Freedom of the next life
SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura () - April 1, 2006 - 12:00am
The question of death is with me again.
It’s because I watch too much American TV. On the Today show, they were interviewing Michael Schiavo. Many years ago when he and his wife, Terri, were newly married, they went to visit an uncle of hers who was paralyzed by a stroke and had turned into a vegetable. On the train trip home, Terri told Michael, "If that ever happens to me, make sure I die. Don’t make me live that way. Promise you won’t make me live that way." So, he claims, he promised.

After a few years Terri did have a terrible stroke that turned her into a vegetable. She couldn’t even close her mouth, could not talk, could not do anything. But none of them – not her husband or her family – found the courage to tell the hospital not to feed her anymore. To keep her alive, they had to feed her through a tube. After two years Michael found a new mate, Jodi, a good friend, who even helped him take care of his sick wife. She did the laundry for Terri. There were three of them in the relationship, Jodi claimed. Finally, after many years, Michael wanted to let go of his wife, but her parents would not let him.

Many things must have happened over time. The government had released enough money to fund her expenses but over time the money was running out and Michael filed a petition to get the court to give him consent to discontinue feeding her through the tube. I think more than 10 years passed. Two years ago, he finally got the Supreme Court’s consent to discontinue the feeding. Within 13 hours, Terri died. Two years later he has written a book entitled Terri, where one assumes he has told his story.

This has raised a few questions for me. First, if the feeding were to be continued, then the lady’s body would be kept alive. That’s all. Apparently, she was brain-dead. Is a live body with a dead brain really alive? That is a provocative question. I don’t think so. But then, if the feeding were to be discontinued, then the body would die and Terri would be gone forever. But she was gone anyway, only her body remained. For all you know her soul was caught somewhere, unable to fly because of these efforts to keep it bound to her body.

If they allowed him to stop feeding her, then they would be setting her soul free. She would fly into the next life, free at last. In this world, Michael would be free at last to formally marry Jodi, his second wife, who by this time had borne him two children. But that freedom is limited by the values here on earth. People where they lived had begun to disapprove of their life together. All sorts of judgments would weigh their lives down. Freedom for Terri in another world may be a better situation. There, she would be free of her body – her weight, her mouth that would not close, her eyes that would not see. Who wants them? She would be free of all her physical travails. She would finally be free at last.

Death to me is a comfort, a release from the chains of the world. I did not always feel this way. When I was young and bearing children, I feared death. I remember being very afraid when I went to give birth to my second child. What if I died? Who would take care of my first daughter? How would she grow up? Would she fall into hands that would not love her the way I knew only I could? It was worse for the third and the fourth child as the number of children grew. But I lived and could raise them, not perfectly, but the best way I knew how. Now they are so independent. Now I can die.

Now I think of death as the best ticket to the most wonderful place to be. It’s like, you press a button and off you fly and you feel it suddenly, what freedom really means. As you look at the earth fading away, you feel the chains dissolving too. Goodbye, my beloved children and grandchildren, beloved friends and even enemies. You were everything to me once and now I feel you disappearing into nothing as I too begin to become everything I ever was but at the same time become nothing again. Goodbye.

Ah, my sweet fantasies about death, and yet I am still alive. I have recovered excellently from my stroke. I wonder still why I didn’t die. Maybe it’s because there are more things I must learn, must do, must teach, every day. And once in a while I must pause to consider when the question of death comes to visit me again.
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