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The Dance

Long time readers to this site will have noticed that I’ve been somewhat more … how do I say this… In pain, I guess is the best way to say it.  This last week has been particularly painful for my family.  I’ve not said anything about it on BitsBlog, though I did make mention in the comments section of one post, but here it is;

Amongst all the legal fights of the Shaivo case …. and I think I’ve made my position relative to that case very clear… we have been dealing with another, more personal tragedy. My Mother-in-Law died on Friday evening at age 81… nearly 82; Her birthday would have been early next month.  Her problem was as I’ve said in these spaces, a lot like Terry Shaivo’s… a stroke.  Several, actually, over a period between the end of January, and Good Friday.

She was aware long enough to know that we’d managed to find a home for George, her dog. [1] He managed to get placed just a few days ago, now. Penny Angels will be getting another check from us shortly. When told about it, Mom couldn’t speak, however.

Next day, things got worse… much worse. She suffered an even larger stroke. She was wheeled down to the MRI machine. That scan and the PET that followed, both showed no hope of recovery to any sort of consiousness even up to the point where Terry Shaivo had before she had HER feeding tube removed. 

At that point, the feeding tube was removed, per her written wishes, and we were forced to back and watch. And we waited, in the midst of the storm, for the inevitable 3am phone call.  And we watched the news, while we waited.  And we cried. And I started considering the situations here and in Florda, both indivdially and compartively.

Two similar stuations at the surface, Terry, and Donna’s Mom, but two very different situations under the surface. Mom was much worse off than Terry Shaivo, and, unlike the Florida case, Mom had signed a living will directing our actions… tying our hands, pretty much.  So, that made the questions one always asks themselves in these situations a little easier to deal with, but not much. Questions I have yet to answer. Oddly, they’re the same questions I asked when my Dad died about 5 years back, now, under similar conditions.  I didn’t manage to answer them then, either, I’m afraid.

Questions like, “What is the point that life begins and ends”?
“Did we do everything we could do?”
“What will we do without her?”
Along, of course, with a few hundred other questions, that I’ve not found words for yet.

At no time, however, did anyone ever ask, “When’s that bitch gonna die?”, as Michial Shaivo repeatedly did. That is, to say the very least, a jarring difference. The conclusions one is forced to draw from such a comment can only lead in one direction; The speaker is not acting out of love. But the legal system as we all know, tends often to get in the way of loving people and tends toward those acting on the letter of the law. The law suffers from having no understanding of love.

The difference, I think, is the ability to hear the music; they’re just going through the motions of life. That would seem a rather odd thing to say in such a comparison, I guess.  It’s really not, though the connection is going to take a few minutes to explain to you. I beg you, hear me out.

There’s an old story I was reminded of again today by a dear freind… A story I’m going to take in a slightly different direction.  It’s the story of a man and his wife. The husband is no dancer, and nearly prides himself on this point.  The wife in this couple really wants to go out dancing as she did in her youth, but the husband is ill equipped for the task, and so declines. They go back and forth for years on the issue until one day, when the husband sends away for a dance instruction manual. The manual comes, as it happens, with footprints you lay out on the floor so as to learn the steps.  He struggles with the process of getting the moves down pat, and then calls his wife, and shows her, step by step, the dance he’s learned. He runs through his routine, and proudly asks his wife “What do you think?”

His wife, incredulous, states her case: “It stinks”.
“What?” says the husband, “I executed the steps flawlessly!”
“Executed”, says his wife, “is the word. You KILLED it. You’re just going through the motions… You’ve negletcted the one thing that the dance weas about…. there’s no MUSIC!”

That’s what leaps out at me today, as I watch the situation of Terry Shaivo, and as I work to keep myself and my family afloat in the tidal wave of emotion surrounding the death of my mother-in-law, and as I deal with the inevitable comparison of those two events. (I suppose one in my situation would need to be dead not to watch the news and be forced to draw comparisons.)

A lot of us are so wrapped up in the legalise surrounding the Shaivo case, and in getting all the legal dance steps right, we’ve forgotten there’s soemthing much larger than the law… We’ve forgotten that the government is supposed to be the servant of the culture, not the reverse… that what the argument is all about…. is a life.

It is written that in hell there will be nothing but law and government. Certainly, these seem on the surface to have won the day in the Shaivo case. The ones banking so heavily on the law and calling for an end to Terry Shaivo’s life, I fear, cannot hear the music. They’ve got all the legal steps down right, they’ve got all the I’s dotted at the T’s crossed, but they don’t understand… don’t have the foggiest idea, why they’re dancing. And that to my mind is nearly as tragic as the death of Terry Shaivo itself.

It seems to me appropriate that Easter Sunday is when these thoughts all gel… since in reality what we’re celebrating today is the removal of the consequences of the law, by the one who came to fufill it. I will leave to the reader the task of sorting out the implications of that statement; there is far more behind it that it would appear.

Of my mother in law, I will so no more here than this;

When I first met her, the axoim about the mother being an example of the girl you’re interested in marrying in 20 or 30 years, was ringing in my ears. I took the axiom seriously, back then, and still do… because I found many of the same qualities that made my Donna so attractive to me, were there in her Mom.. which in turn made Donna yet more attractive to me.  Donna’s mother had a long and rich history… some of which I’m still learning about.

Thing is, though, I don’t need that exact history to know she was a special lady, and the world is a poorer place for her being gone from it. You see, a few months after I met them both, and I began to understand them both, I liked what I saw so much that I asked Donna to marry me and to my everlasting amaze and thanks, she said yes. That means I have the happy future of waking up next to the greatest living example of the wonderful woman that my mother in law was.

And I know, in my heart of hearts; Donna knows, as her Mom did, how to dance…

I can’t help but wonder if the long national debate over this case in Florida would be going on as long as it has, had the participants had the simple “beyond level” understanding of the matter that my mother in law did.

Rest in peace, Mom.
You are missed.