Thursday, March 24, 2005

Let His Will Be Done

I tried to avoid posting anything about Terri Schiavo and her tragic story here. Primarily because it has very deep and personal parallels for me. So much so that even trying to explain my position and the reasons behind it brings me to tears. Still, I find that I must say something. Maybe because so many others are commenting and it's difficult for me not to express my opinion.

I have spoken of my Mother's family before. My Mother had five sisters. Three of whom I was very close. Aunt Lois was the oldest sister, she died of breast cancer in the early 80's. Aunt Faye is the sister next to my Mom, she still lives in Anniston. I haven't seen her in years but she holds a special place in my heart. Aunt Ruby was the youngest child and sister. Aunt Ruby was a beauty (in a Susan Hayward kind of way). She was smart, funny, and the sweetest woman you'd ever want to know. Even when she broke ranks with the other sisters and married a damn yankee she was still the apple of everyone's eye. They lived up north so we didn't get to see much of her but when we did it was a BIG family reunion. Ruby was our family's princess. In Febuary of 1989 we got a call from her oldest son,that she had been in a bad car accident and the family needed to come right away. By the time my Mom, Grandmother and other aunts arrived, she was out of surgery, in a coma and on a respirator. They were all in shock. My Mother said she looked so normal. Except for a few cuts and brusies. The next morning they were all there when the doctor made his rounds. Mawmaw and the aunts had plenty of questions. Would she recover? If she did would she ever be normal? The doctor said, the prognosis wasn't good. It was unlikely she would ever come out of the coma, and if she did she would most likely be a vegetable . Still, (his words) miracles do happen and it was too soon to give up hope. Exhausted they all left, went to a nearby hotel to get some rest. Later that afternoon, Aunt Faye called the hospital to get an update and was told "we can't give that information out over the phone". Fearing the worst they quickly dressed and rushed to the hospital. To their shock and grief they were told she had passed. As they were leaving one of the nurses followed them to the elevator and told them, Ruby had not passed, her husband had ordered her respirator disconnected. As her husband he and he alone had that right. Without so much as talking to her family or their sons, he had her taken off life support.
Later after her funeral her sons told them what has transpired. They (the boys) had been taking turns sitting with her talking to her, when the doctor had come by to check on her, their Dad had called him aside. They appeared to be arguing, the doctor shaking his head, but their Dad was standing his ground. Finally they heard him say, "I am her husband and it's MY decision!" The doctor shook his head and walked away. A few minutes later the nurses came over to her bed and began the process of disconnecting her from her life support. When they boys objected their Dad told them, "Look she's dead. It's over. I'm not having her be some vegtable." Then he walked out. Leaving her devastated sons and family to deal with his decision.
We will never know what kind of recovery she might have made. We do know for certain that as a nurse Ruby had seen this situation many times and more than once she had said "don't ever let anyone disconnect me unless there is no hope of a recovery". Yes, her husband said different. What else would he say? Why would he do such a thing? Was it true grief? Was it because he didn't want to see his beautiful Ruby reduced to something much less than the living breathing woman he loved? Or was it the huge insurance policy he had on her. Or the lawsuit he later won because the accident had involved a truck for a major trucking company? Of course we can't know what was on his mind that day.
What I do know is that her family would have loved to have had one, five, ten or even fifteen more years in which to love and care for the Ruby we loved. Even if she had become a vegetable. And I'd fight you to the death today if you tried to make me starve her. You can bet I would. If that makes me wrong. Then I don't want to be right.

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