Tuesdays with Morrie is the memoir of Morrie Schwartz, written and narrated by Mitch Albom. Mitch is a graduate from Brandeis University and during his time there he was drawn to sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz. He took as many of his classes as he could and promised to keep in touch after graduation but life got in the way and the years passed without doing so. Sixteen years later he finds himself miserable and overworked in his profession, procrastinating marriage and a family with his girlfriend, and generally unhappy with where he is in his life when he stumbles upon an interview with Morrie by Ted Koppel.
He travels to Morrie’s home to visit with him and ends up returning every Tuesday to continue learning from his treasured professor.Morrie Schwartz had a difficult childhood with a sick mother that passed away when he was young. His father was cold and distant, and he went without physical and emotional affection until his father remarried.
He ended up becoming a professor of Sociology at Brandeis but had to give up his profession when his body became devastated by ALS. As he loses control he tries to reclaim his childhood by embracing having to be cared for. He craves the love and affection he did not get growing up and thrives on being touched by his friends and family. Even though ALS ravages his body, his mind remains as sharp as it ever was and he retains his ability to reach deep into a person and draw out their inner desires and needs. With his mind intact he is distinctly aware of how little time he has left and to pass on his wisdom and the lessons he has learned to as many people as possible and he uses his time with Mitch to fulfill that need.Tuesdays with Morrie is organized in a nonlinear style. Albom intersperses flashbacks of memories of his past classes with Morrie at Brandeis University with details and stories about his current classes with him. It is narrated primarily in the first person and is largely composed of dialogue Albom transcribed from recordings and memories of his time with Morrie before his death. It begins with a brief introduction on how he knows Morrie and a description of his ongoing lessons about the meaning of life with him. He breaks the chapters down into weeks and lessons, such as, The Fifth Tuesday We Talk about Family. Morrie gains insight into what is truly important in life through the loss of his ability to fully participate in it. Movement is important to Morrie, as is especially evident in his reminiscing about dancing. When he loses the ability to dance, walk, move, eat he grieves for those losses, but gains perspective on life and what it means to live. Gone are his days of dancing away the hours, but now he passes his hours with friends and visitors, talking about the things that are most important to him- learning, loving, supporting. He may be mourning his eventual death, and his loss of mobility and independence, but he considers himself fortunate because he has acquired the chance to say his goodbyes, make his peace with death, and teach the lessons he has learned in recent years but has not been able to share. Death is a scary part of life to think about, and even worse to discuss for many. Morrie’s thoughts on death are scattered throughout the entire book and evolve until he begins to recognize himself as just one person in a sea of humanity that will cease to become an individual in the thirteenth week. This is also the week in which his detachment from death is complete and he and Charlotte decide that he will be cremated. He is even able to joke with the rabbi to make sure they don’t overcook me and his acceptance in the moments he feels like he is dying. Morrie’s thoughts seem focused on the inevitability of death, and on how much dying has made him appreciate the time he got to spend living. During the hard times, he pities himself and the unfairness of death but puts it away to focus on life. The most meaningful talk of death for me came from the fourth Tuesday. Morrie explains that we never know when we will die and uses the Buddhist practice of asking the bird on your shoulder every day if today is the day you die. This topic was an important one for me because it is one that I am currently working on within myself. Recent losses, a health scare, and injury have forced the topic of not only my loved one’s mortality, but my own into the forethought and it has been a struggle. Morrie says, The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live. This is sage advice and to me, it says that we have to accept the fact that we will die before we can truly appreciate the life we have left. I do not think you have to wait until you know you are dying to learn that, but my recent experiences, as well as reading Tuesdays with Morrie have me thinking that accepting the inevitable has put my own life into perspective and taught me what and who the important things in my life are.His family is one of the most important things to Morrie. On the fifth Tuesday, he talks about how family is more important than friendships, saying that family has to be there to support you, while friends can choose not to. He tells Mitch how much harder his ALS would be without his wife and children, that he is glad he had them though he was saddened over them living without him. As a mother, this thought is something that resonates with me. The thought of leaving my daughters behind is one of my biggest hang-ups when I think about my own death so on this I can agree with him.Like Morrie, my family is important to me, but I believe we can make our own family without marriage or a blood connection. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a close, healthy family, and some have no family at all. I have surrounded myself with a close group of friends and rely on them more heavily than I do my family. I also disagree that family has to be there whereas friends can choose not to support you in your time of need. One of my close friends passed away recently after a sudden illness, and she had no family other than her husband. He was unable to care for her for the few weeks she was home again, so we, her friends stepped in without hesitation. We made a schedule and rotated days and times so that she always had someone to take care of her and help her husband. In those few weeks, her mother stopped by one time, and we never saw her siblings.When Morrie speaks about the loss of dignity, I think he is speaking on two different topics. The first is the loss of dignity that comes with losing control of your body. The ultimate expression of this for Morrie was his progression to the point that he could no longer clean up after relieving himself. He confides in Mitch that he has reached that degree of helplessness on the seventh Tuesday, but he has managed to tackle that fear by embracing it and allowing himself to feel like a child being cared for again. The second loss of dignity I think Morrie refers