Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Passion of Terri Schiavo

Published April 20, 2005

I wanted to write about Holy Week, but as we go to print, Terri Schiavo will be in day three of her court ordered death by starvation unless legislation to protect her life was passed last Friday. Most Christians recognize this to be the week before Easter when the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ is observed around the world by all of Christendom. However, I am saddened and sickened beyond reason. My sadness is for a stranger who in any other circumstance could be my sister or my daughter. Maybe in some mystical way, she is. It seems she is walking her own Calvary in a legal dispute.
I’ve received numerous requests for prayers for Terri Schiavo, the young disabled woman in Florida, who will die at the hands of a Florida court, by means of starvation and dehydration, commencing Friday March 18 at 1:00 PM. Handed a death sentence, yet innocent of any crime, Terri is guilty of being a disabled person. If she were a dog she’d get more consideration.
Terri Schiavo sustained a brain injury which has disabled her to the degree of those people who suffer from cerebral palsy. She is a warm person, fully aware of her surroundings, affections and dislikes. Somehow by a twist of fate and a team of lawyers working for her estranged husband, she has no voice and no protection in a land where protections are guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow Terri’s exposure to the outdoors, physical therapies to aid her speech and eating, and has even refused her dental care since 1995. As a result she has lost 5 teeth due to decay.
One judge court… ruled that she must die by starvation March 18 because her estranged husband wants her to die. This estranged man has a new common law wife and a couple of children with her, plus one emotionally estranged judge and a plethora of lawyers pitted against a grieving family who are begging the court’s mercy and protection over the life of their daughter. This is happening in the United States and in countries around the world. Without any further protective legislation being passed to protect the rights of the disabled, I am afraid it’s coming to a state near you.
Terri’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Schindler went before the Florida judge last week again, something they’ve been doing since Terri’s mysterious 1991 injury over disputes as to the nature and quality of her care. In what has become a rubber stamp denial of the Schindlers and their requests, one wonders if Judge Greer even reads the pleadings on behalf of Terri Schiavo. Judge Greer said that they could not give their daughter water or food when the feeding tube is removed at 1 PM. They could not bring her home to die. They could not assist or comfort her in any way. This judge has neither viewed video recordings of Terri nor allowed her presence in his court. He does not want to hear any more testimony from physicians who have petitioned the court on Terri’s behalf who claim that given the latest therapies, she will most likely be able to be rehabilitated to speak and eat on her own. The experts in the field testify in pleadings, that she will gain improvement in motor function if treatment is carried out as recommended. Her husband’s neglect is criminal in that regard. Terri’s room at the rehab facility is watched by an armed guard 24 hours a day at the expense of her husband so that no one interferes with the neglect of his wife.
In addition to her husband’s denial of reasonable medical care for her ongoing rehabilitation, the court has denied her religious freedoms by denying her reception of Holy Communion for the last 15 years, but as she dies, they will finally grant her reception of the final Sacraments. This was the only concession made to the Schindlers last week.
It will most likely take 10 days to two weeks for Terri Schiavo to die. The body shuts down painfully as it is starved and dehydrated. The lining of the stomach dries up, the mucous linings in the nasal passage becoming painfully dry and blood vessels burst due to lack of hydration. The internal organs wither away painfully and then finally after a long and agonizing process the heart and brain will cease to function.
This is not Nazi Germany or the Sudan, this is going to happen in Florida. No one wants to talk about it. You will not turn on the evening news to hear about it. In a politically correct world, you will not hear about Terri Schiavo because this sort of thing is happening across our land and has been happening with increasing steadiness in recent years. Hollywood glorified it gushingly in the movie “Million Dollar Baby”. Ironically, last week a very wealthy individual in Los Angeles offered Michael Schiavo one million dollars to back away from Terri’s death order and allow her family custodial care. Rejecting the offer, his stance is clear, he wants her dead, cremated and gone.
One should question whether Michael Schiavo is still a husband when he denies her family visitation, when he denies treatment her physicians recommend for her, when he denies her access to the outdoors and fresh air, when he will not allow his wife’s teeth to be cleaned. One would think it ceased when he took a common law wife and started another family.

