Sometimes it takes a story to get a point across.
Today is the first anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, a young woman whose vegetative condition divided the nation in the final weeks of her life. Some of us activists tried to tell her story, but it was generally countered with her husband’s account of her last wishes. Never mind that this “husband” had been living with another woman since shortly after Terri’s accident and had fathered two children with this girlfriend while apparently spending large sums of money intended for Terri’s care.
After weeks of protests, news conferences, press releases, and federal legislation, we took part in a national death watch that lasted thirteen days. Many of us felt guilty every time we took a drink of water during those days because we knew that Terri couldn’t even have ice chips. One of her last visitors told me of the frustration experienced upon realizing that the closest Terri could get to water was the water keeping her flowers fresh. In a sense, her flowers had more care than she did.
And still we didn’t get the point across to mainstream America. Much confusion was created by the various experts who used words like “life support” when Terri was only assisted by a feeding tube.
Five months after Terri’s death, Just Like Heaven (a sleeper of a chick flick) was released. After overcoming the title, the movie poster, and — for some — the dislike for actor Mark Ruffalo, it turns out that the film effectively communicated the value of a human life that was lived as Terri lived hers for more than a decade.
Granted, it wasn’t until the film made it to DVD that I overcame the initial obstacles. (There weren’t any new episodes of Law and Order the night that I rented the movie.)
The film tells the story of Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon), a young doctor who’s aiming for a promotion to attending physician. On her way to an almost mandatory blind date set up by her older sister, she has a terrible car accident.
Flash forward three months. David (Mark Ruffalo) sublets a furnished apartment with a great view of the San Francisco Bay. David has a recent drinking problem, which becomes temporarily exacerbated by a “petite blonde control freak” otherwise known as Elizabeth’s spirit. He’s the only one who can see her. She has come back to her apartment, which is the one David has sublet, but she doesn’t realize this and thinks he’s a derelict who has decided to camp out in her home.
In an effort to make Elizabeth go away or perhaps to make his drinking problem look less serious, David goes to an occult bookstore where he meets Daryl (Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame). Daryl works in the bookstore because he has a gift for sensing spirits.
As his efforts to get rid of Elizabeth intensify — and repeatedly fail — David invites Daryl to the apartment. Daryl senses the presence of Elizabeth’s spirit and suggests to David that he move because Elizabeth is “one of the most alive spirits I’ve seen. She’s not dead.”
And so begins the quest to discover who and what Elizabeth is. A series of events jog her memory so that she recalls the accident and her life as a workaholic doctor with no life of her own. She also learns that her body has been in a coma for three months.
BY THIS POINT, A BIT OF ROMANTIC tension has developed between David and Elizabeth. Upon seeing her vegetative body, the reality of her condition overwhelms Elizabeth. David comments out, “It’s way better than [being] dead,” but she sees little reason to have David’s hope.
She looks at a bedside monitor and says, “The monitor doesn’t agree.” David responds, “Machines don’t know everything.” But Elizabeth struggles, “Everything in my training tells me they do.” David trumps her by asking, “Then how are we having this conversation?” She can only respond, “I don’t know.”
The challenge to reunite her spirit with her body intensifies when the hospital decides to remove life support because she had signed a release requesting to be removed from life support in the event that she might be in a vegetative state. Elizabeth’s spirit protests, “That was before. I’m completely for it now!” But only David can hear or see her.
And so the drama unfolds, raising questions about life choices. Do we live to work or work to live? Have we duped ourselves with an excess of empirical knowledge that allows no room for knowledge that can’t be “scientifically” demonstrated?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?