What if Terri could talk?

What if, for five minutes, Terri Schiavo came out of the vegetative state she has lived in for 13 years, and said what she was thinking, not what others were thinking for her?

Would she smile at her husband, Michael, and say, “Thank you for defending my wish to die. Let me go. It’s what I want.”

Or would she scowl and say, “How could you? I’m your wife. You’d let me die? What if they find a cure?”

Would she turn to her parents, look at them longingly, and say, “Bless you both for standing by me. Keep me alive. Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

Or would she frown with the eternal frustration children have with their parents and say, “Mom, Dad, it’s my life. Michael and I discussed it. Why are you crossing him? He’s my husband.”

Would she turn to the doctors and say, “Do your job. Keep me alive. Don’t you see my eyes occasionally move? Don’t you realize there is something going on inside? Where’s your ethics? Taking me off a feeding tube is murder.”

Or would she call them in and say, “Listen, you’ve done your best. But this is not life. You know it, and I know it. My reactions are simply mechanical. I am not really here. Do the humane thing. Release me. Let me go.”

A political battleground

What if Terri could talk? For 10 minutes? For 20?

Would she pick up the phone and call the Florida governor, Jeb Bush, and say,
“Who do you think you are? I don’t know you. You don’t own me. How dare you and your political allies create an instant new law to determine if I can die? You’re a politician, nothing more. You are not sovereign over a human being’s wishes.”

Or would she dial that number and begin to cry, tears of gratitude, and say,
“Governor, thank you, thank you for saving my life.”

What if Terri could talk? For an hour? Maybe more? Would she ask to see the people from the American Civil Liberties Union, and say she was grateful someone took up her cause?

Or would she chastise them as opportunists, saying, “Don’t use me as token. I’m trying to stay alive — not fight your battles.”

Would she ask to address the religious conservatives who have glued to her cause, and say to them, “Thank you. Keep praying. Miracles happen. Life above all else.”

Or would she raise her ire and let them have it, screaming, “God does not want people sustained this way, with tubes and machines. How dare you speak for Him? How dare you use me for your agenda? Who ARE you people?”

A question of balance

What if Terri could talk? For one evening? For one day?

Would she use the media that has been using her, and say to the world, “It’s all true! My husband only wants insurance money! Get the story out! Save me!”

Or would she stare into the camera and say, “I am not on Earth to be the next news blurb. How dare you reporters suggest my husband is motivated by greed, when you don’t know him, you don’t know me, and you don’t know what this is like?”

Would she take the time to explain the world when you are frozen? Would she say you still can hear, still feel, still love? Or would she say it is a lonely, endless prison, a waiting room for death with the doors locked and the lights off?

What if Terri could talk? For a second? A minute? An hour? A day? But she can’t. And she may never.

I spent six months watching my old professor Morrie die of Lou Gehrig’s disease. I can tell you this: Sometimes he was so full of life, it defied description — and other times, he was barely there. He once said, in his final days, “Don’t let go too soon. But don’t hold on too long.”

What if Terri could talk?

Which would she choose?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). He will sign copies of “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” at 7 tonight at Thackeray’s in Toledo and 7 p.m. Monday at Borders in Farmington Hills.

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