I Thirst

By Judith Moriarty
Good Friday:
"After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), 'I thirst.' A bowl of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth". John 19:28-29
A woman named Terri Schiavo, has become, in these past weeks the focus of partisan politics, judges in black robes playing at high priest, a philandering husband, claiming that he alone holds Terri's best interests at heart, and an anguishing family; watching at this modern day crucifixion, their child being starved to death before the whole world. And in the whole world, there is not one who, or so we are led to believe, that can rescue Terri from this slow agonizing death. Men, who in other times; command entire armies, fleets of ships, and the authority to proclaim war, are now seemingly impotent?
And what say the crowds in this macabre Florida Golgotha? If the polls are to be believed they shout, "Crucify her"! There are always the crowds. Titillated by the sensational, the bizarre, the obscene, the drama of life's events; they riot at sports events, scream at concerts, riot over verdicts, or act as judge and jury at life's tragedies-from a distance. Pilate meanwhile washes his hands of the whole sordid affair, and proclaims, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person" Matthew 27:24-25. Life is replete with its Pilates' who wash their hands of other's blood. The President rushed from his ranch and the politician's from their states to partake in this mimed theater of heroic compassion!
Compassion, strikingly absent, for the millions upon millions without health care, those dying unable to afford medicines, the multitudes of homeless, the millions unemployed due to their votes on outsourcing, pre-emptive war; causing untold anguish, death, maiming and poisoning (depleted uranium) of soldier and citizen alike. It's easy this compassion; which costs nothing, but concern for future votes. Easy this self-serving compassion, which votes itself lucrative raises, health care, and pensions, leaving millions to exist on minimum wage, shut out of closed hospitals and clinics.
Those convicted of the most heinous crimes known to mankind are afforded the most solicitous of care. They are granted clergy, a last meal, and death without anguish or pain. Terri, who has committed no crime, but that of being an inconvenience, an obstacle to someone else's wishes, remains silent through it all, unable to voice the simple words of "I thirst".
A culture of death, focused on another being a burden, an intrusion, too costly; will invent words like "death with dignity" and decide that the handicapped, the mentally impaired, chronically ill, and elderly would prefer death. In a corporate culture, absent a conscience or a soul, those who are not cost effective; are just statistics, acceptable risks, and a drain on profits. In a world of super stars, marathons, runway models, steroid enhanced athletes (for the games), plastic surgery, Viagra, the rich and the famous; the flawed the less than perfect, remind us all of our own mortality. Better that we spend billions upon untold billions on annihilating weaponry, ships, planes, armies, pet supplies, beauty products, designer wear and exotic vacation retreats.
Who are the truly handicapped in today's world? Is it the mute woman in a Hospice, the Alzheimer patient, the soldier minus sight and limbs, the autistic child, the mentally impaired, or those absent the capacity to love? I fear the world offers us pharmaceutical lust, not the divine capacity to love one another as we ought to. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails." I Corinthians 13: 4-10
In a world of health clubs, joggers, rodeos, sports events, night clubs, car races, mountain climbing, tennis tournaments, ski resorts, hockey, soccer, and golf courses, etc, the world looks upon a Terri with pity and scorn. They decide from their own perspective of health that she is better off dead. They are conditioned to see only the limitations of another and not the gifts that they bring. In Terri's case her suffering comes from what man has put upon her. She has never been afforded the therapies, the attentions, which might bring her to her full potential. She suffers now because she "thirsts" and is starving to death!
In my travels of working with those in institutions and as the director of a homeless program; I can say without a doubt, that the greatest anguish and suffering that I witnessed; came about because of abuse, neglect, lack of medical care, lack of food, depraved indifference and alienation. Lonely people, without love, without touch---die. In a world of the superficial, the cosmetic, and self-aggrandizement, we have no time to stop, to enter in with another's need, another's suffering, another's loneliness. We're late, we're late for a very important date, no time to wait, we're late!
The lame, the halt, the blind, the suffering ones, the lonely, and the mentally impaired, are gifts to humanity. We are gifts one to another and we miss it. It is through the flawed, the less than perfect, those labeled and locked away that we become whole. They gift us with those things that will not be found in cathedrals, grand libraries, and trips to the Holy Land, seminars, gurus, or lofty schools of learning.
From my autistic brother, (who in Hitler's era would have been killed) I learned to listen in a world without sound. I learned to stop and just be still in the moment with him. And when he died in an institution, at the hands of those who were assigned to his care, I learned to forgive.
In the institution where my brother died (years later), I learned that it was not the patients who needed my solicitous care; but it was I who needed them. I learned that if all I had to offer was my physical attentions, I would fail. I learned that I was not the loving person that I had assumed I was. I learned that to truly have the compassion needed; that I needed divine love. And when I recognized this, it was given. Delbert with the mental age of four, taught me the joy of dancing in a splotch of sunlight; that shown through the gated, dusty windows. "Look Judy" he shouted, "the sun's dancing on my head".
Andrew taught me the importance of touch. He was a beautiful young boy, (autistic) who'd been paralyzed from shock therapy. Every morning before dressing the two dozen patients in my care, I would make a point of going to him, where he rocked incessantly, tousling his hair and kissing him. This went on for months, these small personal attentions. One morning, I was rushed and forgot. Andrew crawled across the floor, grabbed at my jeans, and pulled my hand down to his face. He knew I loved him.
I painted murals on the dingy walls, brought in music, learned that no matter the infirmity, creative love finds a way of reaching through. And then one day there was Danny. The institution was short on help and called me to work in the nursery. I was assigned to Danny, an eight year old child left by his mother in this place at birth. Danny weighed all of 35lbs. He was mute and twisted with cerebral palsy. It took over an hour just to feed him a simple bowl of porridge. I wondered what gift I could give this child who seemingly was unreachable.
When I took him back to the empty cavernous bathroom to clean him up, I held him in my arms, and it was then that I knew the gift that he needed. Danny had never known the hugs, songs, and comfort of a mother. As I sang to him, and told him how proud I was of him, that he was mommy's big boy, he started to coo and held tightly to my finger. Danny's gift to me, was realizing in that quiet moment, that we were all just like him only inside out. That, if for a moment in time; the hate, anger, jealousy, violence, greed, impatience, and prejudice; we all carried carefully hidden, was made manifest for only a moment, in a physical sense, how grotesque we all would appear one to another.
A few weeks later word came to me of Danny's death. Apparently staff was engrossed with the World Series, and was unaware that he had slipped through the rails of his bed, and hung there in the dark until he suffocated to death. I waited for the anger and rage of this neglect to surface and it didn't. Divine love, "is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.". I could only feel remorse that they had missed the gift of those in Florida have done. The crucifixion goes on and we see it not.



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