March 21, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush,

I remember visiting my friend's father in the hospital. He was lying there silently, looking soft and slightly waxen, like he'd been cast from still-warm resin. The bed was designed to move slightly from side to side and front to back, to keep the blood flowing smoothly or something--I honestly can't remember. All I remember is that the effect was to cause my friend's father's head to roll slightly from side to side as if he was fending off a bad dream. But he wasn't dreaming; his brain had stopped firing after a massive stroke on Thanksgiving. Before the stroke, he was someone who lived his life as largely as his massive frame would allow--singing loudly, eating extravagantly, making lame and often off-color jokes and then laughing at them with such a commanding force that you couldn't help but laugh too. And now he lay there, gently rocking back and forth, back and forth, a machine rhythmically causing his chest to inflate and deflate, another keeping him fed. I picked up his cold, limp hand--massive, like the rest of him, but oddly lacking weight--and spoke a few words and shuffled out of the room.

In the waiting area sat his entire family--his two daughters, his son, his wife--all of them looked drained and tired and sad, emotions further weighed down by the knowledge that they had to decide the fate of the man in the room next door.

Once they made their decision, he died quickly and peacefully, his body finally at rest after the machines shut down. They have lived with their actions for years now and, as much as they miss their father and husband, I have never once heard anyone utter a regret at shutting down life support.

These types of decisions are made by families like my friend's every day, Mr. Bush. They are heartbreaking and difficult, but they are private decisions. They do not need the brazen hands of carpetbagging congressmen and "culture of life" presidents invading these intimate actions.




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