Posted in Body Politics, Commentary

A fate worse than death

Dear Italy,

This is a farewell letter far too long in coming, but finally I am able to deliver it, and to deliver my family and friends from the prison they’ve been kept in for almost two decades. I myself left a long, long time ago.

Though the paperwork will say that I died Monday, the fact is that I died on a dark January day over 17 years ago. Forces seemingly beyond anyone’s control kept my body alive all this time, and for what? What does “alive” mean, anyway? Because certainly, I wasn’t living. I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t learning. I wasn’t building and maintaining relationships with anyone. Are these not the hallmarks of a life well-lived? And yet none of them were to be mine. That wasn’t me lying in that bed; there was no person there; it was a carcass.

I foresaw this possibility, and made sure my family knew of my wishes. My father knew I would not have approved of what has happened here, and he did his best for me. Some of you want to cast him as a villain, but have you stopped for one moment to consider what it took for my father to come to the decision to let me go, and then gather the courage to do it? Who but a parent would hold on longest to hope, however slim? Who but a parent would pursue any chance their child had to live? My father did not choose to let me go because I was an inconvenience, or because he didn’t want me to live, but rather because he knew that I was not living, and he knew I never wanted that. I’m sure it ripped his heart out to make this decision; once made, he shouldn’t have been tortured by the state for years of court battles.

For your own political and parochial interests, you have insisted I be kept alive, despite there being no life in my body beyond the rise and fall of my chest and the beating of my heart. For 17 years, you have prolonged and exacerbated the grief of a family who lost a daughter. A lifetime lost, locked in battle, for I have been in a coma almost as long as I’d lived previously. I have been at peace for 17 years; they have had no such blessing, and even now, when it’s “over,” they will be second-guessed and vilified by the entire world until it finds a new cause célèbre to turn its attention to.

You haven’t proven mercy, nor have you shown compassion, regardless of what you claim. You’ve merely proven that a body can be kept alive indefinitely, regardless of whether anyone is living in it or not. A technological marvel, I guess, but one that cannot be looked upon without the same discomfort (if not horror) as looking upon the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb: we can do it, but should we? Is it right?

You did not do this for me. You did not protect me. You did not save me for a possible better life in the future. And you didn’t even know me; how dare you insist that you know better for me than I did? Than my family did?

Had there been a real chance for me to live, I would’ve gladly taken it. But there wasn’t. I thank my father for all he has done for me, and on my behalf when I could not speak for myself. I wish him peace and rest now. His quality of life has been little better than my own these many years.

Death comes to all, sooner or later. It is not a defeat as much as an inevitability. We postpone it where we can, and that is noble work. It is important to try. However, when it becomes clear that Death will come sooner rather than later, then is the time that important, quiet work and words must happen. Choices must be made to ensure the peace of the one passing, and of those who will be left to grieve, rather than to satisfy the egos of the self-appointed warriors and moralists who will not accept an inescapable reality. Life is absolutely worth preserving; however, it requires true life to be there to preserve.

Gone in peace,

Eluana Englaro



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

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