A Tribute to Bob Schindler Sr

We Will Never Forget – A Tribute to Bob Schindler Sr, Rip Aug. 29, 2009

Bob Schindler, Sr., patriarch and loving father of Terri Schindler Schiavo’s untimely death on August 29th has left an indelible sorrow in the hearts of millions.  Allow me to share with you what I know of this man, who throughout the years of valiantly trying to save his daughter’s life had become like a father to me.

If someone asked me to paint a symbolic picture of him, it would have to that of an oak tree.  He was strong beyond what any man should have to endure, providing his “shade” of comfort to all who leaned on him.  He stood proudly and staunchly, seemingly untouched by the torrential downpour of assaults from all sides.

His quiet unexpected humor in the darkest moments masked the pain he kept well hidden from the eyes of the press.  And when he watched his sweet daughter Terri deteriorating in the final days of her life, still he never waivered.   On one such day his wife Mary collapsed helplessly in his arms after her own final visit with Terri, unable to bear any longer the horror she was witnessing as Terri’s body gave in to the ravages of dehydration and starvation.

His eyes turned downward, his heart broken, yet his voice never faltered for the press clamoring around him.  And despite the needs of his own family, he even had time to hold me as I sobbed. It didn’t seem right then – that the father of this dying child should somehow comfort me in my own sorrow, when I should be the strong one comforting him. But Bob took me aside and told me that my own tears for Terri and his family were the greatest comfort he could be given; just knowing that others loved and cared so much was enough for him.

On another occasion when I had injured my back pretty badly from the endless hours of standing daily in vigil at Hospice, I was unable to be with the Schindlers.  It was on that fateful day that Terri’s feeding tube was ordered to be removed for the third and final time.  I watched the news broadcast helplessly in horror from my bed and when I was finally able to return 2 days later, I sank to the floor in tears once again at Bob’s feet, telling him how sorry I was that I couldn’t be there when he needed me most.  And Bob in his gentle fatherly way held me close, apologizing that I had hurt my back over all this. I was dumbstruck that here I was with a little back pain while his daughter lay dying and yet, Bob was concerned about me.  Such was his way.

Bob aged rapidly after Terri’s death.  Unable to save his daughter, he felt he had failed her and the rest of the family.  Quite the opposite…Bob taught each and every one of us to remain strong, to never give up hope even after hope was clearly gone.  Sometimes he would steal away for a few moments to be off from the crowds and we would talk about his family…about how much he loved them…about how worried he was about Mary – this despite the fact that endless nights of sleeplessness had taken its toll on him.

No, Bob Schindler did not fail Terri.  Instead he helped create a legacy in her honor by founding the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, an organization that has helped thousands of others in similar situations worldwide.  Terri will never be forgotten and neither will Bob, who is at last, at peace with the precious daughter he so loved.

I can well imagine the words he must have heard as he departed this life for a far better place:“Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your Master’s joy.”

Condolences may be sent to: Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, 5562 Central Avenue, Suite 2, Saint Petersburg, FL 33707, phone 727-490-7603.