There is a story that has been in the papers, on the television, on the radio and everywhere else I seem to look. As I have read through the excerpts and listened to the commentary I have found myself caring less for the politics behind the story or the complex legal principles that underpin the judgeâ€™s decision (both of them).
I donâ€™t give a damn about the Right or the Left arguments. Only one thought seems to occupy my mind each time I hear Terri Schiavoâ€™s name;
This could be my mum!
I first heard of Terri way back in 2003, soon after the plane crash that took the lives of the 3 people and left my family in limbo.
I had been searching the internet for information on comas and I came across a website maintained (I think) by Terriâ€™s parents. There were stories about and photographs of Terri. At the time we had a website too but it was a guestbook and there were no images of mum. I did not know much about comas but somehow I imagined them to be personal and private. Other than my mother, she was the first coma patient I had seen or heard of. Those images and Terriâ€™s story have stuck in my mind ever since.
It really could be my mum!
Mum has been in a coma for 2 years and 2 months and like Terri is not on life support but is dependant on her feeding tube.
She is my mum!
I have never met Terri or any of her family. I can not even pronounce her surname but because hers was the first story I stumbled upon she became a part of my coma understanding/learning.
I saw similarities in their stories. I connected their comas, bound their lives and merged their conditions. Terryâ€™s coma-life was mumâ€™s coma-life.
Needless to say I was worried about the outcome of the case. Terri had been there since the beginning and she had come to symbolise a lot. Part of me believed that if they ruled in favour of discontinuing her feeding I would lose a part of mum and me.
Well, they did make the announcement to disconnect Terriâ€™s feeding tube and I was saddened but I didnâ€™t die. In fact as I listened to Terriâ€™s mother and father speak against the decision and against Terriâ€™s husband for backing it, I felt like I had been cut free.
Terri is not my mum!
Yes, for a fraction of their lives, they have shared a similar state of being however I realise now my mother remains connected to the land of the living by bonds stronger than that of a silicone gastronomy tube.
She, her life, our familyâ€™s lives are held together by the strength of our African culture.
Our culture that reminds us that family is a blessing not a burden.
Our culture that encourages us to look upon an ailing relative with love and compassion.
Our culture that nurtures our young ones and reveres our older ones.
Our culture that teaches us to respect both life and death.
I can honestly say in all the many conversations I have shared with my mother she has never mentioned what we she would like us to do if she ever became helpless. I am not sure if she ever had this conversation with my father or her father or her mother.
In the past two years not one member of our family has spoken of â€˜letting her goâ€™, or â€˜relieving her of her pain and sufferingâ€™. In fact no one in our family has ever said out loud â€œwhat ifâ€¦â€?
Even if deep down we may have our doubts, when we speak aloud we all speak of when mum will wake up. We hope she will wake up. We hope she will continue to live and we live in that hope.
Over the last few days as I have listened to the debates, I have cried. Yet unlike the time in 2003, when I stared at pictures of Terri and cried because I saw my mum in her, this time I cried for Terri. Her life, her family, her culture.