Thursday, March 10, 2005

Just remember to let me go home

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.

(Apocrypha, Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4 (NRSV))
I'm not a "hot-button preacher," and I've never been a Fox-News let's-find-a-hip-topic-and-argue-about-it kind of guy. So even though tons of ink, quintillions of bytes and all kinds of hyperbole have been spilled over the issue of a woman on life support in Florida, I've tried to stay away from that topic.

I still am. The fact is, there's no answer for the family and friends of Terri Schiavo. Her plight has been politicized to the point where all people can do is shout words like "Murderer!" and "Torturer!" at each other, and the only people benefitting from the circus are the lawyers and the media/pundit cartels. They are picking at the carcass in a way that would make vultures look like Disney characters, and "being right" means winning the battle. :::sigh:::

Wednesday night, the Chicago Tribune posted this article, saying how more medical tests are required "to determine if she has more mental activity than previously thought." So now, scientists, doctors, and theologians start again the wicked battle to define how dead you have to be in order to be allowed to die. And, perhaps the most chilling sentence I've read in a while is at the end of the article: "In Washington, Rep. Dave Weldon and Sen. Mel Martinez, both Republicans from Florida, introduced legislation Tuesday that would require that incapacitated people be represented by their own attorneys."

(We won't even touch the whole Republicans-from-Florida issue. That's just too cheap a shot, even for me.) But here's my battle cry:

You mean I'm going to need an attorney in order to die, for cryin' out loud?

Not me. Not gonna play that game - and I'm here to declare it publicly.

I do not hold with the idea that because you can keep my brain alive (even though there's no way for your thoughts to get in, or my thoughts to get out), that somehow you should do so, anyway.

This is not about Dr. Kervorkian or the Hemlock Society or "physician assisted suicide." This is not even about quality of life. It's facing life (and its end) as a very mortal, very human being and person of faith.

In December 1990, I was only having the occasional thoughts of suicide. But if you had killed me at that time, I would have welcomed it as a mercy killing. God gave me a second shot at life - and several since then. To be honest, I've had more than fourteen years "in the bonus round." So if I were to have a heart attack or stroke tonight, and it were to paralyze me such that I couldn't eat, drink, or communicate in any way, I'd still be one of the most amazingly blessed men I know.

If I have lost the ability to feed and hydrate myself...if I have lost the ability to communicate, and share what God has given me with the world...then I don't care what my EEG or EKG or any-other-G tests say. If the only way you are keeping me alive is by technology and the intervention of man, then my life is already over. Period.

Which brings me back to this passage from the 3rd chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon. Biblical scholars will argue about whether this is "Scripture" or not; I won't even go there. But this beautiful passage, read aloud at my mother's memorial service by a sensitive priest, reminds me that in a community of faith, death is truly only a disaster to those who are left behind.

If as a result of accident, sickness, or trauma, you find me unable to draw breath, sustenance, water, or share my experience strength and hope with others, then I would ask you to just "let me go home." Just stop fighting the inevitable, and let me go home. Please don't fight over trying to keep me here...

...because I'm bound for better things.


tom g said...

hey steve...
didn't know i was able to leave a comment here...
anyway, keep up the good words, friend... it's good to hear what's stewing in your brain...
-tom g.

Mitch said...

I think they're afraid of death, regretful about life or some combination thereof.

We can keep everyone alive by machine and occasionally one will come back. Isn't that worth the effort?

I'm with you Steve. Let me go home. Haven't I earn that? But, you'll come back if they ask you to; for others you'll come back. For God you'll give it one more go.

Amy said...

You said, "If the only way you are keeping me alive is by technology and the intervention of man, then my life is already over. Period."

Steve, have you ever taken an antibiotic?

Does your mother have a pace-maker?

Just wondering...