If I End Up Like Terri: An Open Letter to My Wife

Dear Janelle,

These last few months have troubled me deeply. And I have a request that I hope you'll have the courage and strength to honor: If I ever become like Terri Schiavo, please don't put me through what she has endured.

After fighting cancer for 10 years; after suffering through multiple courses of toxic drugs; after two stem-cell transplants and 16 dismal weeks in a hospital room, tied to tangles of tubes, I've only scratched the surface of her misery. I feel as if I've scaled great mountains of suffering only to find I'm in the foothills of a range that towers beyond sight.

Dear, if I'm ever forced to scale that range, if I ever become like Terri whether through the myriad drugs I'm taking, future treatments or the cancer itself please don't pull my feeding tube. Instead, if at all possible, take me and my tube home, where I can live out my days with you and the kids, and where friends can come and go as they wish.

Put me in a place where I won't be in the way, but can still sense the activity of life around me. Talk to me; share your hopes, fears and failures with me. Read me books. I may not understand, but perhaps I'll sense the warmth of a lover's voice. And I promise I won't interrupt, or give away your secrets. And deep down inside, perhaps I'll groan a wordless prayer for you.

And please, please, please don't crush what's left of me by taking another lover while I still live. You're my wife, Dear, my only lover. Apart from God alone, you're the one person who daily breathes confidence and acceptance into my life. You're the one with whom I can feel unashamed and completely at home. I can absorb the loss of many things. But please don't rob me of that. Abide with me, as you have done so faithfully through our many years of trauma and tears.

This is my wish, Dear. I hope to live with you a good many years. I hope to grow old with you and see our grandchildren. But if I don't, know that I love you and that I always will. I promise ... just as I did a quarter century ago.

With all my love,


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