Sleep for Michael since Donny’s death had been almost non existent. Each night was an endless twisting and turning filled with the nightmares of his brother’s death.His images of that horrible day were of Donny pleading with him for help.He often woke up shouting out Donny’s’ name and shivered in grief and guilt as Arlene tried to sooth him back to sleep.His grief found no bedtime respite, and attempts at trying to sleep again after the vivid recreation of the dreams found only hours of the restless twisting of sheets and endless adjustments of his pillow
.Closure was a word that he often heard by the well intentioned but he knew all too well that there was no clear path to finalizing the deaths of his mother and Donny.Death of a loved one is not a process that has a terminal date. It is not something that finishes and can be relegated to the past. It lingers and and comes at moments that are never predictable.Grief when death comes like a villain in the night is so powerful that the fear is that it will never dissipate. There is no haven that offers solace, and as others recede back to their lives the pain becomes more and more searing.The rituals of a funeral service and burial are not the end but rather the beginning.Each morning brings back the clarion announcement that it is not merely a nightmare. It is a real,tangible declaration that his mother and Donny were dead.The sheer force of that belief has shaken Michael beyond imagination ,and the hurdles in his path are mountains of pain,guilt and self doubt.He begins to examine whether he should continue to study medicine. and with only a remnant of his family left he ponders the thought that he should spend most of his days with Danny and Arlene,
Arlene was his love and harbor in which all facades could be dropped. She was there to wipe the sweat from his forehead when he woke shouting Donny’s name.She listened for hours in loving silence to the anger and guilt that seemed to penetrate the marrow of his soul.She understood that many of the calls and cards had dwindled to a few, and the casseroles and meals were no longer left on their doorstep.She for weeks allowed herself to be the catch basin of Michael’s anger,pain confusion and loss of emotional equilibrium.At no point did she dismiss the choices that she believed were not ones that would lead to the cessation of his grief. She indulged and encouraged the myriad attempts that Michael struggled to clarify.Despite his confusion, she held an unflinching belief that at some point he would choose to turn his pain into service for others. She understood the temptation for him to cease his dream of being a doctor because it was typical in that it was based on his desire to protect Danny and dedicate the rest of his life being by his side.Arlene recognized the roots of this belief, but realized it was a choice that would not only limit what Michael could bring to others, it would also limit the growth of Danny.
The time for decision was almost at hand and Arlene one evening gently inquired what Michael was going to do regarding Seton Hall. Michael literally stared at his hands for what seemed an eternity before softly replying.”I don’t know Somehow medical school seems unimportant and distant at this moment. I am not sure I have the energy that rigorous academic pursuits demand.”Arlene made no attempt to sell a solution but enrolled him in hours off conversation inquiring as to what he saw as the future for he,Danny,herself and children if they were blessed to have them.Her non-judgmental loving presence eventually led Michael to spend days probing all of the options ,and he concluded that perhaps medicine could be a place to turn his grief into the loving service of others.