Thursday, June 16, 2005

Phantom Pain

Sam used to sleep on a particular corner of my bed, and I used to accomodate him by making sure that I left him some room there. For the last month of his life he was at the vet’s, but out of a thirteen-year habit, I left him room. After he died I still didn’t stick my legs down into that corner of the bed. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I swear that Sam is still sleeping on that corner and I can hear his gentle soft snore.

Of course in the cold light of day reality sets in and I know he’s gone, but it doesn’t mean I can change my habits that easily. Amputees often feel the pain or sensation of their missing limbs — it’s called phantom pain. It’s not really there, but it still hurts.

In a way, I imagine what’s what Terri Schiavo’s parents are going through with the final autopsy report that basically said their daughter died the night she collapsed. They still cannot accept that she’s gone and that there had to be some hope left no matter what the doctors and the evidence proved. I understand their feelings.

The problem is that this is no way to go through life. Grieving isn’t a way of life; it stagnates and leaves you vulnerable to more pain, which then becomes a vicious cycle. It also leaves you susceptible to the vultures and opportunists who will exploit your fear and loss for their own agenda. People like Randall Terry and the whole crowd who descended on the hospice in Florida didn’t give a rat’s ass about what the Schindlers were going through except for how they could use it to further their own ends. Senators pontificating and diagnosing from the floor of the Senate, the president interrupting his Easter vacation to sign a bill that cynically told the world he cared less about the laws he was sworn to uphold than the extortion he was under to a political movement, the chaos of the media around the courthouse and the threats of retribution and death to the judges by “pro-life” terrorists all piled on to these poor people who were enduring enough pain, phantom or otherwise.

I’d like to hope that this brings this sad story to a close, but I doubt it. No one ever lost an election or missed a fundraising goal by exploiting the fear and faith of the American public, and the Schindler’s role in this grande guignol isn’t over. All I can hope is that somehow, some way they will find the strength to move on and remember their daughter as she was when she was alive, not as the phantom the vultures picked over.