The Living Miracle

Author: Robert P. Casey

The Living Miracle

by Former Gov. Robert P. Casey

In my hospital room, there was a "big game" atmosphere. The operation was set for five o'clock the next morning. The room was the scene of frenzied activity: Troopers standing sentry outside the door. The transfer of power over to Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel. Doctors and nurses coming and going. Ellen and me planning how to get our children there in time.

The family communications network went into high gear. Pat called Mary Ellen and Margi in Connecticut, saying, "They found a donor. You have to get out here as soon as you can!"

That started a mad dash through the night for all eight of the Casey children. By car, by plane, one after another, they dropped everything to get to Pittsburgh before the operation began-Margi, Mary Ellen, Kate, Erin, Bobby, to join Pat and Matt, who were already there. By the time we received news of the donor, it was nearing midnight.

We quickly chartered two planes to meet some of the children in Scranton since Erin, Bobby, and Kate lived there. Margi and Mary Ellen drove frantically from Connecticut to Scranton to meet the planes. Bobby and his wife, Terese, Erin, Kate, and Pat Boles (who worked in my office) were on the first plane, arriving at the hospital around 2:00 a.m. Margi and Mary Ellen took the second plane, which landed in Pittsburgh at about 3:00 a.m.

We had difficulty finding Chris, who was somewhere en route back to Washington, D.C., from a class reunion at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. Pat had left several messages on his answering machine. Chris finally called Pat after arriving in Washington, minutes after the donor was found.

There were no flights to Pittsburgh that late, so Chris rented a car and made the five-hour trip to the hospital in a record three and a half, accelerating with each report he heard on CNN radio, announcing that I was dying.

Prayer and Family

Somehow they all made it by about 3:45 a.m., when around me stood my eight children. At first we didn't talk about the things you would expect a family to talk about at a time like that. Nothing heavy; just the opposite.

We just talked about the things we always talked about. Matt, Pat, and I, for instance, were convulsed with laughter as we recounted for the perhaps fiftieth time an episode from our favorite old television series, , starring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. No matter how many times I'd seen each episode of that old program, it broke me up- every time. And the two of them knew it. Even then, I thought how incongruous this must seem to a non- family onlooker. Chris, expecting a somber scene, walked in just as we got to the part in one episode where Gleason makes one of those bug-eyed faces we always found so hilarious, and I was broken up with laughter. We found ourselves doing that night what we had done so often together over the years. And it was a tonic for me. It was wonderful.

Ellen and the children would come into my room, we would talk, then they would leave, moving back and forth between Ellen's room across the hall and mine. I would close my eyes for a few minutes to rest them, only for a brief time. I was exhausted, but at a moment like that the last thing on your mind is a cat-nap.

Then the moment arrived. The surgeons were ready. One by one, almost in birth order, the kids came in to see me.

With each one, I had a special moment, telling each how proud and happy they'd always made me. There were hugs and kisses and "I love you's" as I repeated over and over, "Don't worry, I'm going to make it. Make it just fine."

Margi, the eldest, and the one who never falls apart, had said to everyone before it began, "Whatever you do, try your hardest not to cry." But then her turn came, and when I began, "Margi, you were our first. . . " she dissolved into tears.

To Pat, Matt, Mary Ellen, Chris, and Bobby, I told them what good sons and daughters they'd been, what strong characters they had, how they were never to sell themselves short, never forget where they came from, never give up their goals.

Each one, each different, eight in a row, down to our "littlest daughter" Erin, now a mother herself. I wanted all of them to know how much I loved them. How proud I was of each one of them. What a joy they had been for Ellen and me.

And then there was Kate, defiant and determined, saying, "Fight, Dad! Fight like you've never fought before!"

"I will, Kate," I said. "I will. Don't worry."

Finally, Ellen came into the room. We are private people, even in front of our children. And the prior eight years had brought few truly private moments. The children rarely witnessed shows of emotion from either of us, but that night things were different; all formality fell away, and they saw their invincible mother crying.

"You can't leave me yet," Ellen was saying to me.

