Life, death... and, somewhere in between, rests Terri Schaivo, at least as of Friday afternoon when this is being written.
To whom does her life, or semblance of, belong?
Her so-called "husband," still holding power over her despite having made a new life with another woman?
Her family, desperately attempting to keep her alive?
Judges, who continue to back her "husband"?
Congress, which is being accused by some of political grandstanding?
Herself? You know, the one who can't speak for herself?
Michael Schaivo says she never wanted to be kept alive artificially. Fine, if that's true. But no one has any proof of that statement.
One wonders how Michael's live-in girlfriend of 10 years, Jodi Centonze -- the mother of his children -- feels. I'm convinced he wants Terri out of the picture.
It's understandable that he'd want companionship and all the word implies but, husband in name only or not, he made his choice years ago. Legally -- and, by some, moralistically -- Michael could be considered an adulterer.
A court affidavit from a nurse who cared for Terri, quoted by multiple, reliable news sources, says Michael openly hoped for her death in a coarse, uncaring manner.
For overwhelmingly obvious reasons, he doesn't need to be making decisions concerning Terri's future. Has he caressed her face or told her he loves her, hoping she somehow hears? I doubt it.
So why doesn't he divorce Terri, and why can he decide if she lives or dies?
Closely interpret statements from Michael, his lawyer and brother:
* "She will drift off to a nice little sleep and eventually pass on to be with God."
Imagine voice inflections: someone conscendingly speaking the words "nice little" with either dripping sarcasm or the heard-so-often fake, overplayed caring.
* "...This government is trampling all over a personal family matter..."
But it involves the life and death of another person who is not exactly a part of his family anymore.
* "Terri does look a little withdrawn," brother Brian Schiavo said, but starvation is "part of the death process."
* Michael's attorney, George Felos, refers to pro-feeding maneuvers as "the abuse of the state of Florida."
Florida officials aren't abusing her, no matter which side you take.
* "Every one of us...has a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment they don't want," Felos said. "Terri exercised that right."
A woman who knew Michael several years said in a court deposition that Michael "wanted his life back."
But there's another, ongoing, life involved. Terri's heart still beats, at least as of Friday morning. She breathes.
Can she think?
My fear is that Terri may be far more aware of what's going on around her than tests can show, but can't express it. I've head about people coming out of comas saying they heard and remembered what was said nearby.
"She tries very hard to talk to me," Terri's mother, Mary Schindler, has said. "She tries." From what TV footage I've seen, it appears as if she may be reacting to some degree.
Some physicians disagree, saying reflexes are being misread as actual responses. The part of her brain which controls thinking and feeling was destroyed, they say, when her heart briefly stopped beating during or following a February 1990 collapse.
Meanwhile, the conservative and liberal political camps are in their usual modes of being in touch with everything but reality. Too many seem more interested in using a semi-conscious, dying woman to push political ideologies.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) refers to actions around the case as a "political maneuver...they are going to try to destroy the conservative movement and we have to fight back."
"What we saw in this whole episode is that when Republicans talk about state's rights and the sanctity of marriage, it's nothing but empty rhetoric," Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told WCIV-TV in Charleston. Clyburn misses the fact that the "sanctity" of Terri's marriage was violated years ago.
"This is not about Terri anymore," Scott Schiavo, another brother of Michael's, told CNN. "This is all a political view."
Forget Michael. Forget Terri's parents. Forget the families. Forget the American Civil Liberties Union, which backs Michael because of their long-held stance against government intervention in virtually everything.
Focus on the one, single, issue for which the answer, if there is a correct one, remains to be seen.
Does anyone in a position of power really care about the fate of Terri Schiavo?
(David Melson is a Times-Gazette copy editor/staff writer.)