This is murder of a handicapped person. The slope of euthanasia in this country is getting more slippery and the court is run amok. The precedent in this case is tragic. Disabled persons are losing their place, voice and personhood in this society. Terri Schiavo is a victim of the callousness of an estranged husband who wants her dead, an apathetic Judge and medical personnel who are willing to cooperate with whatever the court tells them to do.

Terri is that woman or man you see in a wheelchair or at school who has cerebral palsy. She could be your sister or your mother. Shame on Michael Schiavo & Judge Greer and anyone who believes this is sympathetic and compassionate.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

Monday, April 18, 2005

Farewell Papa!

Published April 18, 2005

As Catholics, watching the Pope hover near death and finally succumb was a painful experience. He was a member of our family. One tends to hold fast to those they love as they near the end of their journey on earth. My parish offered a solemn High Requiem Mass for the pontiff. Three local television stations covered it. It might as well have been my father in the catafalque. He was special. He was our “papa”. I’ve written extensively on my own experience and chance meeting with the Holy Father in 2001, one that I look back now as being miraculous due to the nature and circumstance of his schedule, my own insignificance and his declining health. The conclave commences today. I feel like an expectant child waiting for the Church to give birth to a new parent.
Vigorous in duty, diligent in suffering, faithful to the end, John Paul II left the earth on the eve of a Feast Day in the Church which was near and dear to his own heart, Divine Mercy Sunday. I watched the Poles in Krakow mourn their beloved father and I wished I could have been there with them. I saw in the faces of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square a gathering of sorrow and silent jubilation as they kept vigil through the night. I found it hard to sleep myself. I felt united to him in a spiritual way, unwilling to let go, “stay a little longer Holy Father and don’t leave us just yet”…he changed my life.
As a ‘cafeteria Catholic’ for many years, I sought to pick and choose what I wanted from my Faith and barely practiced what I had selectively believed to be true. John Paul II came on the scene as almost a dove in a tumultuous time of Church History and shook us out of our collective sleep. He challenged Catholics to armor themselves with the doctrine handed down from Christ and his Apostles and he made us look our Tradition in the face and embrace it. I suddenly fell in love with my Faith, returning to all the sacraments and devotions with greater fervor than before and finding myself in a position to defend my faith like never before. It was because of this strong and frail Shepherd, this beacon who lived the Gospel and took it around the earth 29 times, that I found myself proud to be a Roman Catholic.
When the scandal of clerical sexual abuse hit the Church recently, I remember many people, my friends including non-Catholics, say to me “see, how can you believe now?” It was simple. I believed in my Faith more than ever. I saw this as God cleaning house in His Church, and I supported it. The Church is filled with many sinners and many saints. It was time for the sinners to ante up. No secrets there. It was a relief. Perhaps opening the windows and letting in some fresh air would be just what the Church needed and how. He proved to us that no matter how hard the line would be there was no defectability in that which the Church held as inherently true, even if it meant his own pain and suffering. His life was a complete oblation of self. He shook up a confused and sleeping Church and rocked the geopolitical landscape like no other figure in the 20th century. Slowacki, the polish poet of the late 19th century prophesied his papacy 100 years before he was elected. Karol Wojtyla, a scholar, athlete, poet, actor, theologian, laborer, priest, bishop, cardinal and pontiff had one of the most impressive resumes in all of human history.
He was popular because he loved greatly and magnificently those whom the world deemed unlovable. He opened up the doors of Vatican City in a way no previous Pontiff had done in history. He wrote and wrote. He prayed and prayed. He suffered. In the end he left the world, dignified in his final agony and completely united to us. It’s hard to let him go. As the conclave begins today, speculations about the next pope are left to everyone outside the Sistine Chapel. Bells will toll when the new pope is elected and white smoke will rise through the streets of Vatican City. Like a dove, the new pontiff, unknown to us now, will step onto the world stage as the new Papa. How humble it will be to serve the Servants of God.
Farewell Karol, our papa. You showed us a higher way to live.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Grandpa

