Fighting For Dear Life
by Angela Doreathy Watkins
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David Gibbs defends the rights of churches and Christians nationwide through Gibbs Law Association. He is a graduate of Liberty University and received his law degree from Duke University.
David took a leap of faith in October 2003 when Bob and Mary Schinlder, Terri Schiavo's parents asked him to become the lead attorney in their frantic fight to save their daughter's life. Gibbs embarked on a compelling journey that would forever change his life.
Terri Schiavo is dead.
The attorney offer three reasons why he felt compelled to tell Terri's story.
He was there.
He witnessed firsthand what transpired both in the courtroom and behind the scenes. He sat and visited with Terri on numerous occasions. He laughed with her. He watched Terri's family interact with her in ways nobody in the media ever saw. And, he was in her room the day her feeding tube was removed...as well as shortly before Terri took her final breath.
When Bob and Mary Schindler first met with our legal team on Monday night, October 13, 2003, they were exhausted, weary, and out of options. Terri was very much alive, but her days were numbered after being rebuffed by the court system for more than a decade. In just two days, Terri's feeding tube would be removed for the second time.
Mary expressed how stunned she was that so many lawyers from their firm had already cared enough to listen for several hours while they bared their souls - especially since they were unable to pay them anything.
From time to time the attorney has been asked why his legal team agreed to work with the Schindler's - especially given the pitfalls and incredible odds against them. In a word, he believed God called him to do this work. As his father taught him, having a servant heart doesn't always mean you do what's easy; rather, you do what's right.
Their office stayed in constant communication throughout that weekend with other legislators they knew who were also in contact with Gov. Bush's legal advisers. The lawmakers in Tallahassee channels that Terri's feeding tube had been withdrawn earlier that week and they were very concerned.
The Schindlers had a small army of supporters who were watching the news eager to help. Within hours, phone calls, faxes, and emails poured into the Senate and into the Governor's office, as nearly 200,000 concerned citizens made their wishes known to Florida legislators.
The author (attorney) knew the attorneys from the House of Representatives had flown down from Washingon, D.C. to conduct last minute filings with the court on Terri's behalf; they'd be arriving at his office shortly.
Terri was in great spirits that morning. Her eyes had a brightness that seemed to complement the light pink glow in her complexion. She sat in her reclining chair clutching her favorite stuffed cat under her arm. She was wearing a pink robe and a light brown blanket covered her lap.
Public servants delayed their Easter recess to finalize the bill. On Palm Sunday afternoon, the Senate assembled on Capital Hill and, in what was a unanimous bipartisan vote of those present, passed Senate Bill S.686.
Meanwhile, President Bush, who was at his home in Crawford, Texas rearranged his schedule and flew back to the White House. Rather than wait for the bill to be flown to Texas - a delay that could impact Terri's viability, Mr. Bush sacrificially put his signature immediately over the holiday.
Sunday evening, with the President on route to Washington, D.C. lawmakers gathered at 9 a.m. in the House of Representatives for what would be three hours of televised debate followed by a vote. Terri's brother Bobby was on Captial Hill visiting with every Congress member who would see him.
The well-known story of Job comes to mind. Here was a man who had everything. But, in the blink of an eye, God permitted it all to be swept away. Houses. Possessions. Livestock. Wealth. Children. Even his health. You might say Job's wife was the original right-to-die advocate. She said, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die" (Job 2:9).
When faced with the decision whether or not to remove the life support of a loved one, there's one perspective few take into view: Eternity. The author asks a question: If you knew a person who had not yet made peace with God, meaning they would go to hell if you removed them from their life support, would you still pull the plug?
Eternity is forever.
A dear friend of the author, Helen Barber, was faced with that dilemma. Her father, Sterling Johnson was a strong man who had milked cows by hand every day. Helen described him as a "moral" person and yet one who remained without Christ throughout his life.
As Sterling's health began to deteriorate more dramatically, his doctor pulled Helen aside and said "Your father is dying. He will not live fifteen minutes unless we put him on a respirator to breathe for him.
Helen also knew that if her Dad died that night, he would die without ever having trusted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. For forty years, her Dad had rejected the Gospel message, but with one more night of life, Helen and her husband would have a final opportunity to tell him about Jesus.
Helen's decision was immediate and resolute: "Put him on the respirator! Put him on anything that will keep him alive.
Helen's husband, Raymond was a pastor who had won many people to Christ in hospitals over the years, and as Sterling's son-in-law, he would do all he could.
When Raymond came out, he said, "Your Dad trusted
Christ as his Saviour! "Her dad was taken off the life-support several days later. Interestingly, he continued to live and was dismissed from the hospital to go live in his own home.
Her dad lived a normal life in New Mexico for another 18 months and attended church every Sunday. His greatest regret was that he had wasted his life not knowing the full joy of a close relationship with Christ. Her dad passed away eighteen months later.
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