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Mar 22, 2005

Terri's Mom


Some pictures are so strong, they almost refuse to come apart.

As soon as I saw it, I wanted to do something with it.  At the same time, I felt it was too loaded to deal with head on.  So, thank goodness for the right wing radicals, who blew up the Terri-Mom photo to street corner size, then managed to get themselves into the latest edition of

If you've been following the Schiavo drama, Mom and Pop Schindler offer the inset photo as the primary evidence Terri is not in a vegetative state.  Why the media has done so little to challenge the flimsiness of this, I can't say.  (Provocative Snapshots of a Many-Layered Issue - link.)  When you look at the image, pull your eyes off Terri for a second, and look at her mother.  To really understanding what the NYT calls the "human interest side" of this story, you might want to consider exactly who in the photo is in the more troubled mental state.

I think a viewer does not look at this image and identify with Terri so much as one catches a glimpse of Mary Schindler, and then identifies with what she needs us to see. (Check out the wonderful NYT's piece in the most recent "Week In Review" -- For Parents, the Unthinkability of Letting Go - link).  Of course, our empathy for Mom is so natural and automatic, it's almost unconscionable to look at Terri and consider she is not reciprocating.  When you understand this, though, the story is not about a young woman who has managed to confound medical and legislative reality, so much as it's about a mother who, after years and years, remains in a near-death struggle with fate. 

Combined with the political opportunism, I think that is what turned Washington on it's head this weekend.

If you buy my analysis of Terri-Mom, the overall photo has other contributing facets.  Consider the "Let Her Live!" poster, for example.  Of course, it refers to reattaching Terri's feeding tube.  But, doesn't it also imply that a mother better understands her own child?  And, doesn't it also caution us against killing off Mrs. Schindler's fantasy that Terri has consciousness, and can recover?


There are also some functional elements I find interesting.  For example, look how the Terri-Mom photo is being held up from behind.  Notice, there is one person in brown slacks, and another in torn jeans.  Just like the way Terri and her mother basically merge in the photo, you can't tell if the hands holding the poster belong to one person or two.  If your read is that the top hand belongs to the brown pants and the bottom hand to the jeans, it also mirrors the sense of two as one.  Finally, look how the bottom hand is touching Terri while the top hand is touching Mary Schindler's head.  In this way, mother and daughter are also bridged.

If you don't care for the more elemental analysis, I offer you a piece of visual data which seems to carry at least equivalent authority to the one on the poster. 


You might have already seen this fifteen year old photo (call it Terri-Michael), but you probably haven't seen it juxtaposed with Terri-Mom.  Of course, it has the same sense of loving and the same depth of connection. 

Except, Michael Schiavo isn't insisting that Terri is awake.

(image 1: William Thomas Cain/Getty in; image 2: file photo -- St. Petersburg Times, 1990)
Note: Edited for readability (3/22/05 -- 3:45pm PST)


You might have spared me all these photos, and I would have been more than grateful. Now I can't leave without putting in my two cents. The photos are emotive, so what? They add nothing to the matter, nor to an understanding of its ramifications: they have almost become the heart of the matter, though Terri Schiavo's heart may not be in it. Terri's mother has no sense of dignity and respect for her daughter whom she has turned into an object of public curiosity and sensation. What kind of a mother is that? Is she fighting for her daugher? Or is she using her daughter to feed her own maternal selfishness?

Whoa, in both pictures, between Terri and her loved ones I see George Bush, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. Smiling BIG for the camera, almost pushing her loved ones out of the way.

This is a family matter and the fact that we are all involved at this point makes me wonder what freedom and privacy really mean to the Republican party.

Thanks for posting the picture of FIFTEEN years ago, it was new to me and worth a thousand words.

Thanks for this. Society tells mothers that they are never to give up on their kids, or that it is their fault the way a child has turned out. When one identifies with this idea, then it is a taboo to let other thoughts in, such as letting her go or giving up. She has support too for this idea of motherhood.

i turned on the news today, and there was no news.

Try again tomorrow, by then there might be some news.

Thank you so much for your insights.

I have been so very troubled when I see the pictures of Terrie Schiavo's mother with her on camera, that my heart closes. This is unusual as it is unlike me not to be compassionate. And yet when I see the film over and over again, I actually feel "creeped" out by it. After reading your article and further reasearch on the internet of the dynamics of anorexia/bulimia/control and the family, I understand why, in a deeper way, the dynamics of what is occuring, as my mind tries to process the viusals I am taking in.

I was also troubled when watching the Michael Schiavo interview on Larry King last night - I actually had to stop. This was because they kept putting the same pictures of Terrie's mother taking care of her - often when he or his lawyer were speaking - almost incessantly. Never any photo of Michael Schiavo caring for her.

