These days it’s a rare novel that addresses disturbing social issues without flinching and treats religious faith as a force for good, without denying the complexity of either. That combination makes Rachel Simon’s book, newly available in paperback, a pleasure to read and a fine choice for book clubs.
I was born missing my left arm below the elbow. This
technically means I have a disability, though I find it hard to identify with
the label. Missing my arm is simply what I know, part of my basic everyday
existence. I know the limits of my ability, but I see no need to define myself
There were five of us around the table: my husband, myself, my mother, and two medical students who had been assigned to dinner at our house. One of them said, “My parents always wanted more for me—a better education than they had, and a better job, and a higher salary. A better life. So isn’t it hard to have a child with a disability?
When I first moved to one of California’s beautiful seaside cities, a friend from a less self-consciously glamorous part of the country asked as she watched the young and fit lounging on the grass under palm trees, “Where are all the ugly people?” The question tapped depths she hardly dreamed of.
As Terri Schiavo drew her final breaths, dozens of praying protesters—and even greater numbers of journalists—massed daily outside her hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida. The crowd changed mostly whenever religious activists—ranging from Randall Terry to Jesse Jackson—showed up to comfort those who grasped at any straw of hope.
The Terri Schiavo case highlighted our worst fears: the loss of autonomy, the burden of care put on family members, a painful private decision splayed before the press and the public, and, most profoundly, seemingly needless suffering. Whatever else it does, the case should impel Christians to reexamine fundamental beliefs about care for the severely disabled and those at the end of life.
Like March Madness in the basketball world, participants in the debate over Terri Schiavo seemed driven to pick a team and root it on to victory, vanquishing the opponents. With her death, it’s time to put the madness behind us and attend not just to the passion but to the compassion on both sides of the debate. Both sides, after all, claimed to be on Terri’s side.