I'm still catching up after a mostly news-free weekend, but I did want to share this with you. I saw it in the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, New York; it's by Jeremiah Horrigan. It wasn't written as a response to Peggy Noonan's vile column on Terri Schiavo this week, but it serves as the best rebuke to that column I can find, because it's written in her language, the language of believers.
I'll give you the whole thing, because it's hard to get through the paper's registration screen. Apologies for the lack of cynicism and snark:
My last prayer and testament
Recent tragic events have made it seem necessary to publicly declare my last wishes, should I be rendered incapable of discussing them when it is my turn to die.
Let my last wish be cast in the form of a prayer. Call it my last prayer and testament, and let it be directed in gratitude to He who gave me life and to those who have shared the gift of life with me – be they family, friend or presumptive foe.
On the occasion of my near-death, should I be rendered incapable of speech, of song, of story-telling and story-hearing, should I no longer be able to enjoy good friends, good wine, foods that are not good for me as well as foods that are, should I be robbed of sight, unable to move or to stumble my way through a bad joke or laugh at another's, should I, in other words, be suddenly and irrevocably removed from the world I share with every other living thing, please, Lord, grant me peace. Let my enforced and inescapable silence, my stillness, whatever its cause, not be confused, however lovingly, with living.
Deliver me, Lord, from the machinery that can prolong existence without promise or hope. Deliver me from the deadly purity of the hospital room, the lifeless bleep of the heart monitor, the loss of sunshine, wind and snow.
Protect me, Lord, from every other form of mechanistic invasion, from court order to news conference.
Please comfort my wife and children, who may wrongly imagine that their lives must – or should – stop in deference to my artificial continuance in the world we could no longer share. Grant them peace and courage, Lord.
Please grant my wife the strength to remember my wishes and act accordingly. And grant that my mother, brothers and sisters remember that I placed my life and fate in her hands the day I married her, and let them not put those vows asunder, even in the name of their unquestioned and unending love.
Please don't allow my delayed passing to become a public spectacle, the occasion for political posturing, displays of misplaced emotion, televised news updates.
Protect my loved ones, I pray, from impressionable strangers who, with every good intention, would presume to speak for me. Or for You. Keep them from the street outside my family's home. Let them realize that one day they will die, and that they, like me, deserve to be remembered not as a symbol but as a person.
Protect my family and friends from my professional colleagues. As you know so well, Lord, we messengers are too frequently blind to the shades of life's colors.
Protect my loved ones most especially from those of your elect, whether secular or religious, men and women who would make a crusade of my suffering. Give them pause, O Lord, when they declare their love of life. Before they make a spectacle of me, let them ask themselves if their love of life extends to all men and women whose lives they judge expendable in the name of abstract principle or political expediency.
Let them invoke the unqualified Mosaic law against killing of any sort, yes, Lord, as well as the Christian obligation to love one's neighbor. Give them the strength we expect of leaders to apply those sacred laws to all before they declare themselves righteous in Your sight or the sight of their constituencies.
This I humbly ask of You, the only One who knows the hearts of men. Amen.
I'm an atheist, but I'll add "Amen" to that.