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Terri Schiavo’s family and supporters continue vigil for her life; waiting, hoping & praying for miracle on somber Good Friday

UPDATED 3/25/05

‘I’m just praying that something happens’ Bobby Schindler says

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (BP)–In the first hour of Good Friday the scene outside the hospice where a disabled woman is being starved to death by a court order, the mood was somber, but hopeful, with a bus full of supporters arriving–as others left in what has been an around the clock vigil that begin Mar. 18.

“I’m just praying that something happens,” Bobby Schindler told the Florida Baptist Witness, in the first hour of Good Friday. Outside of the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Bobby had earlier visited his sister, 41-year-old Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of an international euthanasia debate.

“It’s tough–you want to be in there–but I can’t be in there,” Schindler cleared his throat while his eyes filled with tears. “I can’t take it. It’s the saddest thing you can ever imagine. I can’t believe they are doing this. It’s almost like it’s not registering. It’s hard to even process that they’re starving her to death. But you can see it happening.”

Mary Schindler, his and Terri’s mother, is having “a real tough time” as well–reacting physically to see Terri deteriorate physically.

“This is her child we are talking about. For no reason either–because of these courts that are, for the lack of a better way of saying it, they’re playing God,” Bobby Schindler said.

“It’s just extremely upsetting and troubling.”

But Schindler said he also recognized that God had not forsaken him.

“If it wasn’t for my faith, I would probably be a lot worse than I am right now,” Schindler said, citing support from people who have helped him to realize “how much God is playing a part in trying to help my sister.”

Throughout the day crowds became increasingly vocal about their wishes to restore Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube and cheered when a single-engine plane flew overheard towing a banner: “Gov. Rescue Terri Now.”

“Give Terri Water” and “Save Terri Now,” was the rally cry by hundreds of individuals carting multi-colored signs in all sizes which included messages reading “Thou shalt not kill: It’s God’s will” and “Save Terri Schiavo from being euthanized.”

Those proclaiming themselves to be non-Christians, but supporting Terri’s right to life also carried signs. About two dozen people identified themselves to be supporters of Michael Schiavo and his right to “choose” the manner in which his wife died. “She’s been dead for 15 years,” some shouted, heckling Terri’s supporters. “Let Terri R.I.P.,” one sign read.

Protestors lending their voices for Terri Sciavo included disabled persons in wheelchairs and on crutches who carefully navigated the wet ground within the plastic orange fencing that cordoned the area. “This is abuse on the disabled,” one sign read.

Terri’s uncle, Mike Tammaro, told the Witness Terri’s condition is definitely deteriorating.

“Terri is getting weaker. There is more concave around her eyes,” Tammaro said. “We have to get down there near Terri to hear sounds.”

Still, family members and supporters expressed hope that despite a barrage of court rulings against the Schindler family, some intervention would happen that would save Terri’s life.

“We can’t quit,” Dale Kimball told the Witness. “Our Lord on the way to Calvary fell multiple times, but He always had the strength to get back up and fulfill the will of His father.”

Kimball, who has been at the hospice with his family of eight several times in the past few weeks, said his children and wife were wearing sack cloth and ashes to symbolize the grief they feel over the situation.

Rachel McGlade, 21, holding her 4-months-old nephew whom the family calls “precious baby,”told the Witness she is reminded of the value of every life on a daily basis. McGlade said the infant’s mother died in childbirth and her brother is raising the baby within the family.

“Terri is the least of these and the Lord says whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me,” McGlade said. “All we can do is pray and lift her up to the Lord.”

Edie Morrison and her 18-year-old daughter, Sarah, stood quietly on a grassy stretch, listening to some supporters engage in a verbal exchange with hecklers across the street.

“We’re just here to support the Schindlers and to pray for Terri,” Edie Morrison said. The duo also said they wished to send a strong message to Gov. Jeb Bush and to the Florida Senate that expresses their disappointment.

“We are disappointed in the vote to not save Terri’s life,” said Edie. Both she and her daughter, she said, worked during the election to promote pro-life and pro-family candidates. “This is a life issue.”

As the early morning hour of Good Friday approached—and as the news crews providing almost non-stop coverage outside the hospice turned off their lights and packed things up for a few hours—the crowd quieted with people praying and reading the Bible.

And as has been his custom in the evenings since Terri’s tube was removed, her father, Bob Schindler Sr., made rounds among the supporters, shaking hands and thanking them for being there.

Taking extra time with one young girl in a wheelchair who appeared to be alert, but severely disabled, Bob reached over to give her “one last hug.”

“I’m afraid she’ll be scared of me,” Bob told her mother, leaning in closer so that the wide-eyed youngster could see and feel him.

“If she was afraid, she would close her eyes,” the girls mother said.

So in the same manner Bob has described rubbing his rough check against his own daughter’s smooth cheek, he leaned down and touched his cheek to hers.

Immediately the girl’s face brightened and she began moving her head back and forth.

On the way back inside the store across the street from the hospice—where the Schindler family is in seclusion—Bob halted long enough to wipe the tears that sprang from his eyes.

Bobby Schindler Jr., waiting for a decision from the federal court on yet another motion said told the Witness he believes a former attorney in the case said it best with her surmise that: “There’s law and there’s Terri’s Law.”

“The rule of the case and the facts of the case are two different things in my sister’s case,” Bobby said. “I think if people take the time to educate themselves, and they look at Terri, they will see that it’s a horrible miscarriage of justice.”

But for the moment, Bobby can focus on only one thing.

“The only thing on my mind is just hoping we hear different news.”

Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan