Lingering Grief

The next day Mike and Sal are having coffee in the late afternoon. They are both seated at a table.Michael while stirring his coffee seems deep in thought.

“I saw a woman in the lobby this morning that looked just like Arlene when she was fifty. I was stunned by her appearance, and it set off all kind of memories.” Michael paused and his voice cracked- It’s the little things that I miss. Like her touching my hair as she passed when I was reading in a chair. Or meeting her for a movie and sandwich after work. I find it’s the nights that are the most difficult, It’s amazing how lonely you can be in your own home. Everything in that place was a constant reminder that she was no longer there. Sal when does it stop hurting? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss Arlene. There is always something that reminds me of her.”

“. I still have Helen’s number on my cell phone and there are times when I forget that she is dead and go to call her.”

:Michael nods in total agreement with Sal’s thoughts “The good part for me is that I always knew that I was the luckiest man alive. The bad part is that I still feel guilty about my inability to save her. Christ I probably know more about ovarian cancer than anyone alive. I spent endless hours trying to find a glimmer of hope, and every time I thought I was on the right track I would run into a blind alley. I took her to the best oncologists in the country, but it made no difference I even looked at every homeopathic treatment as well as nutritional and herb medicine but in reality none of it mattered..”

“I’m sure that you did more than anyone could do.”

: “I even resorted to bargaining.”

“Bargaining?”

“Yes bargaining with God. If he would spare her ,I would commit myself to being a better person. In the end all I wound up with was a sense of failure and guilt.”

“At a serious moment like this I hesitate to tell you that Italians do not suffer from the disease of guilt. We have willed it to the Irish and the Jews.”

“Did you feel anything like that when Helen died?”

“I experienced an anger that was totally foreign to me. I was angry at everything and everybody. Hell I was even angry at her for dying. How stupid is that?”

“Gee, I thought I was the only one that felt that way. What did you do with that anger?”
“Initially I buried myself in my work ,and when I wasn’t at work I would drink a little too much wine. The wine consumption didn’t last long because I recognized that was a road that led to nowhere. Being with my kids helped a lot because I could see the wonderful job that Helen had done with them. They both reflect all of the great qualities that she possessed.”

“Do they have any of your qualities?”

“I’m sure they do, but they are more like their Mother.”

“You would think that with our background death would be something we would understand and deal with better than most.”

“I think that’s based on a misnomer that being a priest or doctor insulates us from pain. We are just like anyone else; when death comes it sears our souls just like anyone else. I first learned that when Jack died at age 29 in an auto accident.”

“Who was Jack?”

: “He was a priest that I was stationed with in the parish. Murph, as I affectionately called him, had this angelic Irish face but in many ways he was like our friend maniac.
I had left the parish for graduate work in Rome when I received the news about his death. It hit me like a brick. I went home for the funeral, but it was months later that the grief overwhelmed me.”

“Were you in Rome at that time?”

“No I was in Vienna studying with Dr. Viktor Frankl.”

“The guy who wrote “Mans search for meaning”?”

“The same. One night I went to his office ,and for two hours just dumped my heartache and confusion in his lap. Now you have to realize that not only was he in a German concentration camp, but he also lost most of his family. He listened ,and never said a word until I was done, and then he said two things that changed my life. He said” You feel such pain because you loved Jack ‘ There will come a moment in time when you will have to chose between emotionally getting in the grave with Jack or choosing to live again. From what you have said if you choose to bury yourself with him I don’t think you really understood what a life force he was.”

“God that’s profound.”

Salvatore J. TagliareniWrite a comment…
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