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Even in death, acrimony over Schiavo

The burial of Terri Schiavo’s cremated remains, which took place Monday, didn’t bring an end to the acrimony between her husband and her family.
The grave marker for Terri Schiavo includes the words, 'I kept my promise.'Chris O'meara / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The burial of Terri Schiavo’s cremated remains didn’t bring an end to the acrimony between her husband and her family.

Michael Schiavo angered his late wife’s family Monday by not notifying them about the burial beforehand and by inscribing on her bronze grave marker the words “I kept my promise.”

Michael Schiavo — who said he promised his wife he would not keep her alive artificially — also listed Feb. 25, 1990, as the date his wife “Departed this Earth.”

On that date, Schiavo collapsed and fell into what most doctors said was an irreversible vegetative state.

Schiavo actually died March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed by court order. The grave marker lists that date as when Schiavo was “at peace.”

David Gibbs, an attorney for the woman’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, decried the inscriptions on the marker. “Obviously, that’s a real shot and another unkind act toward a grieving mom and dad,” Gibbs said.

Two days after Terri Schiavo’s death, the 41-year-old was cremated and her husband was given possession of her remains.

Switched burial site
Michael Schiavo had said her ashes would be buried at a family plot in Pennsylvania. But on Monday his attorney, George Felos, said in a statement that the service and burial had taken place at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater.

The statement did not explain why Schiavo, who lives near Clearwater, decided to keep his wife’s remains in Florida. He did not return a phone call seeking additional information.

“We’re hopeful that there was some effort here to show some kindness” to the Schindlers, Gibbs said of the decision to bury the body in Florida.

Schiavo’s parents had opposed her cremation. Services for Schiavo already had been conducted in nearby Gulfport, where her parents live, and in Pennsylvania, where she grew up.

The Schindlers’ attorney said the family was notified by fax only after Monday’s service, when the family had already started getting calls from reporters.

A pond and fountain also mark the woman’s grave, where the flat bronze marker was festooned with flowers Monday evening.

Persistent vegetative state
Terri Schiavo collapsed in 1990 after a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop. She left no written instructions in the event she became disabled, and her husband said she never would have wanted to be kept alive in what court-appointed doctors called a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Her parents, however, doubted she had any such end-of-life wishes. They maintained she would benefit from rehabilitation, despite most doctors saying her condition was irreversible.

The seven-year battle engulfed the courts, Congress, the White House and divided the country.

The interment comes less than a week after an autopsy report was released revealing that Terri Schiavo was almost certainly in a persistent vegetative state and that her body showed no signs of abuse by her husband, which had been alleged by her family. The cause of the 1990 collapse that left her with severe brain damage was not determined.

The report prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to ask the Pinellas County chief prosecutor to investigate what happened the night Terri Schiavo collapsed. The governor cited an alleged gap in time between when her husband found her unconscious and called 911. The husband says there was no delay in making the call.