Published April 4, 2005

The kids and J.D. took Grandpa Pat for his 75th birthday to Pac Bell Park last Thursday to watch the A’s and Giants duke it out before baseball’s official season opener on Sunday. The traditional Bay rivalry is a sign that the season is upon us and Spring has sprung. Baseball is more than a sport, it’s a tradition that brings generations together where Grandpa, Dad and the kids can take their sides, cheer for their favorite players, enjoy junk food and the sounds of the park on a cool San Francisco evening. My kids went up to the attic to retrieve all their ballpark gear in case they catch a fly, and they cleaned out the car for Grandpa. They would do anything for ‘the Grandpa’. Grandpa Pat always sends them home with some little book, trinket or gift. ‘The Grandpa’ by his very nature is a generous soul.
I remember my Grandpa Chet taking us to a Giants game at Candlestick Park when I was little. He also enjoyed taking us to the San Francisco Zoo. They are the best memories I have with him. Just being in the car with him was a privilege. He made simple little excursions into adventures. He told us things that we thought were special secrets. He also gave us birthday spankings that sounded terrible but made us laugh ourselves silly. There wasn’t a single thing about Grandpa Chet that I can remember that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. He always had a treat in his pocket for us. He spoke to us an octave higher than he spoke to anyone else. It’s funny how grandparents worldwide in any language will take it up a whole octave when speaking to their grandchildren. He lived with us the last two years of his life as he battled cancer. He was small in stature but large in spirit. I would have done anything for him. He died when I was nine years old and 33 years later I still miss him terribly. The impression ‘the Grandpa’ makes on the life of his grandchildren is indelible.

My father’s metamorphosis into ‘the Grandpa’ was sudden and inexplicable. He has six grandkids and he treats them all like they are the only grandchild he has. He baby-sits my nephews for my sister & brother in law when they are both working and he plans his whole retirement around when “he gets to baby-sit” because he loves it and looks forward to it. He picks the kids up from school, makes sure they do their chores and homework and he talks to them about life. My daughter Birdy was visiting last week when ‘Pop-Pop’ babysat and she had a lot of ‘Pop’ stories when she came home from her visit. “Pop made us a great breakfast Mom! We had eggs and toast and Easter cake!” “You had what?” I said. “Yeah, he asked us what we wanted and we told him we wanted cake, ice cream, eggs and toast. He said it was no problem at all and we could have whatever we wanted”. How nice. She said it was the best breakfast she’d ever had. She couldn’t say enough about how great the eggs were that Pop made for her and her cousins. “They were the best eggs I ever had Mom.” I know they were the best because it was ‘The Grandpa’ that made them. Pop-Pop is ‘the bomb’ no matter where he is or what he does. He makes watering the lawn fun. He is more interesting than any teacher, including myself, that my kids ever had.
Next Pop-Pop took the kids to Aunt Tricia’s house and he had them pull all the weeds in her backyard while he worked on replacing her floors. The child who pitches a fit when she is asked to clean her own room had a ball pulling hundreds of weeds, picking lemons to make lemonade and helping out Pop-Pop. It was because ‘the Grandpa’ asked her to do it. There is no way that same child would happily pull any weeds at home. She’d do anything for ‘the Grandpa’. I understand why.
The pedestal that ‘the Grandpa’ stands on is very high. It’s so high no one can surmount it. The Grandpa speaks an octave higher to his grandchildren because the language that they speak is their own secret language and the parents have no ability to comprehend it. He is more tender to his grandchildren than he was to his own children because ‘the Grandpa’ is that mystery to grandchildren that stays alive in their hearts long into their adulthood. Everything ‘the Grandpa’ does is monumental and memorable. Like Peter Pan, ‘the Grandpa’, can mold the hearts and minds of the grandchild like no other by the compliments they give, the affirmations they impart and the love they bestow on their grandchildren. When he talks, they listen and everything he says is the most important thing in the world. I know because I get a full report of it when they return to tell me all about it. ‘The Grandpa’ beats out all the majors, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny by virtue of his being ‘the Grandpa’. It’s no more a mystery than a fact of life.
I look forward to the day when J.D. gets to be ‘the Grandpa’. I’ll be sure to send food and water up the pedestal. I’m sure I’ll need a 30 foot ladder.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at