I just ran across a paper which I wrote for a class I took during my Occupational Therapy program called “Death, Dying, and Bereavement.” The assignment was simply to write a reflection paper about a book about death and dying. I was reminded of the power of Tuesdays with Morrie and wanted to share my reflections.
I first read this book several years ago, just after I had written a paper on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). I chose the topic for my paper, because of a comment my grandmother had made about a friend who had ALS. In her frank manner she simply said, “that is the worst disease.” I find it ironic that the effects of the same disease, affecting a man who saw beyond the demyelination of his own nervous system, could bring so much richness and beauty into the world. It is certainly a book which has affected me as well as countless others who otherwise probably would not have picked up a book about dying.
I first read the book on a Thanksgiving flight to North Carolina. It was a powerful book in my life then. I began it again on a Thanksgiving flight to Boston – Morrie’s home – and finished it as I returned again to my home in Salt Lake City.
I must admit that I had a certain amount of fear in reading this book again because I knew that it was about right living and I knew that I was not especially happy with the way that I was living. When I started to read the book, I was so astonishingly amazed that there was no pain in it. There was no condemnation, only a compassionate arm placed around one’s shoulder with a gentle nudge of love to show what living can be, what living can mean. The book was very healing for me. It made me grateful for the mighty internal struggle that I have gone through this semester because it has made me a better person, a more focused student, and much more appreciative of every moment and much more careful with every moment I am alive.
I think that it is hard for one not to love Morrie. I felt this way as I was reading the book. I think that the love that I felt for him – and the connectedness with the story that I felt as I was flying into the city that was such a part of the story – made me feel so much more love and appreciation for the friend I was visiting in Boston and for the two friends who would also be flying in on a later flight to Boston. How could I not love them, how could I not cherish them when every moment is so important.
On the return flight home, as I was nearing the middle of the second to last page of the book, my eyes were filled with tears, my nose was running, the airline steward was asking me if I wanted pretzels, and my friend sitting next to me was asking me a question. My instinct was to hide my face and tears with a diverted look and a short answer and to finish the last paragraphs of the book in which I was so engrossed. My heart told me that I could not read a book such as Tuesdays with Morrie while ignoring a friend. I raised my face to her, answered her question, which involved solving a “puzzle” out of her business administration text book. We continued to work on puzzles out of the book and continued to have a fabulous conversation about a lighthouse we had seen the day before. We spoke about life and that living it required not only the what (i.e. school, family, work) but more importantly, the how (i.e. quality, right living, etc). I concentrated on being present with her, in that moment and I appreciated the opportunity which Morrie had given me – not to escape into this beautiful world – but rather to enjoy a wonderful friend in mine.
Morrie served as my guide on this trip to Boston. Knowing that I was so near to the geographical details – and even the temporal details – of this last months chronicled in this book helped me to hold his beautiful perspective near to me and made me appreciate so richly – yet without holding desperately onto it – the time that I had to be with three very dear friends.
Thank you Morrie!