Beneath a picture of Terry Schiavo, who was allowed to die a few years back, in a sad case of euthanasia, Teh Binks writes of his own lesson learned with another allowed to die. Her name was May, and Teh Binks . . . well, this is his story:
~ ON VEGGIES & JESUS– In terms of our insane news-cycle, murdered sick lady Terri Schiavo (who was sick & brain-damaged, neither vegetative nor brain-dead) is now back there somewhere in the dusty archives alongside the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
However, the ongoing threat to sick & disabled folk, the nuisance elderly and suchlike (which is why I make merciless ironical mock about feebs, crips, tards, veggies and such) are never more under threat than as time passes, and the will to protect them corrodes. Never mind unfriendly inlaws wanting to speed granny to the hereafter so they can grab what they’re after– as the 2000’s continue, it’s hard to get decent treatment in some places without being neglected or bumped off by hospitals.
Binks, CowardThe Terri Schiavo's and May's of this world are the little ones that Jesus warned us not to mess with, telling us that what we do to them, we do to Him. So, when we look upon a Terri or a May, we must remember that we are looking at the face of our Saviour and Lord, that their fragility mirrors his own. at his birth in Bethlehem. God, have mercy on our souls for our perfidy, but above all grant eternal rest unto those who are made to die because of our impatience with life.
I came across a lot of these hard cases myself during training and parish pastoring. I met a lady named May in a local hospital, who after here massive stroke was (I was told) ‘brain dead’.. who’d been stuck in the left to die ward. Following the principle of doing unto others, and that a person’s soul may be ‘awake’ and able to receive grace, even when a coma or apparent unresponsiveness was the case, I always prayed with and for such folks, some of whom were abandoned by relatives. I’d also chat with them about weather, what day it was, and such ordinary stuff.
Each time I prayed with and for May– every time– I noticed that she wept. I also noted that her pale blue eyes followed me if I moved about the bed, or entered and left the room. That wasn’t exactly the behaviour of a ‘vegetable’, but of someone debilitated with a stroke, yet still conscious, and somewhat aware of herself and her surroundings, not to mention other people. Like Terri Schiavo.
I started to ask her questions, using a “one blink for yes, two blinks for no” system– and as a test, I’d ask her about things around her. If it were sunny, for example, I’d ask her “Is it cloudy today, May?” Two Blinks. Or, “Have I visited here before, May?” One blink. “May, are you in your own home, right now?” Two blinks. “Are you hungry, May?” One blink. Using that simple system, we had great long conversations, simply based on her yes/no answers.
“May, do you want me to tell your family about our conversations?”
One very deliberate blink. Pause. Another very deliberate blink. Pause. Another very deliberate blink. Then tears.
She was aware, trapped, afraid, being talked about by family and medical staff (who probably knew better) as if she were already dead. May was also being deliberately starved to death. Unfed. To feeding tube, nothing except a mouth-swab to keep her mouth dry. After all, she was a vegetable, right? No brain activity. An unperson, safely to be disposed of.
Based on her decision, I wrote a note to her family, and left it on her bedside table.
Dear WXYZ Family:
May is not brain-dead. I’ve been able to have conversations with herover the last few days, using blinks, and yes/no answers. She is aware!
Please check with your doctors, and consider a feeding-tube. She says she is hungry, and afraid. I can help you to talk to her, so you can see for yourselves.
ABCD, Pastoral Care Student Minister
A day later, I got called up on the Hospital carpet, and threatened with immediate flunking & expulsion from the program if I continued to visit this patient or “harrass and upset” her family. That day, I chose the coward’s way.
One Less Nuisance
So dear May died– I’m ashamed to say– without any more visits from me, nor food & help from the hospital, nor understanding by her family.. unless they did know and wished her death, no matter what might be possible.
Since then, I had thousands more encounters with hospitals and similar policies, and always told people to fight for the right, presumed the patient in question could hear and was aware, and told the families to always assume so. I also always prayed for and with them, and gave them holy communion as well– the merest crumb of wine-soaked sacrament, whether they were on their way to a brighter and eternal shore, or on the way to recovery.
I’d check with often puzzled families on this: “If PQRS were awake, would they normally receive holy communion?” If affirmative, I’d also add– well, their mind may be asleep, but their soul is awake, and you never know if they can hear us or not– it will be a blessing, a healing, and give them spiritual and physical strength.”
For each one is precious; death and life are God’s business; and the mind and soul and body are still mysteries far above any science or medicine to define, or hospital bureaucrat or death-culture expert to commodify or redefine.
I’m so abidingly and deeply sorry, dear May, my sister in Christ– but your life was not wasted, nor your sad and lonely death. This article? One more gift from you to the wider world; a voice for you who had lost yours and been finally silenced forever by a cruel system, and uncaring and misunderstanding people.
Perhaps– according to the infinite mercies of God, and our hope of salvation, if I am not cast away unto eternal death, then we may both rejoice together– and freely talk about all this– in that bright and evergreen land prepared by God for those who love him, where with risen and deathless bodies we may laugh and dance and sing, for death and sin and pain and tears shall be no more.
And may God have mercy on our blood-stained society, for Terri, and May, and all the rest.
A few prayers for May and all such:
Jesus saith.. “I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” St John 11. 25, 26.
Rest eternal grant unto her, O God, and may light perpetual shine upon her. Amen.
O ALMIGHTY God, the God of the spirits of all flesh: Multiply, we beseech thee, to those who rest in Jesus, the manifold blessings of thy love, that the good work which thou didst begin in them may be perfected unto the day of Jesus Christ. And of thy mercy, O heavenly Father, grant that we, who now serve thee here on earth, may at the last, together with them, be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light; for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.