Mitch walks up the driveway to Morrie's house, noticing the plants planted in front of the house. Charlotte, Morrie's wife, answers the door—an unusual event, since she still works at MIT and isn't often home in the morning. Charlotte seems worried as she lets Mitch in, telling him that Morrie's having a hard day. When Mitch offers her the bags of food, she tells him that Morrie still hasn't eaten any from last time. She opens the fridge and freezer, both of which are filled with food. Charlotte says that it's all too hard for Morrie to eat, but that Morrie didn't say anything because he doesn't want to hurt Mitch's feelings. Mitch says he just wants to help and bring something, to which Charlotte replies that Morrie looks forward to Mitch's visits, and they give him purpose.
As Mitch continues to evolve and take on a life view more like Morrie's, he notices nature more than he used to. Food, which up until this point has been a positive symbol of life, is also starting to take onmore tragic connotations, as Morrie cannot enjoy this aspect of life anymore. Morrie is willing to accept it as a token of friendship, but can no longer eat like he used to. However, the ritual of Mitch bringing food is still part of the way that Morrie builds his community, but now the food is purely symbolic in a metaphoric way rather than a literal, tangible way.
Morrie is spending most nights awake coughing for hours, meaning that neither he nor Charlotte are sleeping through the night. Between healthcare workers staying overnight and Morrie's endless stream of visitors, Charlotte doesn't get much time one-on-one with Morrie, although Mitch says she handles it all with immense patience. Mitch helps her put the food in the fridge and takes note of all the pill bottles on their counter. Charlotte goes to check if Morrie is ready for Mitch, and Mitch feels a sense of shame as he looks at the food, seeing it as a reminder of things Morrie will never again enjoy.
Charlotte in general isn't given much depth or attention, but this instance makes it obvious that she fully supports Morrie in his community. This scene rounds out her character as wholly supportive of her husband, adding more weight to Morrie's earlier comments that family is the most important element for life. She unselfishly puts Morrie's happiness and fulfillment above her own desires to spend time with him.
When Mitch sits down with Morrie, Morrie's cough is violent and it takes Morrie a while to recover. After making sure the tape is on, Morrie says that he's detaching himself from the experience, which he believes is important for himself as well as for healthy people like Mitch. He invokes a Buddhist philosophy of not clinging to things because nothing is permanent. Mitch questions this, wondering how this fits in with Morrie also saying to fully experience life and emotions. Morrie replies that you must allow an emotion to penetrate fully, because then you can understand what it feels like, step back, and detach.
Morrie is struggling more and more now that the coughing is getting worse. With his ideas of detachment, he's facing his inevitable death increasingly head-on. The fact that Mitch is now questioning Morrie's ideas, rather than just listening, shows how much more he's engaging with these lessons. He's becoming an active student, participating in a discussion rather than listening to a lecture.
Morrie shares his scariest moments of coughing and not being able to breathe, but says that once he was able to recognize the emotions of fear and anxiety, he could detach and step away from the fear. Mitch thinks about how this idea relates to life and other experiences, and suddenly, Morrie starts violently coughing and choking again. Mitch slaps Morrie's back and the coughing subsides. Mitch is shaking and scared, and the two sit quietly while Morrie recovers.
Here we see how someone faces death when they haven't been practicing Morrie's idea of detachment. Mitch is extremely scared, and the scene is mostly about him and his intense reaction to seeing Morrie so close to death. Morrie is, presumably, practicing detachment, while Mitch only experiences fear.
Morrie finally speaks and says he knows how he wants to die: peacefully, not in the middle of a coughing fit. He says that detachment becomes helpful because if he does die in the middle of a coughing spell, he needs to be able to detach so he doesn't leave the world in a state of fright. When Morrie asks Mitch if he understands, Mitch nods, but quickly adds that Morrie can't let go yet. Morrie smiles and agrees.
Morrie's decision here foreshadows what we'll learn about Morrie's father in the next chapter. Mitch is still reeling from seeing Morrie's coughing fit. By telling Morrie that he can't let go yet, Mitch shows that he's not ready to detach and accept Morrie's death.
Mitch asks Morrie if he believes in reincarnation, which Morrie answers with a maybe. When asked what he'd come back as, Morrie replies that he'd be a gazelle, because they're graceful and fast. Morrie asks Mitch if he thinks that's strange. Mitch looks at Morrie and his shrunken, immobile body, and says he doesn't think a gazelle is strange at all.
Morrie's choice of animal shows how important movement is to him, as he chose an animal that is known primarily for the fact that it can move very quickly and beautifully, like a dancer.