It is September, back to school week, and for the first time in thirty-five years, Morrie is not returning to teach. Mitch notes that Morrie's clothes are progressively looser-fitting, as he is rapidly losing muscle and body mass. His shirts sag so much that Mitch must continuously adjust Morrie's microphone. Morrie enjoys this physical closeness, as he now feels a stronger need for affection than ever. He tells Mitch that one's family is one's foundation, as the love and caring that a family giv es is supremely valuable. He then quotes Auden, his favorite poet, who said, "Love or perish." Mitch writes this down. Friends, Morrie urges, are not the same as having family. They can be there sometimes, but family is there constantly.
As he thinks of Morrie and his wife and children, Mitch wonders if he would feel an unbearable emptiness if he were dying and had no children of his own. Morrie tells him that he is never one to dictate whether someone should or should not have a child; a ll he says is that there is no experience like having children. He says that although he is ecstatic at having raised children, he is pained by the thought of their living on without him.
Morrie asks Mitch about his own family, who he had met at his college graduation. Mitch reveals that he has an older sister and a younger brother. At the thought of his older brother, Mitch is quiet. He reveals that his brother, who had moved to Europe sh ortly after his graduation from high school, has estranged himself from the family, as he does not want any help from them in his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Growing up, Mitch had been the good boy in the family, and his brother has been bad. Despite his debauchery, his brother had remained the family favorite. Mitch often feels overly conservative in the presence of his brother, who is funny and charming. Sin ce his uncle's death, Mitch had been convinced that he would die a similarly untimely death from disease, and readied himself for cancer. However, the cancer had not struck Mitch; instead, it had struck his brother. Mitch's brother had continually refused help from the family, as he wanted to grapple with the cancer on his own. Each time Mitch had called his brother's home in Spain and had heard the message on his answering machine, spoken in Spanish, it had served as a disheartening reminder of the great distance between them.
In a flashback to his childhood, Mitch recalls going sledding with his brother. They had narrowly escaped being run over by a car, and after their initial fear and shock has subsided, and they are safe, they swell with pride and feel ready to risk their l ives once more.
Upon his arrival at Morrie's house, Mitch is greeted not by Connie as he usually is, but by Charlotte, Morrie's wife. In keeping with Morrie's wishes, Charlotte has kept her job as a professor at M.I.T., and Mitch is surprised to find her at home. She tells Mitch that Morrie isn't having a good day, and also admits that he can no longer eat the food that Mitch brings him each week, as he can only ingest soft food and liquids. Morrie hadn't told him, as he hadn't wanted to hurt Mitch's feelings. Ch arlotte seems despondent, and Mitch attributes her distant look to her exhaustion, as she often is up throughout the night with Morrie when he cannot sleep. Morrie's condition had been decreasing rapidly, and now there are home health care workers working 24-hour shifts to care for him. Mitch notices the many pill bottles that line the kitchen table.