By the time that classes were about to begin in September Michael had regained enough emotional stability to begin senior year. He had signed up for the three day senior retreat which was to be delivered by Father Charles Hudson a hospital chaplain. Father Hudson was born and raised in Jersey City and had a well-earned reputation as an outstanding speaker. He had the ability to make everyone in his retreats feel as though he was speaking directly to them.His talks were filled with powerful stories, and penetrating human insights .He was known for his self deprecation, and marvelous sense of humor. Michael despite his fragile emotional state responded immediately to Father Hudson’ words.
The last session of the second day was entitled”working through Grief and Guilt”Michael was so touched by this two hour session that when it ended he approached Father Hudson and asked if he could speak with him. Taking off his cassock Father Hudson responded”.I was just going into town for a sandwich and a beer why don’t you join me, I wold love the company.” Michael was thrilled to have this opportunity, and they briskly walked to the Miss Florence Diner which was ten minutes from the campus.Seated at the far corner of the diner they ordered two hamburgers and two beers. As the waitress left their table Father Hudson said”What’s on your mind Michael?”
That question opened the emotional flood gate and Michael poured out all of his anguish and pain. Father Hudson intently listened and never said a word until Michael finished.He took a deep drag on his cigarette before quashing it into an ashtray.”Micael you have been dealt a tough hand by life and no words can make it all go away.Grief is so personal and no one can fully understand where you are but because of what I do day in and day out I have some degree of understanding. Equally important is my history on the personal level. My sister Tina was killed by a drunk driver when she was twenty two. Despite my faith I was a basket case. I was angry at the guy who killed her,angry at God for allowing her death and even angry at Tina for dying.Coupled with that I felt overwhelming guilt.She called me the night she was killed and invited me to the movies.I declined because I had appointments at the hospital.I beat myself up with a ton of magical thinking that if I had gone to the movies she would still be alive.
At one point I came to the conclusion that Tina did not want me to live in the midst of grief and guilt forever. I believe that is true for your loved ones also.Don’t run from the grief Michael, but you are guilty of nothing.You have a life ahead, and there will always be scar tissue ,but you will heal ,I know from experience that your mother and Donny do not want you to be emotionally buried. You will have scar tissue but living your live as fully as possible keeps them alive.”Michael was speechless and as he wept Father Hudson reached across the table and grasped both his hands.
As they left the diner Michael embraced Father Hudson and thanked him. For the first time since Donny’s death he saw light at the end of the grief tunnel