I’ve been thinking lately about the way the lightning of public awareness strikes unexpectedly and how abruptly private citizens may become household words.
What if you had told Terry Schiavo when she was a healthy young woman living a normal life with her nice husband, maybe trying to diet a little and shed a few pounds, that she was going to be featured in every newspaper in the country and become the subject of untold hours of news television. But that she could do nothing to prepare for it. It was just going to happen.
What if you had told Laci Petersen that before her 30th birthday the world would know her, would thrill at her lovely smile, and would learn more details about her history and her marriage than almost anyone anywhere. But there was nothing she could do to prepare, that it would just happen.
Or take Ashley Smith, Brian Nichols’ hostage in suburban Atlanta…
I’m not the one you want to ask about Terry Schiavo’s situation. After all, according to all the professional pundits and the know-it-alls who expound on talk shows and in letters to the editor, since I don’t know the lady and never heard her express her wishes about not wanting heroic measures to prolong her life, I am not qualified to register an opinion. Which makes me one of the few not chiming in on the matter. Until now and only here.
God bless this poor lady and her grieving parents. In my early morning walks on the Mississippi River levee, the prayer I send up most often on their behalf is, “Father, thy will be done.” I think of that terrific promise in Romans 8:26 that sometimes we do not know how to pray as we should, but in those cases the Holy Spirit does our praying for us. I’m cashing in that red card right now. “Lord, pray for this lady and her parents, please.”
I am not normally a merciless person, but I have to tell you, I feel zero pity for the husband. As soon as I learned that while his wife has lain there between life and death, he has fathered two children with a lady he is not married to, that did it. I’m outa here. At my house, that fellow has zero credibility.
Odd that this issue is coming to a climax at Easter, isn’t it. At the very time we are all rejoicing in the hope of eternal life, some are calling for an end to this lady’s life.
I do not have all knowledge on anything, but if I were a wagering man, I would bet you that most of the people who favor unplugging the feeding tubes are the same ones who defend what they euphemistically refer to as “a woman’s right to choose,” and the rest of us call killing the unborn.
My Dad is Carl J. McKeever. The J. doesn’t stand for anything. He was born April 13, 1912, to 17-year-old Bessie and 19-year-old George McKeever. They would have 11 more children, with the last, Georgelle, arriving some months after George’s death in the 1930s as a result of a heart attack. George and his brothers were coal miners in tiny, rural Alabama “push mines,” which means they were not electrified or automated, but lit by carbide lamps and the coal cars moved by mules. It was a punishing way to earn a living.
Carl dropped out of school after the 7th grade and took a job carrying water to road workers to help put food on the table for a large family. Two years later, at 14, he began work inside the mines, laboring alongside his father and uncles. As a teenager, he did the work of a man. Every dime he made was turned over to Grandma Bessie.
At 18, Carl and the brother just younger, Marion, forever called “Gip,” were looking for a little social activity on a Saturday night when someone told them that a singing was going on at Possum Trot. New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church, a couple of miles in the country out from Nauvoo, Alabama, was colloquially known then as Possum Trot for some reason. That night, Carl and Gip walked in on a group of 20 or 30 teenagers conducting their own singalong. Fourteen-year-old Lois Kilgore and her big sister Ruby, 18, were in front singing a duet when the guys entered. Carl said, “I’ll take the one on the left.” He did. As of last March 3, Carl and Lois have been married for 71 years.
Recently I wrote an article on Mardi Gras that elicited a lot of comment. Some of the remarks can be read at the end of that article on our website, at http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/archives/000091.html. Three of the responses started me on a whole new line of thought.
First, two of my good friends, Donna and Larry, more or less defended the Mardi Gras parades. While she does not approve of everything that goes on, Donna enjoys attending some of the early parades–before the tourists arrive and everything gets crazy–especially those that run near her house and on St. Charles Avenue. She and her teenage daughters join another family and stake out a spot about 5 am, and they spend the day eating Popeye’s fried chicken and biscuits and king cake while trying to catch as much “stuff” as they can. They donate the beads to a charitable organization which cleans and recycles them and makes a little money for their ministries.
Larry rode in the Endymion parade, and admits to spending $800 for the beads and paraphernalia he threw to the crowds. He wanted us to know that not everyone riding in the parades is a pervert or an alcoholic. “My float had a bunch of great guys,” he said. Larry invited a client of his to ride with him. The man professes to believe in the Lord, although his language and actions say otherwise. Larry had an opportunity to talk with him and discuss his faith. The man was receptive and even said he would like to visit Larry’s church, having grown disillusioned with the church of his youth.
Both Larry and Donna, I need to point out, are “good Baptists” and active in their respective churches here in the city.
I’ve always thought of Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson as something of a perfectionist. I suppose that’s because no matter what problem people throw at him, he seems to have an answer. But I will tell you, the best answer I’ve ever heard from him, the one that gave me the most satisfaction when I heard it, was when the mother of a teenager posed some perplexing situation to him and asked what in the world she should do about her child in the teenage years, and the great psychologist replied, “Well, ma’am, you just try to get through it.”
That’s when I knew that James Dobson lives on the same planet and in the same world as the rest of us. He knows the frustration and the scariness of that dangerous but necessary stage all children go through, and he understands that the ultimate goal is surviving it. Just getting through it. There is life on the other side of adolescence. For parents as well as for the kids.
I’m making some discoveries about human nature as a result of taking cancer radiation. As I write this, I’ve had 20 treatments on the head and neck area, and have 10 to go. The radiation itself is not a major problem. You just lie there for 25 minutes and don’t feel a thing. However, as the treatments accumulate, the side effects begin to show up, and that’s where the fun comes in–sunburned neck, dry mouth, and nausea. Without saliva, you can no longer eat solid foods.
One of the more surprising side effects is the loss of taste in my mouth. Or to be exact, the presence of an awful taste, one which no mouthwash or toothpaste can neutralize. The last milkshake I bought–trying to get in the requisite 2500 daily calories–tasted like paint. Or what I expect paint would taste like. That’s why head-and-neck patients all lose weight. They have no desire to eat and have to force themselves to down the various smoothies and Ensures and soups.