Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hope: I write today on hope.

Hope can spark wondrous achievements that might seem improbable as it spurns defeatism, and nurtures ambition. It helps us, during our dark days, to pull out a glimmer, a glimmer of hope, and strive onwards, against even daunting odds. If not for hope, why would any of the Jews, who were put in concentration camps, not have immediately ended their lives, in the face of what was being done to their bretheren? They held on, using hope and its cousin, faith, believing that they would make it out, to perhaps see their loved ones who by some other small miracle, might too have found a way to hold on and walk out of those damned gates.

Hope, on a smaller stage, keeps a baseball team working its hardest in the face of a losing slump, believing that if the players just keep plugging, and a little luck thrown their way, their season can be salvaged.

Hope is indeed a wonderful attribute. However, there comes a point when hope turns. When a dreamed-of salvation creates a wildly distorted reality, and desperation and delusion sets in. See, hope cannot be abused, nor can it be used as a substitute for substance. Hope is just a feeling; it cannot, by itself, make day into night, or death into life.

I speak now of the Schiavo family, who for so long, used hope as their watchword. Hope that their faith would endure and turn what was deemed by so many (doctors, judges, reporters) to be a dire, unwinnable situation, into one that was a triumph of the human will and spirit.

But, Terri's brain was half what it used to be. It was so irretrievably damaged, that it had to preserve of itself what it could, in order that it might survive. That meant shutting down the very portion of our mind that generates and stores our hope. It had to only use what little power it had left to keep the heart pumping, the lungs breathing. It had to sacrifice its most awesome function, the ability to dream, to laugh, even to see, so that its host, which had carried it all these years, could survive; not "live" mind you, but survive. The brain, for all its wonder, knows no other way. It is a primitive device at its very core. To sustain itself, hope had to be abandoned.

Terri's parents and siblings, because they loved what Terri had once been, refused to see what she had become. Their hope did not whither, did not die. But their hope could not restore Terri's brain. In short, their hope was not transferable. Once hope is gone, it is often said, you might as well be dead. Nonetheless, their vigil was admirable, but by the end, their simple act of faith had been turned into a shouting point for various interest groups. When Terri finally passed, the family clung to that hope, insisting that a horrible mistake had been made.

Unfortunately, even today, after the report of the independent and respected pathologists, the Schiavo family has not given up their hope, even though all hope is truly lost. I do not wish to deny them their memories or their faith. I don't wish to besmirch their great, great love for their daughter, sister, niece. But, what the doctors and judges had said these many years, is now shown to be conclusively true. This is beyond politics, beyond those ingrates with their signs, using Terri as a polarizing force.

What she truly wanted may never be known. And true, there was no particular harm in letting her body live, even as her mind has died. But to still suggest that she was a reactive, emoting, thinking being is simply beyond the pale. Unfortunately, there were no miracles for Terri. Accept that she died a decade ago. Grieve. Cry. Laugh. Remember. But let her go. Let hope for Terri go. There are other people who need it now.

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