"I'm not going anywhere," I said, holding her hand to never let go, "I promise." It was hard for me to see her that way too. I don't think I ever had before, and I would have done anything to dry her tears. "I'll see you tomorrow," was all I could say, again and again. "I'll see you tomorrow. I promise you."

There, in that dimly-lit hospital room, we went through our long life together.

Before the nurses came in, one of my state troopers - State Police Sergeant John Kulick-gave me a prayer to read. It was a prayer to St. Joseph that he'd carried with him into battle in Vietnam, a prayer for safety and deliverance. I read every word. Later, after Ellen had watched me disappear behind the operating room doors, Trooper Michael Donley, who had also fought in Vietnam, handed her the same prayer.

The nurses placed me on a gurney and wheeled me into the hall where all the children were waiting. They all surrounded the gurney and followed me down the corridor to the elevator, and I saw, like snapshots, a face here, a smile there, a rush of bodies keeping up.

The attendants moved me into the elevator. With Ellen holding my hand and a trooper by my side, I looked back at all my grown children's faces bunched together in the hallway, framed by the elevator doors. They were all smiling and waving and calling out encouraging words. At a loss for words as the elevator closed, I gave them a thumbs-up sign. My last sight of them was their heads pressed together, straining for one last glimpse of me.

We moved several floors down to the hall leading to the operating suite. As the doors swung open to the operating room, Ellen and I had time for one more good-bye before we parted. We embraced and said, just one more time, how much we loved each other.

From the time I first saw Ellen Harding when we were both fourteen, she has always been the most beautiful woman in the world. Strikingly, softly beautiful. Her beauty is rivaled only by her goodness. For forty-two years I have rejoiced in her graces. She has lived, not for herself, but for me and for our children. She has spent her entire life giving-giving to all of us and to all who needed her. Her generosity is spontaneous and self- starting; it comes from within. It requires no prodding. It's a gift beyond anything I could ever deserve. I marvel at her goodness, but also at her gentleness and strength.

She is silk. She is velvet. She is burnished gold. But she is also steel. I thank God for her every day. Since my surgery, I have come to love her and to depend upon her more than ever. She has made my life a joy. How blessed I have been to spend my life with her!

I was determined to keep my promise to her. I looked forward, as never before, to "seeing her tomorrow," as I began the fight of my life.

As the gurney came to rest, a group of doctors appeared around me. They were the anesthesiologists who would put me to sleep. Now the magnitude of what I was facing seemed to close in on me. I felt myself becoming apprehensive, uneasy. The better term is just plain scared.

Just then one of the doctors, a young woman who was attending near the gurney, looked down at me. She put her hand on my forearm, as if to say, "Don't worry, everything is going to be all right." It transformed me. Just that little reassuring touch, one human being touching another, gave me calm, brought me back to myself. As suddenly as I had felt the rush of panic, I was again at peace. I was ready. The last thing I remember is that touch.

The Man Who Saved My life

Still waiting for his story to be told is the young man whose heart and liver saved me-Michael Lucas.

It was out in the waiting room, during the transplant, that my family first heard his name. Soon people across America would hear it. My operation was still going on, but already the reporters had somehow pieced the whole story together. There were a week's worth of reports that I'd jumped the line of transplant recipients. These were false (normal procedures had been observed to the letter), and when the media dropped that angle, Michael Lucas's picture and name soon passed from the screen, making way for stories about my regaining consciousness, recovering, walking, reassuming power.

In a way, that was Michael Lucas's life story. He was one of those people whose lives come to public attention only when they meet a violent end-people we never see until their names turn up in the newspaper or on the television screen. Most remarkable to me is that he came from Monessen-the town I'd visited as a symbol of my commitment to Pennsylvania's economic rebirth. And more than a symbol: a real place full of people in need of help. I've told the story of the 1986 campaign as a personal one, a milestone in my own life. But of course, in the big picture, that story of personal comebacks and dueling campaigns was not much more than a footnote to what was happening in Pennsylvania. What was happening can better be seen in Monessen, in Michael Lucas's life and how it came together with mine.