to is the loss of pride in himself. He does not like feeling weak and hides his weak moments for the dark, and first thing in the morning. He tells Mitch he gives himself a few minutes of self-pity but will not indulge in it the rest of the day. This topic made me think because I have seen so many people suffer a loss of dignity and pride towards the end of their lives. I have seen how demoralizing it is and it is a great fear of me personally. I admire Morrie for his outlook and wish the people I have known were able to be so strong and positive about it. Morrie implies the culture we are raised in influences the idea of dignity and I agree with that. There is an importance put on independence and self-reliance. We are raised in a culture that teaches there is shame in admitting you need help and reaching out and I am certainly guilty of feeling this way. Morrie’s method of picking and choosing from other cultures and personal beliefs to create his own personal culture of strength and positivity is inspiring to me. I hope that someday I can follow his example and age and die with my dignity, and strength of mind intact.Morrie stresses the importance of living a meaningful life. This is probably my favorite topic that Morrie addresses and there are elements of it throughout every Tuesday. We never know when we will die, so it is important to live every day like it is our last. He places emphases on loving yourself, loving others, giving back to your community, and finding purpose and meaning. Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive, is a great example of this. Morrie’s greatest gift he has is the ability to learn and to teach and he continues to do so with Mitch’s help until he is physically unable. On the topic of love, his greatest lesson is this, The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. We can never have enough love, whether we are giving it or receiving it. I like Morrie’s idea that it is the most important thing we can have.I have always thought that a meaningful life was important because we do not know when we will die, but I was not entirely sure what that meant until reading Tuesdays with Morrie. The conclusion I have come to is that there are some universal truths that make up a formula for a meaningful life, such as love, fulfillment, pursuing passions, helping others but the specifics are individual. Some may find more fulfillment in chasing fame, succeeding in their chosen career path, while others may find that same fulfillment in settling down and starting a family. Passions can be different, but the important thing is that they are indulged in. Dreams should be followed, not denied. The difficulty for me is that our culture does not always allow for that. It is difficult to live in a capitalist society if your dream does not provide you with a sufficient income. Someday I hope I can find the perfect balance.My grandfather and I discussed topics surrounding these ideas even if we did not outright discuss them. We did talk about death, but not necessarily the fear of death. We talked about family members we have lost, and how difficult it is getting older and watching your parents and older relatives, siblings, and friends begin dying before you. He shared similar views with Morrie in dreading dying before his children because he does not want them to feel that loss. He feels the same way about my grandmother and hopes she passes away before him so she does not have to mourn him or struggle to do things he has always done, like handle the finances. On the topic of family, he shares Morrie’s belief that there is nothing more important than family. He is the only one remaining of his eleven siblings, and only has a couple of cousins still living. Reflecting back on our conversation I am curious whether that is a product of the environment and time he was raised in or possibly the fact that he has so little family left. Morrie appears to believe that it is never too late to mend a familial relationship. I got the feeling that my grandfather wants to believe this because family is so important to him, but I do not think he views this as realistic. Mending a broken relationship relies on all parties wanting it to be fixed, and I think he views some things as unforgivable.We also discussed some of the things that are in the formula for living a meaningful life. He has always been a service oriented person. His willingness to help others is something I have always been significant when I think of who he is as a person. He believes in helping anyone he can without expectation of return or accolades. He also has things he has always been passionate about, gardening for example, and losing the ability to garden as much as he used to have been difficult on him so he has learned to adapt so he can still indulge in them. Overall, he is satisfied with the life he lived and regrets very little because everything he has said, done, and not done has led him to where he is today.The key lesson I learned from my grandfather was to spend more time doing things I enjoy. I get so wrapped up in the tedious, stressful parts of life that I often forget to take time for myself and just relax. He taught me that these things that may seem life-changing, and catastrophic to me right now, will likely mean nothing in the end. It is more likely I will completely forget what I was so stressed out about. But, I will remember, and regret the things that I did not do because of it. He also taught me some smaller lessons. First, never stop learning. Learning is fun, and he believes it keeps your mind young and sharp. Talking to him, and watching Morrie’s interviews I have to agree with this sentiment. And finally, never stop moving as long as you can. He credits his relatively good health to the fact that he has stayed active.We look to older adults for wisdom because we equate experience with wisdom. And, for good reason. Older adults have lived through many of the things that we can only conceive of today. Those events and occurrences create a wealth of wisdom and can create a different way of viewing things. Especially as they are looking back and can easily point out things they did right and wrong, and how they should have handled situations differently. Older adults also have more of a crystallized intelligence so they have accumulated the knowledge and facts that help form the wisdom we look to them for.Reading Tuesdays with Morrie and the interaction assignment were eye-opening experiences for me. Together they have impacted the way I prioritize my life. I have been reflecting on the things that are important to me right now, and how I might look at them when I am my grandfather’s age, or know that I am dying. It has been a reminder that I really am only human. I have always been so hard on myself, but this has been a good lesson on forgiveness, not just others, but forgiving myself as well. I hope that someday soon I will be a Tuesday person.