Blessing the Grave

I had the privilege of blessing the grave of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who was murdered on March 31, 2005 by dehydration. Her grave is not far from the place where she died, and where people from around the world had gathered to protest and pray. Those who visit the gravestone, however, will notice something highly unusual. While on most graves there is an inscription of two dates — when the person was born and when he or she died — on Terri’s there are three. Here’s exactly what the grave says: 

Born December 3, 1963 

Departed this Earth February 25, 1990 

At Peace March 31, 2005 

The whole world knows that she died on March 31, 2005. National and global media were present at the scene for days, covering every detail. Media were present again when I preached at her funeral Mass. We know when she died. 

But her gravestone has become a pulpit for the euthanasia movement. Those who killed her are now using her grave as a platform for their twisted ideology. What they are trying to say is that once her brain was injured in 1990 and she was no longer functioning like most of us, she wasn’t one of us anymore. She “departed this earth.”  

This is actually a variation on an ancient heresy, which says that we are really spirits inhabiting a body. Terri couldn’t communicate normally. So, her “spirit” must have left her. The body was just a shell left behind. Those who believe she really “departed this earth” in 1990 can therefore pretend it was OK to kill her in 2005. After all, it wasn’t really her. She was already gone. 

This is heresy, because Christianity teaches that we are a unity of body and soul, not simply a soul “using” a body. The body matters. What we do to the body, we do to the person. 

Moreover, the gravestone inscription is a deep insult to all who are disabled, and to all those who love and care for them. Should they be considered already dead, too? Are we just wasting our time caring for them? Euthanasia advocates would have us think so. 

A recent news story about a disabled unborn child quoted one as saying, “There’s no human life there.” Isn’t that the same idea? They think the baby has already “departed this earth,” so they don’t hesitate to abort the body. 

As I blessed Terri’s grave, I also prayed that God’s people would be kept safe from this falsehood. And I recalled being in Terri’s room the day she died. I remembered her face, dehydrated from not having had a drop of water in two weeks. I recalled seeing the flowers, inches away, on her night table. They were immersed in water. And as I left the grave, I gave a final glance to the vase of flowers that was standing by the stone.

Fr. Frank Pavone


Father Frank A. Pavone is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard.

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  • Grace Harman

    Terrible tragedy. Terrible injustice. And the same is true for the false decision of Roe V. Wade that says “We don’t know if it is life”, so we will kill- and the death toll is up to 50 million. This is the same lie that fueled the Holocaust.
    Science says it is a unique and separate life at conception (fertilization). Miracles at Lourdes and Fatima tell God’s truth that we must trust God and not hear Satan’s lies. Pray for America to be able to see the reality of life in every person -born and unborn, well or disabled/handicapped, old and young. Alike they are loved by God and they are all “our neighbor” for us to love and protect!

  • bkeebler

    Thank you for your message, I am very saddened that this is the inscription on Terry’s gravestone. I will not go into the long details but my dieing father ended up in that same hospice facility, unknown to me until after he was admitted. He was dieing, but I felt the facility and the powers there that be were trying to rush it along. I got him out (it felt like an escape) to put him in a nursing home. It is very difficult for family and there are no easy answers to some very hard questions, especially with doctors, hospice, health facility, nurses, etc. telling you what to do and that the one you are trying to save is already gone. The instinct to save that person does not go away, no matter how many times you are told they are dieing. My dad had another month of life after leaving the hospice facility, it was a very important month, he grew closer to God and saw many miracles… he was and is a testimony to God’s Grace and Mercy. I thank God that my dad left some written instructions as to what he wanted and did not want in his death; he wanted no heroics but to be allowed to die without pain and to not have his death hastened in any way. I tried, with God’s help, to respect his wishes. I know I succeeded because of the way I saw God move through dad’s last days. I hope and pray to all that they have God’s guidance and protection when helping a loved one in their last days. We are God’s ambassadors, His advocates for the unborn, the elderly, the dieing, the disabled… for life itself. God help us.

  • krby34

    Those flowers you saw next to her bed were most likely in water. The water to keep them hydrated and fresh helping to provide some benefit to those around them. The water was provided even thought the flowers were “dead”. They were dead the moment they were cut from the plant that gave them full life. However the life within them was not yet extinguished, it held on and served God’s plan to do something for someone on that day and perhaps even the next God willing. Eventually even the flowers with water could not cheat death but while God desired the flowers stayed fresh and served His will.

    If only Terri and so many others like her would be valued for the treasures they still provide every single day God wills life into them!

  • plowshare

    The third inscription contradicts the second — if her spirit really departed this earth in 1990, then there is no reason to think that the physical death of her body would make any difference to how much peace she had.

    But that is typical of the anti-life movement. It is deeply nihilistic, and does not care how inconsistent its slogans are.