This is what really stays with me from my whole ordeal, the mystery-there may be a better word, but I can't think of it-of being saved by complete strangers. When you stop to think about it, it happens all the time. None of us could begin to count the debts we owe to people we never met, let alone those we do know. In my case, all the debts seemed to appear in an instant, one person after another stepping in to cover them for me.

I had spent many years trying to become the highest official in the state- with the usual mix of good intention and sheer ambition. According to the script, I was the public servant, the big shot out there helping others, the governor, the one with power. All that vanished in a flash. I was in trouble. No more illusions about power and control: I was as helpless as a child. Through no merit of my own, no title or office or anything else, I was surrounded by strangers trying to save me. All went well beyond the duties of their profession. Around the state were more strangers praying for me, not as their governor or partisan leader but as a fellow human being in need. In a hospital room not far from mine was Mrs. Frances Lucas, who had just seen her son die. With one hard choice, she rescued me. Sometimes I think there was a design to it all, that I was thrown down from my little seat of power back to complete dependency, maybe for a another glimpse of how the world looks from there.

Michael Lucas's life and mine began winding together with a knock on the back door of the Lucas house Sunday evening, June 6, 1993. Standing there in front of Lucas, he recognized a young friend. From out of nowhere, a stranger appeared and pointed a gun at him, barking orders. A moment later he was fighting for his life against a mob of strangers. They were drug dealers looking for stolen goods. But it was all a case of mistaken identity. Wrong place, wrong guy.

His mother, Frances Lucas, worked at the area hospital. She came home from work that night to find Michael's hat and one of his shoes lying in the street. She followed a blood trail up the front steps. Inside the house stood Michael, a blood-soaked towel around his head. The police had arrived, but for some reason, no ambulance.

Frances rushed him back to the hospital she'd just left. Twice during that ride, she had to stop to revive him. The story as it's been recounted to me is hard to bear. "Why did they do this?" Michael kept asking on the ride to the hospital. "Why did they do this, Mama?"

At the hospital, tests were quickly taken of Michael's brain. It was hemorrhaging. As he was airlifted to the area's major trauma center, Allegheny General Hospital, neurosurgeons prepared to operate on his brain. "Why did they do this to me? Why?" Shortly after surgery, he slipped into a coma. At 6:31 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, while I lay in my hospital bed across town waiting for the results of my cardiac tests, William Michael Lucas died.

About Michael Lucas, I know only what I've read and heard from those who knew him. Our lives couldn't have been any more different. He was in his thirties; I was in my sixties. He was black; I was white. We did have one thing in common. He was the son of a steel worker; my father had worked in the coal mines. I was raised in what used to be the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania; he grew up in the steel area, both of which had at one time attracted people from across the world to create America's Industrial Age.

But then the coal gave out and the steel industry collapsed. Monessen had been dominated by the Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Plant which stretched for what seemed miles along the road entering the town. Nearly everyone worked there, generation after generation, until without much notice the mill shut down.

The Lucas family had once sat securely among the middle class of Monessen. When things turned bad, their fortunes followed. Michael struggled. He went from job to job, moving finally to Washington, D.C., for a position he thought would be his future. Then he was laid off. The big mistake of his life came when he turned to crack cocaine. But his family didn't give up on him. His sister and mother went to Washington and brought him back home.

He'd begun to shake off the despair and stage a comeback of his own. It was that effort that brought him to the job training center I had visited in Monessen weeks before my transplant. He applied for over a hundred jobs, but in Monessen at the time even college graduates were lucky to find work.

From there, the man's life story moves back into the clipped terms of a police report-"young black male killed in drug-related incident." That friend who showed up at Michael's door had been dealing in cocaine. He was in trouble, hunted by suppliers to whom he owed ten thousand dollars. So, police believe, he fabricated a story involving Mike Lucas: Michael's nephew, he said, had taken the drugs, and Michael Lucas knew where they were.

Thirteen men have been charged with the Lucas murder. One was found guilty in May 1994 and was sentenced to serve ten to twenty years in prison. The twelve others are awaiting trial in state court in Westmoreland County, with proceedings expected to conclude this summer. In addition, eight of these individuals face related federal charges for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and engage in money laundering in the Federal District Court for the Western

District of Pennsylvania.

