Monday, June 07, 2010


When We Think We Know...

Whatever notoriety this blog may claim to possess, which isn't much, came largely in the overwhelming expression of public sentiment in the the last days of Terri Schiavo. One of the great sadnesses of my life is how quickly that has faded. I think the essential insolubility of the problem makes people very emotional, but very unwilling to do the hard work. And yet, data about the issue continues to roll in.

Joe Carter reports at First Things about a new study:
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that five of fifty-four patients thought to be in a persistent vegetative state showed brain activity indicating awareness, intent and, in at least one case, a wish to communicate.
I think the rapidness with which the Schiavo mania faded is reflective of the same underlying emotional stuff that makes us so rapidly "write-off" those of diminished capacity in all its forms.

I note it in the varied reactions of many to my mother as she increasingly fades into the nothingness of senile dementia. Those around her can be be pretty easily divided into two schools - those that see only the remaining physical hull and those that still see my mother. I am of the later school. My mother is ever harder to access in that fading vessel, but she remains there. Yes, I have to work harder and harder to access what remains, but it does remain.

Those less willing to work as hard do so out of a complex mix of personal and emotional reasoning. They know of the very sacrificial nature of my parents and their lack of desire to ever burden anyone so they justify their willingness to leave her behind as "honoring her wishes." They are busy people with problems all their own and they feel overwhelmed by the hard work necessary to access what is left of my mother. Each encounter with my mother requires a bit of mourning as she inches, every so slowly, to her death - many simply want to avoid that unpleasantness. And finally many do not want to be confronted with their own inevitable fates. I can describe these feeling because I know them intimately and experience them daily.

And then I reflect on my Lord - a Lord confronted with a people perfectly happy in their fallen state - a people that did not wish to be wish to be saved, and yet he died in precisely that effort. I think of a Lord, covered in sweat and blood through the intensity of His desire to be saved from the great sacrifice that awaited Him, begging His heavenly Father not to have to do it. I think of Him carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and allowing those without the power to do so, to nail Him to it.

I see Him, from that cross, reaching out to the tiny, inaccessible shred of life that dwells deep inside each of the dead and dying sinners of the world and pulling that life forward.

When a Lord will do that, how can I stand by and not make the very minor sacrifices necessary to access what life remains in my mother or a Terri Schiavo? Joe Carter is correct when he writes:
Last November I wrote that when future generations judge our era, one of the areas where they’ll likely be aghast is our treatment of those who we regard as lacking consciousness.
Though I think "aghast" is too gentle a word - "appalled" works much better.

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