by Christendom College Junior John Jalsevac for LifeSiteNews.com
On a chilly Friday March 11 at 9:30pm, I, along with twenty of my school-mates from Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, boarded a chartered bus to join twenty members of the Baltimore-based organization Defend Life. Our general destination was Tampa Florida; but this particular journey to the sunny state was no vacation. Our specific destination was Woodside Hospice, where Terri Schiavo is currently awaiting her court-ordered execution by starvation and dehydration, scheduled to begin on March 18.
A rally in support of Terri was scheduled for the day following our departure and it was our determined goal to arrive in time to add our small numbers to that rally. As Chrissy Walsh, the student-organizer of the trip said to me afterwards, going that distance for Terri Schiavo’s life was the most natural thing in the world. “It was the most that we possibly could do, to be able to know that we did the most, and to be able to say for the rest of our lives that we were there”, said Walsh.
Enthusiastic but unsure of what to expect, we made the sixteen hour bus-trip, and, having neither the time to eat nor shower, a bedraggled group of college students stumbled stiffly and sorely into the heat of Tampa Florida the following afternoon. Our first reaction was disappointment. Our eyes were greeted by a straggling crowd whose numbers barely exceeded three-hundred (hardly sufficient support, it seemed, for what is being called the Roe V. Wade of euthanasia). The core of this group huddled around a raised platform. As the various speakers approached the microphone a young girl stood behind them in the hot sun, holding up a large carved crucifix.
A local-woman privately gave voice to her disappointment. At the rally the year before, she said, the road outside the hospice had been packed. Cars were unable to drive down the street then, but no such problem existed on this particular Saturday afternoon. However, undeterred, both Christendom and Defend Life slapped on the sunscreen and settled in to listen to the speeches and to pray. For the first time we all felt, simply by being in such close proximity to her, a unique intimacy with Terri that will certainly never leave us and will long haunt us if the crime of her execution begins this Friday.
Cassidy Bugos, one of my fellow students, mentioned to me at one point, “I
still cannot think or believe that Terri’s feeding tube is going to be removed on Friday. And even if they do remove it, surely someone will see her suffering and will stop it.” Standing in front of Terri’s hospice, together with her family and friends, brought home the brutal reality that this was not so, that only some people feel as we do.
Upon picking out Terri’s parents from the crowd I was immediately struck by the exhaustion evident in their faces. Both spoke convincingly of their faith in the positive outcome of their daughter’s welfare; but it was clear that the several years’ battle has taken much out of them.
Later, when I talked with Terri’s brother, Bobby, I asked him how he and his family manage to maintain hope. Without a beat he indicated the crowd with a sweep of his hands. “They give me hope,” he said, “And Terri keeps me going…she is fighting so hard from where she is.” He also mentioned the recent fax from Mel Gibson, offering his support to the Shindlers, as evidence to how wide-spread is the support for Terri.
Offering a different perspective on the turn-out, Chrissy Walsh observed, “the fact that there were so few of us made that hope all the more powerful.” Indeed, like Gideon of the Old Testament fighting against the overwhelming forces of the Midianites, those three hundred attendees at the rally formed a powerful and formidable army; extraordinary dedication to Terri is what brought them to Woodside Hospice that day. All that remained behind to fight were Terri’s truest friends. One woman by the name of Mary LaFrancis told me that this was the third time she had driven from Iowa, by herself; she is set to turn seventy at the end of this month.
The following day all twenty-one Christendom students and the members of Defend Life travelled around Tampa in the rented tour bus. With a youthful energy we went about finding church parking lots and leaving pro-Terri leaflets on all the cars, exhorting the congregations to take action and to prevent the injustice being committed against Terri, confident that we were doing our little part.
Just like the previous day, there were conflicting impressions. On several occasions pastors or ushers came out of the churches and, despite the benign content of the flyers, firmly asked us to leave. One Catholic priest made the enigmatic statement that ‘his parishioners weren’t ready’ to be confronted with Terri’s case. On several occasions I spoke with parishioners who were adamantly against the Schindler’s. Upon asking one gentleman to pray for Terri he retorted: “Yes, I’ll pray, that her parents let her go to heaven.” Another woman said to me with frustration: “Oh, I’m sick and tired of hearing about the whole thing.”
It soon became painfully clear to us that, at the very least, the locals had almost completely given up on Terri and had chosen to forget her. Indeed, her very own bishop refuses to speak up for fear of God knows what. How discouraging this all was to us! Chrissy quipped to me in exasperation: “The nation has lost interest; the media has lost interest. This woman may very well die because of our country’s short attention span.”
But hope is not lost. At the very least we twenty-one students and all those who attended the rally outside the hospice, are determined that this must not be so. We have already exhorted our fellow students at Christendom College, sharing with them our moving experiences, encouraging them to greater fervor in prayer as well as political action. We are determined that Terri Shiavo must not die on account of her country’s short attention span.
In the midst of all the media attention given to this high-profile case a reality has been lost and it must be recovered. To our opposition this reality does not exist or matter; indeed, for them this fight is about little more than an ideology. And although this is also about an ideology for pro-lifers—the ideology of life—so too is it about much more than that: Terri Schiavo will die a slow and painful death unless we do something about it. A human life will be taken; and we know that a human life is more precious than anything in existence.
Hope is not lost as long as men and women of good will do not remain silent. Visit http://www.terrisfight.org now to find out how you can make a difference and do it!
See John Jalsevac’s other LifeSiteNews.com story on the Schiavo protest
Recovered “Vegetative State” Patient Kate Adamson Speaks Before Schiavo Rally
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