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Some sad news about Bob Schindler, one of the most decent Catholic gentlemen my family and I have even been blessed to call our friend. He passed away of a heart attack this past week. Most of you know Bob as a loving father who for years fought to save the life of his daughter Terri Schindler-Schiavo. When the state permitted the man to whom Terri was still legally married (despite the fact he was engaged to another woman) to take Terri’s life, Bob became a leading activist within the pro-life movement for people with disabilities.
Here is what Bobby Schindler, Jr., Bob’s son who is also a pro-life leader, shared about the passing of his father:
Statement from Bobby Schindler Regarding the Death of His Father, Robert Schindler
I am heartbroken over the loss of my father and yet I know at this moment he is rejoicing with my sister, Terri. My dad was a man of integrity, character and compassion who was blessed with a close and loving family. He taught all three of his children to respect and value life and to love our fellow man.
Even at the height of the battle to save my sister Terri’s life, when his patience and temperance was near exhaustion, he managed to display a gentleness of spirit. Yet it was his unfathomable strength that allowed him to shoulder up his own heartache and lead us through our darkest hour.
What greater legacy could a man leave behind?
I can understand your heartbreak, Bobby. Your father was a good man, as Sonya and I learned quickly when we joined your family on the picket line down in Florida. I will never forget Day 6 of the 2003 protest when, with Terri about to pass the point of no return, your father came over to offer us some cold drinks and Sonya a more comfortable seat.
Sonya was nine months pregnant with our second child, but she insisted we keep making the 90 minute trip each day. We asked him how he and Mary were doing.
“Worried,” he replied.
Sonya and I expressed our understanding and sympathy, that it might be too late for Terri.
“Yes, we’re worried about Terri,” Bob said. “But we’re worried about you, Sonya and the new baby too. Her due date is tomorrow, isn’t it? We will be praying for a safe delivery. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you, and make sure you let us as soon as the baby comes.”
I looked into his eyes. He was sincere. I was flabbergasted. His daughter was perilously close to being taken from him, he hadn’t slept in months, fifteen video cameras were stalking him at every second, and he was expressing concern for our little family who had come to support him.
As I struggled to make sense of this, he began to tell me about the birth of each of his children. It was then that I understood. He was a man who practiced what he preached, who was fighting not only for his daughter Terri, but for my daughter who would be born in coming days, for your daughter, for all of our children. I had known that he was sincere, that he wasn’t just show, but until that moment I had not realized the depth of his sincerity and love.
Sorry, the tears won’t allow me to go on much longer.
You’re a good man, Bob. You taught us all what a father’s love for his family really means. I pray you go strait to Heaven because you’ve done your Purgatory here on earth. And when you see Terri, please give her a hug from us.
Rest in the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, my friend.
UPDATE: Here is the original 2003 CL blog entry, written near the “hospice”, shortly after this discussion took place with Bob (Terri is doing fine, her parents are good people). For newer readers, Catholic Light was the main Catholic blog providing hospice-side updates in 2003 when the Florida judiciary ordered Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s feeding tube pulled. Here’s how I described our conversation then. I’m trying to read it myself but can’t get past the tears. It’s too much of a reminder of what a decent and loving father he was:
Terri’s parents are among the kindest and most decent people I have ever met. Before we left to return home, Terri’s father took us aside and asked if he could speak with us because he had heard from some of the nurses and paramedics at the vigil (the ones on our side) that Sonya looked like she was only a few days away from labor. He was concerned we might try and sneak up to the vigil between now and then.
To be honest, this wasn’t an unreal possibility since the hospital is about half-way between where we live and the hospice where Terri is staying. Nevertheless, Mr. Schindler said: “As a father, I’m here for my baby. We really appreciate your prayers and support, but you two need to be there for your baby now. We know you’re with us in prayer. But please come back with the baby as soon as you’re rested and able to travel.” I mention this because it is typical of the wisdom and compassion one finds with Terri’s parents. Even as they undergo such a tremendous cross, they show great consideration in generosity in wanting to make sure we weren’t neglecting our own family needs for the sake of theirs. Needless to say, we were stunned. “How could they even worry about us at a time like this?” Sonya asked. For my own part, I don’t think I could be this self-less if that was my daughter in the hospice. However, this is just one example that reveals the character of Terri’s family.
God Rest him. And Joy to him in his reunion with his beloved daughter Teri in the bosom of Christ.