The picture you have put up of Terrie and her husband together caused in my brain, a sensation somewhat similar to that of a light going off. I didn't realize how much the ongoing images I had been taking in, had been affecting me. I don't know what the truth is in this matter, what I do know is that I do not want my consciousness tainted with visual materials that were meant to manipulate my opinion in one direction or another.

Thank you again for this website and your work.

But even God does not see
The hypocrisy and the shame of it all.

This is a quote from the poem, WOMEN ARE WAITING TONIGHT by the Scottish poet Joe Corrie. Different context, same problem ... the King, the Member of Parliament, the director of the company, the parson, the Press, the public who will say, 'How sad.' But a week today all will be forgotten ... Sigh!


- Joe Corrie (1894-1968)

Women are waiting tonight on the pit-bank,
Pale at the heart with dread,
Watching the dead-still wheels
That loom in the mirky sky,
The silent wheels of Fate,
Which is the system under which they slave.
They stand together in groups,
As sheep shelter in storm,
Silent, passive, dumb.
For in the caverns under their feet,
The coffin seams of coal
'Twixt the rock and the rock,
The gas has burst into flame,
And has scattered the hail of Death.
Cold the night is, and dark,
And the rain falls in a mist.
Their shawls and their rags are sodden,
And their thin, starved cheeks are blue,
But they will not go home to their fires,
Tho' the news has been broken to them
That a miracle is their only hope.
They will wait and watch till the dawn,
Till the wheels begin to revolve,
And the men whom they loved so well,
The strong, kind, loving men,
Are brought up in canvas sheets,
To be identified by a watch,
Or a button,
Or, perhaps, only a wish.
And three days from now,
They will be buried together,
In one big hole in the earth.
And the King will send his sympathy,
And the Member of Parliament will be there,
Who voted that the military be used
When last these miners came on strike
To win a living wage.
His shining black hat will glisten over a sorrowful face,
And his elegantly shod feet will go slowly behind the bier.
And the director of the company will be there,
Who had vowed many a time
That he would make the miner eat grass.
And the parson, who sits on the Parish Council,
Starving the children and saving the rates,
Will pray in a mournful voice,
And tear the very hearts of the bereaved.
He will emphasize in godly phrase,
The danger of the mine,
And the bravery and valour of the minor.
And the Press
That has spilled oceans of ink
Poisoning the public against the 'destroyers of industry',
Will tell the sad tale,
And the public will say, 'How sad.'
But a week today all will be forgotten,
And the Member of Parliament,
The coalowner,
The parson,
The Press,
And the public,
Will keep storing up their venom and their hatred,
For the next big miners' strike.
Women are waiting tonight at the pit-bank,
But even God does not see
The hypocrisy and the shame of it all.

I hope she dies soon and takes us all out of her misery.

For a hilarious graphic that shows how easy numbers can be used, check out this little baby right here...
Damn that accursed Liberal media!

No doubt Tufte is probably puking up his guts...


I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry


We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash
with a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die-
Give us dirty laundry


Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
Running bet
Get the widow on the set!
We need dirty laundry


You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry


We can do the innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it’s said and done we haven’t told you a thing
We all know that crap is King
Give us dirty laundry!

My mom passed away, just several months ago. She was somewhat older then Terri. She was in a slow decline, duration of several months. Many times, she had a very similar look on her face. It looked like happiness or a smile at first. But there was just not very much alive inside.

The part that many people do not understand is, you can have a living person in front of you, with the expression that Terri has on her face, and shake that person, talk to that person, touch that person, for days, for weeks, and never have a second of real awareness or consciousness or response, none at all.

Thank you for the photo of Michael and Terri. I think I needed that.

The circus has left me so cold. I enjoyed Jon Stewart on the Daily Show on Monday when, in response to a clip showing Congressional leaders pontificating on the importance of the culture of life and protection of the most vulnerable among us, he cried in delight, "Oh! Does this mean we're getting universal health care?"

I can't help but wonder what the troops in Iraq, who live under constant threat of death, and thousands of whom are being returned home in shape not much better than Terri, think about the time and "political capital" being spent on preserving a single life. I thank heavens that the Iraqi people who are also living under constant threat of death, and who are dying by the thousands, most likely are living in blissful ignorance of this shameful charade.

I was in Egypt last month, and a lovely, gentle, friendly Egyptian asked me, very politely and deferentially, if Americans just didn't care about the children and women and old people who were dying in Iraq. I explained that most Americans see no evidence of those deaths -- they go unreported in our newspapers and magazines and on our televisions. I hope that that sweet man doesn't see this carnival of self-righteousness and "respect for life" on show here at home. I don't think I could come up with an explanation for that.

