To live or let die

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How much is our life worth? Do we take for granted the daily grind we are privileged to repeat day after day? If life deals us sour grapes, do we have the right to make grape juice? Or raisins?

I am not sure what that means. It just sounded deep.

Many occasions, I have repeated over and over my theology of living life as full as you can, stop and smell the roses, the gardenias, and the jasmine. Listen to Tim McGraw lyrics “Live like you were dying!” Get all the gusto you can, …..Be all you can be!

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No, not preaching that sermon again! Just do it.

My dilemma is one that is deep, serious, and life threatening. So be warned.

Now, that I have your attention! Understand, I use humor even when in the middle of turmoil, and for all my tongue-in-cheek dialog, I feel a deep sadness for the topic today. I also feel compelled to share.

This country is all about rights. The white race have in the past trampled the rights of other races. Men have trampled the rights of women. Rich folks do the same to the poor folks and the middle class gets it from everybody! Yet, we fervently want our rights to be honored, acknowledged and the freedom to have rights.

What rights as Americans do we really have? How free are we? Compared to many other countries, I think we should be proud. But the right to life has been a bumpy, violent road for our country. The right to abort a baby still is a deep, divisive vein that runs through our collected souls. We have not solved the hotbed issue. We merely fight our battles in the war against each other’s beliefs and opinions. Each claims God is on their side and that they are right.

You want to start war…just mention the “A” word.

Then, we have the problem I am knocked face to face with….. the right to die.

Some feel, this column has the right to die but I keep polluting Pearl River County with my warped sense and sensibilities. So, here comes some more.

There is a lady that I have interviewed, befriended and marveled at for over two years. Many, who know me, have heard my tales about this woman. She is fascinating and deeply disturbing.

Her name is Maria and she wants to die.

She requests permission to end her life and by the hand of the hospital she blames for her misery.

This adventurous woman, who at the age of 22 in the early fifties when women were still in the minority of drivers (let alone owning their own car), took off from her native country of Holland in her Volkswagen and drove it all the way down the continent of Africa to Cape Town through dangerous territories, including the Sahara Desert. She set records and was featured in magazines. She was an extraordinary woman.

Maria then made her way to the United States where she pursued the American dream and by 1979 was voted one of the top five most successful women of New Orleans by Mayor Ernest Morial. By1985, she was a pilot, a champion car racer, one of the few females who owned her own dealership and a knock out blonde babe with an adorable Dutch accent. (Don’t let the accent fool you, she is all-American and appreciative of the country that gave her all the opportunities to live her dream.)

So, what went wrong?

Something that can happen to any of us…a head injury. She suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury and because of a lack of assistance, understanding, neglect, and even fraud, she fell through the cracks of our great society and was taken advantage of by greedy attorneys.

Left to fend for herself, not able to function as before, she began losing business due to her confusion and her inability to reason. Before long, she lost her dealership through what she know believes to be an underhanded deal. Although blessed with a high IQ, her ability to think rationally all but disappeared forever.

So what does a cute, 45 year old Dutch American do when she has brain freezes, confusion, panic attacks and lack of cognitive skills? She becomes a truck driver of course!

Hope that makes you feel comfortable next time you are on the big highway? Knowing how easy it can be to get a CDL license! Even a crazy brain injured woman can get one! This poor petite woman could not even back the thing up! Yet, she drove for years in her emotional distress, her dark fog of reason, with a cat by her side. Now that’s crazy!

To prove how bizarre Maria acted, her one true solace was her beautiful home in Mandeville which she fought tooth and nail to keep by driving a truck, pouring all her finances into the home. One day a flake of paint fell on her. In one of her panic attacks of confusion, she knew she must paint her house! She did just that! All 3000 square foot of it, every day, all day long with a small three inch brush! It took her about a year!

This is a woman with a crushed inner ear so her balance isn’t good and she is up on a ladder with a small paint brush and all she can think is that she had to paint her house.

No one really knew the turmoil she suffered, the pain, the isolation, the confusion. Unfortunately, the very few who noticed were predators, one man in particular.

He realized Maria was not all together and after his invitation to come over to her home confirmed her condition, he decided to stay. She found him later that night in her bed where he had moved in. Eventually, he stole her home right out from under her. He took her only peace of mind away, her home. This event threw Maria into an even crueler existence.

The woman who came to America has fought to regain some semblance of existence. She continues to fight. But twenty one years have taken their toil and she has grown weary of the battle. She feels wronged. She feels robbed of her life. She wants to end the fight.

Maria wants to die.

No matter, that many cry out against the ethical and moral dilemma, she has lost who she is and without help, she has decided to take control in the only way she can. Can you reason with someone who suffers with TBI? It’s not just a physical injury, but an emotional and behavior injury that drives her to this decision.

So, what do we do with Maria? As a country, do we ignore her? Do we help her?

As a friend, can I allow her to take this step?

Will this great country take notice of one woman’s struggle?

I guess we will see. Because Maria has requested to die. My friend who was afraid of nothing now fears living.

I for one, will make some noise to try to save a precious life and so I dedicate this column to my dear friend Maria. She has been a joy to get to know! Vivacious, exciting, beautiful all describe her before TBI. Heartbreaking….now.

What can we do to save Maria? Do we as a nation let her live or let her die?