In Frances Lucas, I met one of the finest people I've ever known. In the space of an hour that summer, she lost a son and saved a stranger with a grace that will always amaze me. As if that weren't enough, her oldest son, Eugene, had been the victim of another murder. Eugene was shot in the back while Michael was still in high school. When they asked Mrs. Lucas whether she would agree to donate Michael's organs, she said simply: "Michael had a good heart. It would be right for someone else to have it.". . .It had been about seven hours since Ellen and I parted at the entrance to the operating room when all of a sudden she looked up to find Dr. John Armitage, his arms outstretched. "How 'bout a hug?"

With Dr. Si M. Pham, he had just finished my heart transplant-the first part of a two-part operation. The heart was in, he told Ellen, and the procedure had been "flawless." "This," he said, banging a fist on the door, "was how hard your husband's heart was."

Then Jeff Romoff, chief executive officer of the hospital, came into the room. An experienced professional, he had seen all kinds of operations and medical procedures. He had watched the moment when Michael Lucas's heart was given its first surge of blood, a moment when the new heart would either begin to beat again, or not: the moment of truth. He had seen many heart transplants; never, he said, had he seen anything like this. "Usually we have to pump the heart to get it started. We just touched it with blood, and it began to beat like a trip hammer," said Romoff. Then he began to cry.

The liver transplant team took over: Dr. Satoru Todo, Dr. John Fung, Dr. Jorge Reyes, and Dr. Roderick Stevenson worked to disconnect each blood vessel attaching my old liver to the other abdominal organs through which the liver provides more than five hundred functions for the human body. They connected each of those organs to Michael Lucas's liver. This stage alone took more than eight hours. Then another moment of truth-a surge of blood through my system. They unclasped the vessel holding back the heart's flow of blood and waited. Suddenly the transplanted liver turned from gray to pink, coming alive in my body.

When my eyes opened at three in the morning, some eleven or twelve hours ahead of schedule, I felt like a man ensnared in a trap. Tubes and wires were criss-crossing my swollen body. All around me, a team of doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit ministered to me. I felt myself carried in and out of consciousness by the lingering anesthesia, up and down, more and more gently, as on a wave, until, finally, I was ashore. Standing above me, I saw Dr. Starzl. I tried to speak but couldn't because of the tubes. With all my power, I raised my arm and touched his face.

Hard Cases?

When election time rolled around in 1990, the air was filled with talk about my "vulnerability." By then most of the political hangover from tax reform had abated. Mostly, the negative talk had to do with my pro-life position. The Webster case, upholding limitations on the right to an abortion, had come down from the Supreme Court a year earlier. Supposedly, as the pundits and the media saw it, this would bring a terrible vengeance down upon pro- life office-holders across the land.

As governor, I viewed abortion as the gravest of a whole array of children's issues. For me, it was a simple step in logic: If government had a duty to protect the powerless, then who among us was the most powerless, most defenseless, most voiceless? The answer: children.

All around the state were the children of poor families, uninsured and vulnerable to sickness and, in extreme cases, premature death. So we set up a program just for them, providing health insurance for poor children. The coverage provided virtually every service a child would need. When I left office, nearly fifty thousand children had been enrolled in the program. But it was only a good beginning, because many thousands of children remain uninsured.

All over Pennsylvania were children whose families could not afford a college education. So, as a state senator back in the 1960s, I had helped establish Pennsylvania's first scholarship program. As governor, I doubled the state's investment in scholarships, and we sent the aid directly to those families, avoiding a needless and costly bureaucracy.

Around the state were children caught in a nightmarish foster-care system. So we set up a statewide adoption network, helping them to find real homes and a real chance to make it in life. Among these were retarded children, minority children, and sibling groups likely to be broken off into different families. These were children with special needs.

What do you do with such -"hard cases"? An easy question: You put them first in line.

That's what we did: we gave them priority. Far from these special- needs children being a burden, they were an urgent priority-their special needs our special duty.

