Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 21, 2009
A broken heart took Bob Schindler's life
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
I received a telephone call telling me a friend died of a heart attack. His name was Bob Schindler. His death certificate may say he died of cardiac arrest but those of us who knew Bob know he really died of a broken heart.
I first met Bob, his wife Mary and their son Bobby in 2001 while I was in Charlotte, N.C., to deliver the keynote address at the U.S. National Right to Life Prayer Breakfast.
Bob and Mary's daughter was Terri Schiavo. They approached me to ask for help to save Terri from being starved and dehydrated to death at a Florida hospice. Terri became brain damaged after a supposed heart attack in 1990; it left her severely disabled. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, was seeking a court order to kill her by withholding food and water.
Initially the Schindler's story seemed too incredible to believe, but they had a briefcase filled with legal documents and local news clippings from the Tampa Bay area to back up their horrible but true story. It was the worst case of spousal abuse of a vulnerable mate I had ever encountered.
Terri Schiavo had a serious disability but she was not dying. She relied on a feeding tube but did not need a respirator or other means of artificial life support.
Terri Schiavo had a normal life expectancy but her husband maintained she would not want to live in such a state of disability. There was no written document from Terri saying this, nor did she have a living will laying out her wishes.
Granted, she probably did not want to live with a disability. Nobody does. So what! I do not want to live with my serious disability but that does not mean I'm better off dead. Millions of people with severe disabilities live happy and vital lives.
Bob and Mary Schindler loved Terri and wanted to take her home and care for her. All that was needed was for her husband to agree and give up guardianship. He would not. He wanted her dead. Unfortunately, a Florida judge by the name of George Greer agreed.
Terri did not need to die. Michael had moved on with his life, hooked up with a new woman and even started a family with her. He was obviously in a conflict of interest regarding Terri Schiavo's best interests. There were people who loved her and wanted to care for her but Michael would have none of it. He was determined she must die rather than live disabled.
At Bob's request, I made desperate appeals to the attorney general and governor of Florida, and even to the White House to intervene and somehow stop the starvation and dehydration order. Appeals were even made to Canada's immigration minister to offer asylum to Terri Schiavo and her parents. A full team of medical professionals in Edmonton volunteered to care for her.
A groundswell of public support rose across North America to save Terri Schiavo as her plight became public. Even the Vatican weighed in to plead for Terri Schiavo's life. It was to no avail.
On March 18, 2005, Terri's gastric feeding tube was removed and her slow, torturous starvation and dehydration death began under a Florida court order. It took 13 terrible days for her to die an agonizing death. All the Schindlers could do was watch.
If Bob or Mary even raised an ice cube to her cracked lips, they would have been arrested on the spot by a burly police officer posted in the room to ensure nobody stopped the court sanctioned killing of Terri. If the Schindlers were arrested, Terri would died without them.
Looking back now, it's hard to believe it actually happened in America the land of freedom and liberty. But it did happen and media from around the world gathered outside the hospice where Terri was being killed to chronicle the deadly vigil. Christians and other people of good will gathered outside the hospice to protest the torture and murder of an innocent and defenceless woman, unable to speak or fight for herself.
Terri Schiavo died on March 31, 2005.
I think it was too much for Bob. He had two strokes in 2006, then suffered from kidney failure and required regular dialysis. But with aggressive rehabilitation therapy and the ongoing support of his family, Bob began to rally. Lost function from his strokes started to slowly return and his kidneys started to work again. Then he went into cardiac arrest on Aug. 29, 2009.
In the days after Bob's death, I received an email from another friend of the Schindler family. It said, "If ever the prayer 'May he rest in peace' applies, it must be for him." Indeed it must.
Bob Schindler was an ordinary man - an unassuming hero - who fought desperately to save his brain-injured daughter from being killed. He left no legal or political stone unturned to bring her back to the safety, security and love of his home. He simply wanted to protect her from the clutches of a hostile and increasingly anti-disability culture.
The Schindlers shook America to its foundation and challenged its sense of right and wrong in starving and dehydrating to death brain-injured people. The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation was formed to help other families protect their disabled loved ones.
Bob Schindler showed lesser ordinary men like me that we too can do extraordinary things if we throw caution to the wind for a cause we know to be right and true. Rest in peace my friend Bob Schindler. You made me proud to have known you. Rest in peace.
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