to my original thoughts. No matter what happens to Terri the individual, her case has raised many issues for public discussion. Politicians have used her to foment a fevered frenzy on the issue of "right to life." Many, many, many people have painted her husband with the black brush of "killer." Opponents are arguing that government has taken a great big giant step into an area where it doesn't belong, trampling some of the basic elements of a free society and self determination.

But what's really going on here? Yes, I see and understand the passionate cries from both sides. There are valid points made in both arguments, right along with deep piles of doo-doo.

The truth is, both sides are clutching at that inner panic, scratching and clawing their ways through this world trying desparately to do "the right thing" before time runs out. The clock is running. The clawing is becoming more furious. More and more people are becoming desparate as the seconds tick away.

Everyone is seeking to run to someone, anyone, who can make things "right". And as those seconds tick away, some of us are seeing that the desparate appeals are being made in the wrong places.

There is no judge, no doctor who can make this right, not here on earth. And with all the collateral issues wrapped around this woman's life, we've lost sight of the fact that indeed, we all will die. All of us.

Why are so many of us so afraid of death? It is a universal transition, just like birth was. And as when we were born, we do not dictate the day or the moment of our transition. Just look at all the waiting that surrounds a soon-to-be mother, everyone waiting for the arrival, the transition, of the newborn.

One of the saddest things, in my opinion, about the human condition is our fear of the unknown, our lack of ceremony surrounding the transition into death. Of course there are religious differences on this perspective. I don't think anyone who knows me would be surprised that I believe in a life after death, a glory we don't know the nature of here in this life. At the very least, death is a state of release from this earthly body and the pain which may be involved.

Let's remove this fight from the courts and appeal to The One who truly is in charge. Lord, Thy will be done, not ours. We ask you for your grace for Terri.


Gloria Williams said...

This is moving and excellently written about a sensitive topic. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have a living will that states emphatically that feeding tubes are not to be used in the event I am found to be in a persistent vegetative state. I respect people who disagree with me until they start comparing my position to Nazi extermination and as long as they respect my legal right to choose my own way of surrendering my life to God.

I am completely against suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia. I don't consider a faithful decision not to be artificially fed euthanasia, however. Other faithful people disagree with me.

I don't think anyone should have feeding tubes removed unless they have a written living will to that effect. (jtb)

Trixie said...

Thanks for writing, JT. I'm glad to read your perspective. As for making the choice for myself, I believe I would also not want a feeding tube. At the moment, I believe I would choose hydration but not nutrition. This is, of course, a choice that each person should make (and make known) for himself/herself before the situation arises.

I know, having witnessed the death process, that in a natural death the person will reach a point of refusing (more accurately, declining) food and water as the body winds down.

We've become so distanced from death -- those of us who aren't in the medical field, at least -- that we fight what we cannot change instead of accepting this as a holy moment. And in that, we've lost an important part of our humanity.

Anonymous said...

I have been praying with a woman who is near death from cancer. It has been a very humbling experience. At times, I feel as if she has more to offer me than I to her. (jtb)

Trixie said...

I completely understand that. There has been no experience that taught me more than the time I spent with my mother in the several weeks preceding her death, most especially the final week (as you know, having been there to support me through that time.) There has been no other experience that so clearly laid out the basic essence of humanity. Forget the human body, which is being set aside. The clear recognition of the human spirit, as it approached its return to the Father, was a transforming event to witness.