It's almost a cliche these days for politicians to speak of the child, to end every speech by invoking "our children, and our children's children." To my ear, often there's a ring of meaningless sentimentality to these calls to action. The speaker might in one breath exhort us to remember the children, and our children's children, and in the next breath display utter indifference to the unborn. And not just indifference, but an attitude bordering on contempt for anyone who might intrude into the sentimental discussion by raising the problem of abortion, and what it reflects about our actual regard for children.

With each of my initiatives in Pennsylvania, fellow Democratic leaders at the national level would agree without reservation. Somehow, for reasons deeply mysterious to me, they cannot or will not see the connection between children's rights and abortion. To me, it is the most obvious connection in the world. Not to see it requires a monumental act of denial.

I could never understand how people could decry the serious problem of low birth-weight infants and infant mortality on the one hand, and on the other hand argue that the unborn child could be aborted at will...

We worry today about the social problem of violence. We read of abandoned children, abused children, children molested or killed, children themselves committing acts of violence. Where did this spirit come from? How is it possible? How has life come to seem so cheap? I believe it's not only possible, it's inevitable. If a child in the womb, the most innocent thing on earth, is not safe- then who is? If as a nation we don't revere that child, that innocence, what will make us revere any life?

As a cultural phenomenon, maybe it all has something to do with the very innocence and helplessness of children. A child makes demands upon us. A child needs our constant attention. A child calls us beyond ourselves, beyond our wants and desires. In this way children are the natural enemy of a culture inclined more and more to worship the Imperial Self-to hide, deny, or dispose of anything which interferes with our own wishes and whims. This is especially true of the special-needs child, the child not up to our worldly standards of health, beauty or general acceptability.

At some point my own party, once devoted to lifting up the powerless, bought into this idea. We still hear the same noble- sounding phrases-"compassion," "social justice," "equal rights." But they ring more and more hollow. In the abortion debate, they are thin veils concealing visions of raw self-interest. Who ever envisioned that the banner of "equal rights" would be unfurled over the abortion clinic? Who expected that we would ever even think of a mother and a child as having separate interests, as rivals in a dispute over power, much less enshrine the idea into law? Who ever imagined a political debate pitting mother against child, as if the child were some alien presence and not of her own flesh and blood?...

As night follows day, violence follows this attitude. Whatever the pretenses, it is a hard creed, foreign to everything my party once stood for. You can see this in the strange terminology used in its defense. Even as the unborn child is sacrificed, the deed is dressed up in the language of love and concern, touching solicitude for the child's own "quality of life." A child, if born, will face hardship: therefore, he or she is better off deed. A baby will only burden one's economic situation, or require public assistance, or cause inconvenience all around: therefore, do everyone the favor of aborting it. Just get rid of it, and all will be well.

I may be putting it harshly, but that in the end is how such reasoning operates. All the talk we hear about children-all the "children's advocacy groups" and "Years of the Child"- seem almost another layer of denial, an appeasement of conscience by people who have turned their backs on the worst imaginable violence to children.

Republican leaders, in this respect, are not much better. In fact, each party has come to resemble the other's worst caricature of it. In both, we hear the same knack for casting raw self-interest in the language of altruism.

On the right, conservatives have captured the idealism of economic freedom. But often their idealism ends there. In other ways, they have embraced the spiritless vision of economic man-man in need of money alone. America has debated serious cultural problems- problems touching life, our duties to one another, the whole future of our country. And to each problem, some Republicans have offered the same answer: Money.

"I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal." We hear this more and more from Republicans. What is this ideology but the Imperial Self dressed up in a business suit? Money, like fire, is a very good thing when used properly. But it is a means and not an end. Money gives us freedom, which is good, but it does not incline our hearts to use that freedom wisely. It doesn't make us better people, better neighbors, better citizens, better parents. An ample bank account is no substitute for a well-informed conscience. No re-ordering of the tax code, no trimming of the budget, no amount of economic freedom will solve our society's deeper troubles.

