Some say there is no greater pain than a parent losing a child. So imagine watching for weeks as your disabled child is deliberately and slowly killed. Her excruciating death is by neglect – failing to feed or give her water. Any parent who stood by and allowed that to happen would be criminally charged and excoriated by the media and every decent person.
But what if you were forbidden to help her? And what if a judge even ordered police to arrest anyone who put even a drop of water on her lips?
March 31st marks the anniversary of Terri Schindler Schiavo’s excruciating death by dehydration. Despite the vote of every U.S. senator, passionate pleas by congressmen, and President Bush flying halfway across the country to sign a law to help Terri, judges ordered that this innocent woman be killed.
Throughout it all, as the world watched, Terri’s family – who deserved to be angry at this cruelty and injustice – exhibited profound faith. Less than an hour after Terri’s heart stopped beating, in an extraordinary display of Christ-like humility, her brother Bobby faced the TV cameras and spoke to all who had clamored for her death.
Did he lash out at them, calling them to account for the suffering they had caused? No.
Did he, out of mercy, state that he had forgiven them? No.
In one of the most breath-taking – and nearly inconceivable – displays of Christian submission, he asked for forgiveness. He asked forgiveness if he or his family had caused offense to anyone.
Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Few of us have faced the pain and injustice that Terri’s family faced. Even so, we can be dearly tempted to nurse grudges as we confront unrighteousness.
The Schindlers, however, lived out the key trait for a pure heart. Forgiveness freed them from the stranglehold of bitterness and despair. It gave them strength to continue on to help others, which they have done through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation.
Sadly, the cruelty continues. Just days before the fifth anniversary of Terri’s death, the FOX TV show “The Family Guy” aired a vulgar episode mocking Terri and others with cognitive disabilities. This reaching-down-to-the-depths-of-depravity was met with an outpouring of support for the Schindler family.
Terri and her family have touched many lives. We won’t forget her. And her story is not complete without remembering the Schindlers’ powerful example of Christ’s love.