10 points on Tuesdays with Morrie

1. You will cry. Or at least tear up. If you don’t, you’re probably a monster. (Sorry.)

2. I love how the experiences of a dying professor are presented as a university course. This beautifully fitting metaphor lessens the heaviness of coping with a terminal illness by focusing on the patient’s thoughts about life instead of on the horrors of his disease, while at the same time it intensifies the importance of his teachings.

3. You will get to know the most loveable professor of all time. Remember Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society? Morrie is one of those wonderful teachers that couldn’t be anything other, even if they wanted to.

4. Morrie has ALS, a fatal disease of the neurological system.

5. Writing about such a sensitive subject in a positive and oftentimes humorous way, is a very thin line, but Mitch Albom walks it perfectly.

6. Morrie gave three interviews on television in the months before his death. A wrap-up of this “miniseries about death” is available here.

7. Many of the most powerful messages of the book are written between the lines. You cannot read them, you can feel them. For example, Albom uses the word “compassion” rarely in this text, but every page of the book is full of it. Rather than reading about it, you can feel it between the two main characters all the time; in every kind gesture and in every shared silence.

8. Tuesdays with Morrie was published in 1997. Morrie died 20 years ago. One of the reasons for the continuing success of this book might be that we feel that there’s a good chance that Morrie’s fate might be our fate as well. If not because of a horrible disease like ALS or cancer, then because of old age. Life-expectancy is increasing. And one sad fact about getting old is that dying of old age includes the same horrible things as dying from a horrible disease: vulnerability, loss of privacy, increasing dependence. The only difference is that people who are suffering through a disease wither in the course of months and people dying from old age wither in the course of years or even decades. Old age gives you more time to adjust to each stage of dying. As Morrie says in the beginning:

“I’m on the last great journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.”

9. We live in a culture where death is met with fear. Morrie tells us that this doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. We could also live in a culture free of fear where death is met with serenity. Over the centuries humankind thought of many different theories about death: in native-American cultures the old just lay down to die when they felt like the time had come to let go of life. Other cultures like the old Spartans regarded death as a way to glory. In Buddhist culture people believe in reincarnation (in the worst case) and entering nirvana (in the best). Our Western culture fears death because we are almost certain that death is the end. But who is to say we are right about that?

10. Morrie didn’t know the answers to the questions accompanying death either. Morrie’s gift to the world lies in the self-awareness with which he looked death in the eye. And in his remarkable ability of reflection which allowed him to draw important conclusions from his dying about life in general. If you take away only one lesson from this “teacher to the last” than it should be this: Invest in people. Real human relationships are what maintain us. Not only when we are dying, but our whole life.

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This book is about something profoundly human: vulnerability. Tuesdays with Morrie will change the way you see illness, life and death. It will put your world in perspective whenever the banalities of daily life have distracted you successfully from what’s really important.

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The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves. The class met on Tuesdays. It began after breakfast. The subject was The Meaning of Life. It was taught from experience.

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People see me as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be, but I’m not yet dead. I’m sort of . . . in-between.
33

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
52

As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth.
118

Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.
162

Death ends a life, not a relationship.
p. 174

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