My Frail Mother: Respecting the Dignity That is Human Life

Opinion   |   Maria Vitale   |   Aug 25, 2011   |   1:33PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

My mother is strength personified. She powered through the Great Depression, World War II, and Vietnam with her 100 percent Irish jaw firmly set. She suffered the pain of long-term sickness in her family, at a time when alcoholism and mental illness were crosses marked by extreme shame.

When the financial times were tough, my mother survived on crackers so that my sister and I could eat. My father, who passed from this life five years ago, used to say that one of the greatest qualities my mother possessed was her loyalty. She will stick with you to the end.

Because of my father’s disabilities, my mother was the sole financial support for our family of four for years. She was loyal to her husband, to her children, to her job and, most importantly for her, to her faith.

But her body has not been loyal to her. She has an extremely bent back, her breathing is labored, her frame has gone from plus size to below zero. And then there’s that nasty blood clot in her bladder to contend with.

At work, I spend the majority of my days trying to defend the rights of preborn children. It is a noble cause, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to assist. But my mother’s plight reminds me of the equally daunting task of protecting those in the twilight of life—those who are particularly vulnerable in these times, when assisted suicide has become a ballot issue and medical rationing threatens to become public policy. When she lies in her nursing home bed and cries out in pain, my mother is just as vulnerable, just as fragile as a newborn.

Recently, I watched my mother take a few wobbly steps, hands gripping the walker, oxygen tank by her side.  I have never been prouder of the woman who gave me life.

The first adjective that might come to mind when seeing my mother is frail. She is that. But nothing and no one can take away her dignity.

Some might say, “Who would want to live like that?” But my mother is loyal to life, and with each halting breath she takes…each shaky tour she makes of the nursing home…she is battling the pro-euthanasia mindset. She is a living example of what I’ve been fighting for for the nearly nine years I’ve worked as Education Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.

Anne is giving her all to the cause. I hope the same can be said of each one of us. Note: Maria Vitale is an opinion columnist for She is the Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Vitale has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.