That is another question altogether.
Teresa Marie Schindler had a purple-and-white bedroom in her family's home in the Philadelphia suburbs. White wicker furniture. Endless stuffed animals. Posters of '70s television stars; she liked David Cassidy more than Shaun. Her brother, Bobby, was two years younger, her sister Suzanne two years younger than that.
Her first friend was Diane Meyer. Her dad had been pals with Terri's dad forever. The girls became friends at age 2 and did family celebrations together, took annual summer vacation trips to the same hotels on the Jersey shore. Diane's little brother, Stephen, was best friends with Bobby. The boys tortured the girls regularly, in that little-brother way. Water pistol attacks. Food fights. Obnoxious public behavior designed to embarrass. That made Terri nuts. She hated to stand out.
Terri Schindler and Michael Schiavo on their wedding day, in 1984.
(Family Photo via Zuma Press)
"To those who knew her -- her friends, her family -- she was vivacious, outgoing, funny," Meyer says. "But in a crowd, she was the quiet one."
She never sought out friends, but welcomed them eagerly if they made an overture. It was in her seventh-grade classroom that she first bonded with Pickwell; they both broke up laughing over something silly that was said.
"I don't remember what it was," Pickwell says, "but everything's funny in seventh grade, I guess."
They became fast friends. There was a sleepover almost every weekend. Terri went on Pickwell family outings and vice versa.
"There was nothing extraordinary," Pickwell says. "No trying to change the world type of thing. It was your typical teenagers, watching movies, eating junk food, that kind of thing."
They were mall rats. The day Pickwell got her driver's license, that's the first place they went. It was, in their vocabulary, huge. Once Terri got her license, she and Meyer -- who went to a different school -- started hanging out frequently. They watched sappy TV movies, especially love stories and anything adapted from romance novelist Danielle Steel, Terri's favorite author. They went to the Magic Pan for crepes.
Terri's weight reached more than 200 pounds, and late in her senior year, she went on the NutriSystem diet and lost more than 50 pounds. She continued to live at home and enrolled in Bucks County Community College. On weekends, she took her Trans Am on road trips to visit Meyer, who went away to college at the University of Scranton. Meyer was a sorority sister at Gamma Phi Beta. Terri, she says, was like an honorary sorority member. She'd go to the parties, hang out, make friends.
"I don't know if it was the weight loss or maturity or all of it combined, but she started to put herself out there a little bit more," Meyer says. "And once she did, she got more success in social situations. Terri is the kind of person, you meet her, you love her."
A few months later, Terri met a guy at school. His name was Michael Schiavo.
"Michael was her first everything."
Pickwell is keeping her voice neutral. She disagrees vehemently with the decisions Michael has made about Terri's future. But that is now. This was then.