It was difficult for Sal to believe that Jack Murphy was actually dead. Somehow he was dead when he was in Rome, but when he returns to America it will all have been a bad dream. Sal had given up smoking but due to the anxiety that he was experiencing asked a fellow passenger if he could borrow cigarette. Before he knew it the old habit had fully reared its head, and he smoked one cigarette after the other. The flight seemed endless ,and over and over Sal processed the reality of what he was experiencing. How could this happen? Was it a dream? Part of him wanted to believe that, but having experienced so many deaths as a parish priest Sal knew in his heart that Jack was actually dead.
When Sal arrived at Kennedy Airport the reality of Jack’s death began to infiltrate every aspect of his being. As he approached the luggage area he saw friends who had come to give him a ride to Westbury. The sight of these wonderful friends renewed the realization that he had not come home on a visit but was there to attend the funeral of his best friend. The warm hugs and embraces of friends momentarily abated the deep sense of profound loss that Sal was experiencing. The ride from the airport to Westbury seemed exceptionally long. Upon arriving at Holy Trinity Parish
Sal slowly left the car, and made his way up the steps into the lobby of the rectory. Monsignor Murphy opened the door and warmly greeted him.” Welcome home Sal I am sorry it is under these circumstances. Sal shook his hand and said” Thanks Charlie I still can’t believe it.” With these few words Charlie stepped aside, and Sal walked down the narrow corridor that he had walked down literally thousands of times before into the back parlor which was filled with guests and family. Jack’s parents brothers and sister rose to greet him and as if he had turned on a switch the tears cascaded as they embraced each other. Words seemed almost fruitless, and he could not honestly remember what he said to them, but he remember staring at the casket which contained his best friend. Sal knelt by the casket, and could not contain the bevy of water that flowed from his eyes. Little did he know that as painful as this moment was it would be easiest part of the grieving process.
For the next three days Sal preached sermons about his friend, and when he was laid to rest Sal naïvely believed that he was prepared to deal with his loss. Staying with his parents for a few days before returning to Rome he found great comfort in their presence ,and the number of friends and family who reached out to him, but it was time to go back to Rome.
Upon arrival at the graduate House of theology Sal went to the mailbox and there to his amazement was a letter from Jack Murphy. He had plans to visit Rome at the beginning of November, and this note was in typical Jack Murphy fashion. It was filled with humo,r friendship and excitement that once again that they would be together in the place that they both loved so much. Sal’s hands trembled as he opened the letter, and over and over again he read it as if reading it would somehow bring Jack back. In a way the letter made it even more difficult because it had the ability to capture the wondrous boyishness that Sal had come to so respect and enjoy.