The remarkable thing is that most Americans understand this. To hear party leaders hedging and wavering on the social issues, you would never guess that America is squarely in the middle of a social and cultural revolution, as I believe we are.

A generation's worth of experience with the self-gratification gospel has left most of us feeling a void, a deep emptiness in our culture. A generation's climb into general affluence has left us feeling somehow poorer as a nation. At the heart of our political debate today is a fear for our whole culture, a fear that something has gone terribly wrong. And it has. Try as we might to put it all out of our minds, at the heart of that unease is abortion-the ultimate act of violence, the ultimate exploitation of the weak by the powerful. A society like ours cannot turn its back on an entire class of human beings, wash its hands of so profound a problem, and still live at peace with itself...

Leaving aside the Republicans, I would take the pro-life point even further. I believe that a qualified pro-life Democrat running for president cannot lose. Such a candidacy would have broad appeal. One of these days-soon, I hope-the national Democratic Party will wake up and discover that abortion on demand is not only morally wrong, it is also a long-term loser in political terms. I believe Republican national leaders know this. Millions of traditional national Democrats sit uneasily among the ranks of Republicans, driven there by a hostility among national Democratic leaders to their most deeply held principles. When Democratic leaders abandoned the unborn child, they abandoned the essence of the Democratic Party.

But in most other respects these millions of former Democrats are not quite at home in their new party, with its laissez-faire strain of social thinking. The "despotic individualism" driving the abortion cause, as Professor George McKenna put it in a 1995 Atlantic Monthly essay, belongs more to Republicans than Democrats:

"If Democrats are pro-choice for political reasons, Republicans are pro-choice in their hearts."

Here, he refers to the "Rockefeller Republicans" who have historically been liberal on the so-called "social issues," especially abortion.

This is actually borne out by the Reagan phenomenon. Politically, Ronald Reagan's great achievement was to expand the Republican base beyond the monied, well-to-do wing of the party represented by the Rockefeller Republicans to include middle-class working families who had historically been key elements of the Democratic coalition-the "Reagan Democrats."

The Reagan Democrat, more often than not, is the pro-life Democrat. Reagan won by winning their allegiance. Without the Reagan Democrat, Republicans would be in serious trouble. How often have we heard these voters described as "holding the balance of power" in national elections? It is ludicrous to hear liberal Republicans urging a "Big Tent" on the abortion issue to make room for pro-choice Republicans. The moment Republicans surrender on the issue, they won't need any tent at all for the lawn-party- sized crowd that will linger after the exodus. A pup-tent would suffice. The real issue is money: the big donors tend to be pro- choice, and don't much care for the pro-life "element" they are always complaining about in the media. I believe such a position misreads and underestimates the power of the social revolution driving the national political dynamic today.

A pro-life Democratic candidate for president, by contrast, would draw mil]ions back into the ranks-more than enough to cover the loss in pro-abortion votes. I believe that, and that alone, is what prevents some Republican leaders from surrendering the abortion issue. There is nothing they fear more than the prospect of pro-life Democrats regaining control of their party, as they surely will in time.

But the deeper reason for my belief is this. From the very start, the abortion cause has depended upon silence. Any time the question is put directly to them-"Do you favor abortion on demand?"-by far the majority of Americans say no. But if you ask the same people what the law now permits, most will say it permits abortions only in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

In other words, most people do not know that under current law the abortion license is absolute-that, for example, 40 percent of abortions are second or even third trimester abortions. In most places in America today, a woman can get an abortion for any reason at all.

Every so often in the abortion debate, the truth begins to slip out, as in the 1995 debate over "partial birth abortions." The details are appalling. When people hear of them, they're stunned. The abortion lobby then flies into action. Who will ever forget Rep. Patricia Schroeder, in the House debate over partial birth abortions, scolding pro-life Republicans and Democrats for dwelling on the "gruesome details"?

Unfortunately, that is what the whole debate is about-little details like hands and feet and beating hearts. The entire prochoice movement can best be described as a massive conspiracy of silence as to those "little details." Above all, the aim is to keep those details as far away from the minds of young women as possible.

