‘Til Inconvenience or Burden Tear Us Apart
To my mind, one of the great things about marriage is that there is someone who is legally required not to leave you. The security of always having another person around who loves you seems worth all the rest of the bullshit you have to put up with, the settling and the compromises that are made. But if you can really just leave whenever you feel like it, there seems little point in getting married at all. Why bother? If your partner is going to leave anyway, then why not just fast forward through the whole relationship and just get to the part where he leaves? Or better yet, don’t have a relationship at all. It’s totally pointless.
I read a news article recently on CNN’s website that enraged me. It’s about a legal case where grandparents are suing for visitation rights on behalf of a young mother who is incapacitated. A young woman named Abbie Dorn got married and then got pregnant with triplets. She and her husband were supposedly very much in love and married after a whirlwind courtship. They were both orthodox Jews. There was every reason to believe that they would have a long and happy marriage.
But then Abbie had complications during the delivery of the triplets. She hemorrhaged and lost severe amounts of blood, then went into cardiac arrest. It took almost twenty minutes to revive her and during that twenty minutes the woman’s brain was deprived of oxygen. At first, things seemed promising but within three days it was apparent that Abbie had suffered severe brain damage and would never fully recover.
Abbie Dorn was cared for by her parents, and her husband, Dan, took care of the triplets. Within a year Dan Dorn notified Abbie’s parents that he needed to move on and a divorce was obtained. Dan Dorn does not bring Abbie’s children to see her or allow Abbie to come visit them. Abbie Dorn has not seen her children and they have not seen her in two years.
Admittedly, Abbie Dorn is incapable of raising the children or of being a fully engaged partner. However, I don’t remember anything in traditional marriage vows that mentions the possibility of brain damage as being an automatic out. He promised in sickness or in health, as long as the sickness part doesn’t involve severe brain damage. I don’t imagine Dana Reeve thought she’d end up being married to a quadriplegic. It can’t have been convenient.
I suppose that some would argue that the whole of what we consider a human comes from our brains. If our brains are fully damaged, then I guess it could be conceivably possible to believe that the person we made our commitment to is no longer living, and thus death has done us part. Perhaps that’s how it’s justified. But you could only justify it that way if you don’t believe that human beings have souls. Dan Dorn must be one hell of a poor Jew.
Dan Dorn says, “I still love Abbie very much, but I am trying to move on and have been and will continue to parent our children, who are happy and are thriving.” I can tell how much Dan loves Abbie by his actions. He doesn’t. He doesn’t honor his marriage vows. He doesn’t spend time with her or care for her or speak with her. He doesn’t allow her own children to visit her, even though she is no danger to them.
Dan says that he believes that spending time with their mother will be detrimental to them and that he will explain to the children about their mother when they are ready. He will bring the children to see her when they are older, if she is able to communicate with them. Apparently, the woman who very nearly lost her life to bring those children into the world doesn’t deserve to see them unless she can talk. Nothing is said of the children’s right to know their mother.
If Dan Dorn would have done the right thing from day one and continued to allow the children to be in whatever relationship they could have with their mother, then there would be no question of contact with their mother being detrimental to them. They wouldn’t question it. It would just be normal. One day, of course, the children would have questions, and their questions could be answered as they came up, with age appropriate answers. Even if Abbie is brain dead, don’t the children still deserve to have a relationship with their mother? Don’t Abbie’s parents have a right to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives? Won’t the children eventually resent their father for having denied them that opportunity?
The saddest thing about this case is the message that Dan Dorn is sending his children. He is teaching them that marriage vows are irrelevant. He is teaching them that family and love are important as long as they aren’t an undue burden on your personal liberty or your ability to live normally. He is teaching his children that he will love them only as long as they are convenient for him or as long as they are perfect.
One wonders what would have happened if Abbie had survived childbirth intact but one of their three children were born with a severely debilitating condition, such as spina bifida, for instance. Would he have insisted that the child be institutionalized and not allow to see its siblings until it could prove it were capable of communicating? Would a clinical psychologist insist that the normal siblings would be “traumatized” by visits to their disabled triplet? If Abbie and Dan had known that such a severely incapacitated child were to be born, would Dan have insisted on aborting it?
One thing is clear about this case, and that is that, regardless of whether she is in a vegetative state or not, Abbie Dorn really got the short end of the stick. She married a man who doesn’t know what true love is. Now he’s raising their children with his values.