The silent screams of Terri Schiavo

Weir Thinking About It

'I see a flash of colors and the vague outlines of faces. I hear the voices of Mom and Dad as they talk to me, trying to get me to respond. Oh, God, I'm trying so hard to respond. I feel like I'm floating in a murky bubble with no control over my body and no ability to communicate my feelings. I hear my parents talking about my husband's efforts to let me die, and I can't state my objection.

"I've listened to him talk to people about a statement I made many years ago when we were watching a news program about a woman whose family won a court battle to have her life—sustaining equipment removed. I suppose I made a comment about not wanting to be kept alive by machines, and Michael is using that casual reference as his reason for letting me die. There should be tougher standards used when someone like me is still struggling for life, but unable to make it known. My parents have said that they'll take care of me, and Michael can go on with his life. Yet, he seems determined to end mine before he can be happy in his.

"Why? My doctors have informed him that, although I'm paralyzed, I'm not suffering. Some doctors say I'll never recover, while others say it's possible. That's all I want, the chance that someday I'll have my life back. From deep inside this chamber, my silent screams are begging for that one slim hope of recovery. As long as I can breathe, I can dream of the day when I'll return to the life that slipped away 14 years ago.

"But if Michael has his way, I have no hope. The only pain I feel is the ache in my heart from knowing that my husband is fighting every effort to keep me alive. If it weren't for the kindness of my parents and a few others, I would be gone already. Recently, at Michael's insistence, they took away my feeding tubes and I grew weaker, but I stubbornly survived until others in higher authority overruled the man I once trusted and loved. If I ever come out of this semi—comatose state, I will not forget those who cared enough to save me from a slow death by starvation. And I will long remember those who wrote my obituary.

"I've learned many things from this nightmarish experience, not the least of which is to be careful what you say in casual conversation, because it could become the stamp of approval on your death certificate. In addition, I learned that the most profound love in this world comes from the mother and father who gave you life; they will be the last holdouts in any attempt to take it away. Sadly, I never thought of life as being so valuable, undoubtedly because, like most people, I took it for granted. Perhaps that's why I might have made the remark attributed to me by my husband. If I get a second chance at life I'm going to spend it as the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves. Now that I know what it's like to lie dormant in front of the world and be compared to a vegetable, I will be the clarion call for everyone who has suffered my fate.'

Being still and silent should not be an excuse for the rest of the world to walk away. The true test of humanity is the love and care one gives to those who can't make it alone. Suppose you suddenly found yourself in a paralytic state, but with a conscious mind? How would you appeal to those who had control of your future? If we're lucky, we'll never know how maddening it must be to reach deep down into our souls and muster a plea for recognition, only to have it fail to reach the surface of the human dimension that is considered the standard test for normal life.

Try to imagine the excruciating struggle to make the slightest sound that might indicate to those who sit in judgment, that you deserve more time in your quest for tomorrow. Terri Schiavo's condition in that Clearwater, Florida hospital is symbolic of a much larger struggle for compassion in a country that has become increasingly callous and self—centered; a disposable society in which life has taken a back seat to comfort, and love is very often a questionable emotion. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

Weir Thinking About It

'I see a flash of colors and the vague outlines of faces. I hear the voices of Mom and Dad as they talk to me, trying to get me to respond. Oh, God, I'm trying so hard to respond. I feel like I'm floating in a murky bubble with no control over my body and no ability to communicate my feelings. I hear my parents talking about my husband's efforts to let me die, and I can't state my objection.

"I've listened to him talk to people about a statement I made many years ago when we were watching a news program about a woman whose family won a court battle to have her life—sustaining equipment removed. I suppose I made a comment about not wanting to be kept alive by machines, and Michael is using that casual reference as his reason for letting me die. There should be tougher standards used when someone like me is still struggling for life, but unable to make it known. My parents have said that they'll take care of me, and Michael can go on with his life. Yet, he seems determined to end mine before he can be happy in his.

"Why? My doctors have informed him that, although I'm paralyzed, I'm not suffering. Some doctors say I'll never recover, while others say it's possible. That's all I want, the chance that someday I'll have my life back. From deep inside this chamber, my silent screams are begging for that one slim hope of recovery. As long as I can breathe, I can dream of the day when I'll return to the life that slipped away 14 years ago.

"But if Michael has his way, I have no hope. The only pain I feel is the ache in my heart from knowing that my husband is fighting every effort to keep me alive. If it weren't for the kindness of my parents and a few others, I would be gone already. Recently, at Michael's insistence, they took away my feeding tubes and I grew weaker, but I stubbornly survived until others in higher authority overruled the man I once trusted and loved. If I ever come out of this semi—comatose state, I will not forget those who cared enough to save me from a slow death by starvation. And I will long remember those who wrote my obituary.

"I've learned many things from this nightmarish experience, not the least of which is to be careful what you say in casual conversation, because it could become the stamp of approval on your death certificate. In addition, I learned that the most profound love in this world comes from the mother and father who gave you life; they will be the last holdouts in any attempt to take it away. Sadly, I never thought of life as being so valuable, undoubtedly because, like most people, I took it for granted. Perhaps that's why I might have made the remark attributed to me by my husband. If I get a second chance at life I'm going to spend it as the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves. Now that I know what it's like to lie dormant in front of the world and be compared to a vegetable, I will be the clarion call for everyone who has suffered my fate.'

Being still and silent should not be an excuse for the rest of the world to walk away. The true test of humanity is the love and care one gives to those who can't make it alone. Suppose you suddenly found yourself in a paralytic state, but with a conscious mind? How would you appeal to those who had control of your future? If we're lucky, we'll never know how maddening it must be to reach deep down into our souls and muster a plea for recognition, only to have it fail to reach the surface of the human dimension that is considered the standard test for normal life.

Try to imagine the excruciating struggle to make the slightest sound that might indicate to those who sit in judgment, that you deserve more time in your quest for tomorrow. Terri Schiavo's condition in that Clearwater, Florida hospital is symbolic of a much larger struggle for compassion in a country that has become increasingly callous and self—centered; a disposable society in which life has taken a back seat to comfort, and love is very often a questionable emotion. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com