I think it is interesting that so many people are questioning the motives of the parents, specifically the mother, of Terri Schiavo; yet very few, if any, are questioning the motives of Michael Schiavo. If the Schiavo family wants to love, take care of, nurture their brain-dead daughter/sister why do any of you care? Whom does it hurt? If they beleive she responds to them despite the opinions of doctors and unqualified commentors whom does it hurt. If Michael Schiavo really feels that Terri's family are not abiding by her wishes he could easily recuse himself from the situation and move on with the life he started with another woman shortly after taking the "Terri-Michael" photo. This man calls himself and is referred to as Terri's husband but he has lived with another woman (and has two children with her) for nearly 10 of the 15 years that Terri has been in her "persistant vegetative state." When she dies he is the sole heir of a nearly one million dollar medical trust set up to pay for her medical treatment. He as repeatedly severely restricted visits to Terri by her family and refused testing and therapy her family has requested that they felt might have helped her. Does none of this give you pause? What gives Michael Schiavo's statement of Terri's supposed wishes more truth or validity than the statesments of her parents and long time friends? Terri's family look into her face and see their living breathing daughter and sister. Michael Schiavo looks into Terri's face (assuming he does) and sees a brain-dead woman. When he goes home at night from visiting her he goes home to another woman and their children.

The actions of Bush and Congress are deplorable as they are merely using the suffering of a desperate family to make political moves. How they can sleep at night is beyond me. But in my opinion the first judge to rule in this case made a grevious error when he deemed the hearsay evidence of Michael Schiavo as having more weight than that of Terri's parents, family, and long time friends and initially ordered her feeding-tube be removed.

As long as Terri's family believe her life is worth saving/living it should be.

For the Schiavos:

Nat King Cole & George Shearing: Fly Me To The Moon
Sarah Vaughan: I Won't Say I Will, But I Won't Say I Won't
Shirley Horn: I Wanna Be Loved
Billie Holiday: It Had To Be You
Blossom Dearie: Manhattan
Monica Zetterlund: Some Other Time
Shirley Horn: Ten Cents A Dance
Sarah Vaughan: Someone To Watch Over Me
Dinah Washington: Since I Fell For You
Shirley Horn: Only The Lonely
Anita O'Day: Early Autumn
Ella Fitzgerald: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
Blossom Dearie: Some Other Time
Sarah Vaughan: Embraceable You
Dinah Washington: My Old Flame
Ella Fitzgerald: Mood Indigo
Billie Holiday: I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
Pearl Bailey: Tired
Dinah Washington: Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye

Posted by: NeoDude | March 19, 2005 10:20 PM

This whole business seems to me to prove that, as a society, it's not "respect for life" that we lack; it's respect for death.

Death is the most natural of processes and will happen to every last one of us, but for many Americans - like the Schindlers (it seems) - it's an outrage and a travesty and must be rejected utterly. This viewpoint also seems to color that of many Christians (not just the extremists), who seem more enamored of the idea that Christ beat the death rap than of His words on how to behave with compassion, humility and charity during life.

I speak from experience when I say it's an understandable response - death is frightening, and we are powerless in the face of it. But where many human societies have specific, meaningful rituals for making sense of death - for making death a part of life - we seem to have put death on the same level as child abuse and excretion - it is an obscenity not to be spoken of in polite company. (This, I believe, accounts for our addiction to exaggerated cinematic representations of death, and also the death penalty - both provide us with the illusion of control over death, or permit us to make light of its reality.)

Our euphemistic coyness about death doesn't change the fact that we are all going to lose loved ones, and we are all going to die; it just prevents us from accepting it and finding way to deal with it. Without an acceptance of the reality and normality of death, we are all robbed of a meaningful and dignified passing, which is what I believe has happened to the unfortunate Mrs. Schiavo.

What gives Michael Schiavo's statement of Terri's supposed wishes more truth or validity than the statesments of her parents and long time friends?

Because he was her husband, Maria. You know, the person she left her parents to marry, the person she lived with, the person who she was on more intimate terms with than she was with her parents.

You know, her spouse. Her husband. The guy she chose to marry.

The one who watched his wife die while her corpse kept living, the one who grieved for her, the one who healed and went on, found a new partner and had children, and all the while tried to get her wishes taken care of.

What makes me sick is the people who call him an "adulterer". Terri is dead. Her cerebral cortex is liquid. She has snuffed it. All that made her an actual human being is gone. She is an ex-American; she has ceased to be. For the last 15 years, Michael S. has, for all intents and purposes, been a widower - and these people rag on him for founding a new family in that time?


Are you aware that - according to the report published by the Guardian Ad Litum appointed for Terri Schiavo by Gov. Jeb Bush - it was Terri's parents who ENCOURAGED Michael to start dating other women? This was back when they were still getting along and they, at that time, wanted to see him happy and able to move on with his live. He even brought some of the women he was dating to meet the Schindlers. As such, I can hardly see how his having entered into a new relationship can be something they would hold against him, though, apparently, they now do. I also find it interesting that, if her family is convinced that there is hope for her recovery that they would encourage her husband to attempt to start new relationships.

