"The Truth about the last days of Terri
By Christina Ryan Claypool
Now that Terri Schiavo is dead, we can all get on with our
lives. Terri was great news fodder for awhile, but many Americans are tired of
hearing each other’s views about her plight. After all, none of us were there.
This opinion was reinforced for me when I happened to watch
the closing commentary on CBS "60 Minutes" with Andy Rooney on Sunday April 10,
2005. The curmudgeonly journalist displayed newspapers from all over the globe
that bore the image of Pope John Paul II that evening. In brief, he said he was
glad that at least they replaced the pictures of Terri Schiavo, mentioning that
we had seen enough of them.
Rooney was mistaken though, as Americans didn’t see any photos
of Terri Schaivo’s last days; rather shots of her from earlier times. After all,
media wasn’t allowed to take pictures or video to record her dying. However, Fr.
Frank Pavone sat with her during her last days, and acted as a spokesperson for
her family. On Friday April 8th at both the Fort Wayne Allen County
Right to Life office and later at the University of St. Francis, the Catholic
priest gave a firsthand account of what he witnessed.
Fr. Pavone, who is the national director of Priests for Life,
told the crowd gathered in one of the university’s auditorium’s that, it is
"absolutely a lie that she died gently and peacefully." The clergyman, who was
ordained to the priesthood in 1988, said that he has sat at countless deathbeds,
but had never seen one like this. He said that Terri Schiavo’s eyes frantically
darted back and forth, and she panted while her mouth remained open.
He admitted that Schiavo was severely disabled by a brain
injury of undetermined origin, nevertheless Pavone referred to the words of the
late Pope John Paul II, who once wrote, "Life is good, not only when it is
healthy, but also when it is sick."
However, Pavone disputed the fact that Ms. Schiavo was in a
persistent vegetative state, as did Florida neurologist Dr. William Chesire, who
filed a petition that stated Terri was most likely in a "minimally conscious
state." The priest cited several examples he had witnessed during the six years
that he acted as an advocate for the Schiavo family. He said she smiled when her
father teased her, and he also saw Schiavo "return her father’s kiss." "Most
amazing," Pavone said was that, "When I put my hand on her head and prayed, she
closed her eyes; when I finished and removed my hands, she opened her eyes."
According to the nationally-known priest, the issue was not
about Terri Schiavo’s lack of a living will, but rather about the moral question
regarding the worth of her life. "Terry was not a dying person," Pavone
remarked. The "problem ultimately was discrimination and prejudice." He said
that it would be unethical to starve someone disabled even if they indicated
that this was their wish, referring to the fact that the provision of food and
water is not a medical act but a humane treatment. He suggested a better legal
recourse would be to "appoint a healthcare proxy to speak for you when the
circumstances" arise. Although, the priest cautioned that it must be someone you
trust implicitly to know your wishes.
Pavone, who is known nationwide for his work in the pro-life
movement, cited the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade as a precursor
for Schiavo’s situation. "What the killing of Terri Schiavo says to the pro-life
movement is ‘We saw this coming.’ Roe vs. Wade defined out of existence an
entire segment of the human family," Pavone explained. By defining babies within
the womb as "non-persons" this legislation has "physically destroyed in numbers
beyond any tragedy."
Another tragedy, the Holocaust of European Jews during World
War II caused a 69-year-old South Carolina woman named Eva Edl to be arrested
for trying to get a cup of water to Schiavo. Edl, who is a Holocaust survivor
was separated from her parents, then interned in a Yugoslavian camp. Pavone said
that remembering the pangs of hunger and thirst prompted her to be one of many
As for Pavone, the irony of a vase of roses filled with water
near the dying woman’s bedside will not soon be forgotten. Not long before her
death, the priest said he could not even dip his hand into the water and wet
Schiavo’s dehydrated mouth as at least one police officer was stationed in the
room at all times. Sometimes, two or three officers were there "standing vigil
to make sure nobody violated the court order that she wasn’t to be given a drop
Fr. Frank Pavone told more tragic details, and insight on the
significance of Schiavo’s death for society’s future; but it would take a book
to record it all. My prayer is that Fr. Pavone will write that book, with a
title like "The Truth about the last days of Terri Schiavo."
After all, more than six million European Jews were killed by
Hitler, and over 40 million babies have been aborted. Over two decades ago, my
own aborted child was among those victims, opening a doorway of unbearable pain
and grief that was finally healed through relationship with Jesus Christ. How
many millions of Terri Schiavo’s will there be, if we don’t do something now?
Christina Ryan Claypool is a speaker and author of the
book, "Forgiven finding peace in the aftermath of abortion," available on
amazon.com. She appeared on CBN’s 700 Club in February. Contact her at