A few years ago, for example, there was a film, in ultrasonic images, called "The Silent Scream." It was produced by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, himself a former abortionist and founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League. It showed an unborn baby flinching-literally recoiling-from the abortionist's intrusion into the womb. It would take a very hard person to watch that film and not do some flinching. It is horrible to watch.

But why have we not seen this film on television? We hear enough about the right to choose; what about the right to information? After all, America's television and cable network executives and reporters are hardly known for their squeamishness. Day after day, we are confronted with images of the most graphic and brutal kind. When people are starving to death in faraway lands, those stark images are brought into every household in America-often with wonderful results. Our hearts are moved. Money is raised. Food and medical supplies are airlifted. The best in America is brought out. Why, on this one issue, have the networks never chosen to confront us with these startling images? No issue in America today is debated so exhaustively or heatedly as abortion. Yet somehow, uncharacteristically, the media spare us all the unpleasantness of having to see-even in ultrasonic images-the thing we are actually debating. I have always believed that if a film like "The Silent Scream" were shown one evening on network television, overnight the poll numbers would jump off the charts. A few more showings, and the abortion debate would be over...

I will never forget a letter I received from a little girl in Hollsopple, Pennsylvania, a small town in Somerset County. When I packed up and left Harrisburg after my second term, it was among my most prized possessions:

Dear Governor Casey:

Hi! My name is Jessica Stobaugh. I am ten. I was adopted. My birth mom chose life for me. I would stand up like you for life. I think what you are doing is right. I would do the same thing if I were the governor. I am proud to live in Pennsylvania because you are the governor of our state. Thank you for fighting for unborn children, even when it's a hard thing to do.

From your fan and friend,


That letter, in all its beautiful simplicity, has been a continuing source of inspiration and encouragement in the long struggle to protect the unborn child...

From by Robert R. Casey. Copyright /~1996. Published by Word, Inc., Dallas, TX. All rights reserved. **********************************************************

Sursum Corda interviews Gov. Casey on Religion and Politics.

SC: At the end of your book you say you developed a profound sense of human mortality" particularly after your transplant. And I wonder, does that profoundly affect your whole outlook on politics, and even on the Catholic Church and its importance?

Casey: Let me take the last part first. There isn't any question, when you go through an experience like that, you realize just what your faith means to you, in the sense that what you have at the end, when you're looking down into the abyss- figuratively speaking-of imminent death, is your family and your faith. That's all you have. Everything else is stripped away. I was governor of a major state. I had significant power, but that just melted away, and-as I indicate in the book-I was as powerless as a child. I make this point in the book: we are powerless when we enter the world, and we're powerless when we leave it. And in between we are pilgrims on the same journey. And I've told my children since this experience that it just intensified in me the conviction that your faith is really the only anchor you have-it stays with you-it is a constant. . . Let me take the first part of your question-I don't think that it's had a profound impact on my attitude toward public issues, or public life. It certainly intensified my commitment to the right-to-life issue.

I'm the same person now that I was before the surgery, but I think coming out of that experience was just an affirmation of life and the fragility of life, the ephemeral quality of life. We can be riding high today and, in a flash, we are powerless. Brought down.

SC: After the operation, and in the ensuing years, hare you done any different kinds of reading? Have you altered your reading habits?

Casey: I think I have, yes. I find myself reading magazines and books that have a more conservative bent to them where the cultural or social issues are concerned. Part of that is because I've been a life-long Democrat, still a Democrat, elected as a Democrat, twice as a Democratic governor; but there is no audience for my message in the Democratic Party, so out of necessity I've had to go elsewhere. And that's what I have done. I'm really not in either party at this point, in a sense. This is why I think there will be a new party. And it will present a different combination of issues, economic issues and moral and cultural issues.

This article was taken from the Summer 1996 issue of "Sursum Corda!" Published quarterly and mailed in December, March, June and September by the Foundation for Catholic Reform. Send all subscription requests to "Sursum Corda!", Subscription Dept., 1331 Red Cedar Circle, Ft. Collins, CO 80524. RATES: $26.95 per year.