Wednesday, March 23, 2005

HOORAY FOR MAHA. She has gone and said what I have been thinking for the past day or so now, but was too chicken to say:

This is going to sound very cold, I realize, but it's the honest truth: I was reading the umpteenth news story quoting poor Mrs. Schindler pleading for somebody to step in and "save" her daughter, and a wave of pure, unadulterated annoyance swept over me. I suspect I am not alone.

The Schindlers have had the Florida governor and legislature at their disposal for the past several years, and now the United States Congress and the President have taken unprecedented steps to intervene in their little family drama. Today the Schindlers are shopping federal courts to find one that will give them what they want. I don't watch much television news, but I bet the Schindlers are on somewhere on cable nearly 24/7.

I don't know what percentage of Americans have watched a hospitalized love one die, or what percentage have dealt with heartbreaking questions about DNR orders, life support, organ transplants, etc. I suspect that a whopping majority of people over the age of 40 have been there and done that. And, nearly always, these decisions are made quietly and privately. It doesn't occur to most people to make a federal case out of their grief.

How many of these Americans are looking at the Schindlers and thinking, who the hell do you think you are? How many are thinking, I loved my baby, my child, my wife, my father just as much, but I could let them go without setting the whole country in an uproar.

I kind of hinted at my feelings when I went on about how I wished Terri Schiavo's parents could let go and see what a travesty this is, but then I backed off. I really do fault the Republican leadership, Tom DeLay and the Bushes more, because they are not emotionally involved; and their actions and behavior in this case have been pure partisan exploitation of a personal tragedy for political purposes. But, that said, I have been having exactly the same thoughts as Maha, in almost the same words. "Do they think they're the only parents in the world who have lost a child?" (or are about to). "Do they think they are more important than other parents who have lost a child?"

I happen to be one of that "whopping majority of people over the age of 40" whom Maha suspects have watched a loved one die. My first child, a girl named Abigail Laura, had Tay-Sachs disease (a rare inherited genetic disorder most common among Jews of Eastern European origin). She was dying from the moment she was conceived, although her dad and I didn't know it until she was almost a year old. From that point until she was 3 years, 9 months old, we knew she was going to die and watched it happen, slowly and painfully.

There was no issue with Abigail of ending life support, because the end was a certainty for her. Tay-Sachs is 100 percent fatal, usually before the age of 5. But she was born as the result of a medical error (my now ex-husband and I were both carriers, but he was tested when I was pregnant and the results came back saying he was not a carrier), and although we did our best to take legal action, we did not involve Congress, the governor, or the President of the United States; and we did not turn our private grief into a federal case (literally).

I really, really do still feel enormous compassion for the Schindlers. I know that this kind of grief can be so overwhelming that it makes you a little crazy. But I still wish, as healthy adults, that they could get a grip and stop being so self-indulgent (at Terri Schiavo's expense, in my view).

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