Terri Schiavo has finally found peace. I’ve not written about her situation for many reasons. I don’t object to nearly every blogger needing to state their views. I don’t understand, though, how anyone outside the family can form a complete opinion since all the information those of us in the general public possess is third-party (at best), often based on conjecture or hearsay, and subject to the biases of the people sharing that information. In other words, we have no idea who’s right and who’s wrong, what’s accurate and what’s misleading. I’ve been sickened each night when confronted by talking heads screaming at each other on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox, trying to make political gains from this horrible situation. It maddens me that people who have no medical background, have never encountered the woman, and have not reviewed her complete medical file can somehow be experts on her case, her beliefs, and her desires. None of us outside the situation can even begin to know the truth of the matter. Yet it’s become a bigger story than the war in Iraq, Social Security, the economy, or any other of countless issues that actually affect the daily lives of every person in this country.

I feel horrible for the Schindler family, who regardless of what you think of their efforts, made a heroic attempt to save their daughter and care for her. I feel sorry that their cause was hijacked by narrow-minded political opportunists. They’ve been called zealots who can’t accept reality, which is the last thing parents fighting to save their child need to hear. It’s a tragedy their relationship with their son-in-law was so destroyed by events that they couldn’t share the final moments of the life they all loved together.

I feel equally horrible for Mr. Schiavo, who had to watch his wife die a horrible death and bears the responsibility of making the decision to end her life. If he was wrong, I think he knows that he will have to answer for her death when his life ends. He’s been called a financial opportunist, a wife beater, and a cold-blooded murderer, often with little evidence to back the charges. Again, when facing the death of the woman he wanted to grow old with, I doubt those labels are in any way comforting. Somehow I imagine what he’s been through over the last 15 years is not as cut-and-dried and calculated as people who have been blasting him would have us believe.

Most of all, I feel sorry for Terri Schiavo. Her life, spirit, and memory have been demeaned. Those close to her are more likely to remember the 15 years in a vegetative state or the horrific legal battle before her death than the wonderful moments they shared with her. She became a pawn in the modern political game where every single event must be spun to its ideological extreme, and then fought for ferociously by people who are paid to yell louder than their opponents rather than debate in a rational and respectful manner with a goal of finding a reasonable solution. She deserved far better than what her life became. Shame on the outsiders from both sides for what they’ve done to her.

I’m sure everyone around her wished that she had taken the time to document what her true wishes were should the worst possible scenarios present themselves. Regardless of what path that lead her down, it would have made the decisions of her family much easier.

Therein lies the lesson in this whole awful story. Think about how you want to be treated should something terrible happen. What measures do you want taken medically? What do you want to happen to your body should you die? Who should care for your children if your spouse is not able to? How should your financial assets be distributed? They are hard but essential questions that anyone who loves their family must consider. To fail to do so is a criminal act against your loved ones. When you have answers, write them down. Get them organized in a manner that will stand up in court. Then share those answers with your loved ones so there are no questions. The more clearly you document and publicize your requests, the less likely people who never knew you can attempt to sway grieving family members into allowing your life and/or death to be used to push a political agenda you may never have known about, let alone supported.

Rest in peace, Terri.