Also, you should realize that he does NOT stand to inherit anything from the malpractice award - that has been used over the years to pay for her care. The intial award was that $700K was put into a trust fund for Terri's care, and the Guardian Ad Litum noted that the record keeping on that fund has been excellent and there is NO INDICIATION AT ALL of any misuse of the funds. The other $300K was awarded to Michael Schiavo as a "loss of consortium" award. According to some of the court documents, apparently what led to the split between Michael and the Schindlers is that Terri's father wanted half of the "loss of consortium" award, but Michael refused. It should also be noted that Michael has also offered to divest himself of any financial interest whatsoever (including inheiritance rights) of Terri's trust fun, and that he has turned down offers of $1 million and $10 million from right-to-lifers to end his quest to remove Terri from life-support. So money doens't seem to be a big motivator for him.

I'm not saying that Michael is a saint - no one is - but the idea that he thoughtlessly abandoned Terri to start a new life and wants her dead so he can inherit her money is simply false. Aside from not wanting to share the portion of the award given to HIM by the courts as part of the malpractice suit, he has shown little interest in money as a motivator, and he did not start exploring new relationships until her family encouraged him to do so.

Additionally, according to the same report from the Guardian Ad Litum, the Schindler's testified during the initial trial that even if Terri had told them that it was her wish not to be given artificial nutrition and hydration in a situation like this, they would not have it removed? Apparently, in recent years, they have said that that testimony wasn't an accurate reflection of their feelings, but at the time of the trial that IS what they said. It tends to make their claim that Terri would want to be kept alive under these circumstances a bit suspect when they apparently testified under oath that they would keep her alive even if they knew that WAS NOT what she wanted.

I would suggest that rather than just looking at the information being provided by the Schindlers and their supporters that you also look at the information being provided to the courts by experts that have been called upon to testify before them (representing BOTH viewpoints in the case), information on what both sides have actually said to the court, and, especially, the Guardian Ad Litum's report that provides and extensive history of the situation and which was written by an independent party whose instructions were to put himself in Terri's shoes. His report is extremely well balanced and he makes every effort to be fair and compassionate to both sides. It's EXTREMELY instructive reading.

Interesting analysis of the photos. I actually want to comment on the "For Parents - The Unthinkability of Letting Go" headline in the NYT. I am offended by it, and the way it manipulates emotions (as every bit of mainstream and quite a bit of indy media has throughout the last week.) My daughter died during heart surgery 11 years ago this week. The two hardest things I have ever done in my life: 1) hand her to the surgical team; 2) walk out of that hospital without her after she had died. I say this not to raise people's sympathy and stir up their emotions, but to simply say that people die. People's children die, and in some parts of the world they die all too frequently. Does it mean that it should be easy to let go? Of course not. Isn't having your child die one of the most terrifying thoughts for a parent? Oh my god, yes. It's nearly, well, unthinkable. But it happens. It is the risk every one of takes when we love somebody, and it's amplified many times over when it is your child. And it doesn't change when they turn 18. They are still your children. But, but, but -- people die. If there was one thing that sustained me most in the deepest throes of grief, it was the realization that my grief over the loss of my child was a universal experience -- the experience crosses cultures, it crosses species, it transcends time. Letting go when your child dies is a necessity. It doesn't mean you don't grieve, that you don't suffer. But it should not be assumed that letting go is unthinkable for all parents all the time. My heart goes out to Terri Schiavo's family, and in no way do I feel qualified to make pronouncements about what anyone ought to do. But letting go is transcendent, and beyond letting go, beyond the time when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and stomped on, there is a place of realization that (and forgive me for sounding like a slurpy religious tract) the love doesn't die. Of course it's different and I still feel bereft sometimes, but my daughter will always be my daughter. I hope that Terri Schiavo's parents can find some peace. 15+ years is a long time to suffer.

i think it is inhumane to do this to her, if she died from a natural cause that would be onething but to starve her is abuse and all those who play a part will answer to god for this, starvation is agaisnt the law when concerning a child well it needs to be the same in this case to, i pray that god forgives those who know not what they are doing.

Am I proud to be a citizen of the USA..Am I proud, No, I'd have to drop my head..Our government has made me feel this way..Our country has gone to the dogs..The way the courts & government has acted, they are in the same category as Saddam & Hitler..If the US lets starvation til death happen legally here in our own country, then I can imagine just how much they care about our troops overseas..The US laws suck..Our President Bush could do something if he wanted to..but it's not a big enough war for him to fool with..God Bless you Terri, I wished I could be there and kiss your forehead..God Bless your parents and family..I am so sorry..What goes around, comes around..just maybe the next hurricane will take Greer, Michael, Michael's Atty. and their kind to where they need to be (Out To Sea)..Love from Tennessee.

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