Tuesdays With Morrie

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Mitch Albom
Morrie Schwartz

Questions for Discussion

•What made Morrie so special that people would fly to him, make time for him, interview him and write about him?
•How did his mother's death affect his life?
•Why does Morrie like the presence of people so much?
•Why does Mitch feel that he is not the same person that he was in college?
•How does Morrie stay positive about the fact that he is dying?
•Why doesn't Morrie complain about his illness and how does he learn to accept it?
•Why did Morrie decide to tell people about his illness and his life lessons?
•How do Morrie's friends help him with his struggle?


Whenever a lessening of a physical power occurs, it will always feel too soon. Expect this reaction. Perhaps by preparing for it mentally, you can soften its impact.

Accept yourself, your physical condition, and your fate as they are at the present moment.

Expect that it’s going to be harder and take longer to do things. Be prepared to do things in ways that are very different from the ways you did them before.

Get as much help as you can when you need it.

Don’t stay preoccupied with your body or your illness. Recognize that your body is not your total self, only part of it.

Expect things to be inaccessible, unattainable, unreachable. When they are, don’t get too frustrated or angry. If you do, let it be short-lived.

Expect stressful situations to occur as your illness progresses or acts up. Develop an approach to managing your emotions during these occurrences.

Watch for emotional, spiritual, or behavioral regressions when you are most vulnerable. Try to avoid, minimize, or stop your regression.

When you are utterly frustrated or angry, express these feelings. You don’t have to be nice all the time—just most of the time.

Grieve and mourn for yourself, not once or twice, but again and again. Grieving is a great catharsis and comfort and a way of keeping yourself composed.

Make an agreement with your family and friends to remind you when you’re depressed, anxious, despairing, or lacking in composure that you do not want to stay that way. Ask them for a compassionate nudge.

After you have wept and grieved for you physical losses, cherish the functions and the life you have left.

Try to develop an inner emotional or spiritual peace to balance the distresses of your body. You might begin by learning to accept “what is” for you at any particular time.

Expect to feel like a dependent child and an independent adult at different times.

At some point, be prepared to deal with profound contradictory feelings—for example, wanting to live and wanting to die, loving others and disliking them.

If you find yourself fantasizing that you are no longer sick and have been restored to your previous level of functioning, stay with the fantasy as long s it gives you pleasure. But return to reality when the fantasy becomes painful or when it is otherwise necessary for you to do so.

Come to terms with the fact that you will never again be fully physically comfortable. Enjoy the times you are comfortable enough.

Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it. Reminisce about it, but don’t live in it. Learn from it, but don’t punish yourself about it or continually regret it. Don’t get stuck in it.

Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others. Ask for forgiveness from others. Forgiveness can soften the heart, drain the bitterness, and dissolve your guilt

All the work you have actively done on yourself—all the experiences you have had in your life—can be used to maintain your composure. You have these resources. Draw on them.

Be occupied with or focused on things and issues that are of interest, importance, and concern to you. Remain passionately involved in them.

Resist the temptation to think of yourself as useless. It will only lead to depression. Find your own ways of being and feeling useful.

Don’t assume that it’s too late to become involved or to redirect your interests.

Take in a much joy as you can whenever and however you can. You may find it in unpredictable places and situations.

Keep your heart open for as long as you can, as wide as you can, for others and especially for yourself. Be generous, decent, and welcoming.

Recognize the difference between what you want and need. Your need to feel connected to other people is as vital to human survival as food, water, and shelter.

Talk openly about your illness with those who’ll listen. It will help them cope with their own vulnerabilities as well as your own.

Maintain and continue a support system, individually and collectively, of people who care about you and vice versa. Do not make demands that others are not ready or willing to fulfill. You may drive them away. Accept their refusal graciously.

Know that your friends and family may see you as less incapacitated than you are because they want you to be “better.” They have this need because they care about you. Accept this, while trying to convey your current reality without imposing it on them

Let others’ affection, love, concern, interest, admiration, and respect be enough to keep you composed.

Be loving, compassionate, and gentle toward yourself. Befriend yourself. Do not put yourself down or criticize yourself continuously.

Find ways to maintain your inner privacy even when your privacy is being invaded by external necessities.

If you are ill, you can experience more freedom to be who your really are and want to be because you now have nothing to lose.

Try to compensate for the loss of control of parts of your body by increasing control over your mind and emotions.

Be a witness to yourself. Act as an observer to your own physical, emotional, social, and spiritual states.

Accept your doubts about your ability to achieve any change in your emotional state. But keep trying. You might be surprised.

Be hopeful but not foolishly hopeful

If possible, find and develop a spiritual connection and practice that comforts you

Find what is divine, holy, or sacred for you. Attend to it, worship it, in your own way

Seek answers to eternal and ultimate questions about life and death, but be prepared not to find them. Enjoy the search.

Entertain the thought and feeling that the distance between life and death may not be as great as you think.

Be grateful that you have been given the time to learn how to die

Include one or more friends in your spiritual search. You might find the path to spiritual connection less difficult.

Learn how to live, and you’ll know how to die; learn how to die, and you’ll know how to live.



Morrie's Books

The Mental Hospital: A Study of Institutional Participation in Psychiatric Illness and Treatment.
Letting Go: Reflections on Living While Dying
In His Own Words: Life Wisdom From a Remarkable Man




W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Writing Assignments

#1 Read all of Morrie's aphorisms and choose the one that is most important to you. Write 100 words on why you chose that one.

#2 Write a list of your own aphorisms. You can't recycle any of his. You need to have at least ten.

#3 Tell the story of what you have learned about life from death. If you have never had someone close die or be very ill, you can write about what you learned from Morrie. 200 words minimum.

#4 Find a person in your life who is like Morrie, an old friend, a relative or a peer and interview that person the way Mitch interviewed Morrie. Make sure the person you choose has wisdom enough. Then, write what you learned from the interview. 300 words minimum.

#5 Morrie tells the parable of "the little wave." What does that mean to you? Invent a parable like this one or tell one you already know that teaches a similar lesson. Then, explain it. 400 words minimum.

#6 Morrie has a favorite poem. What is it? Why does he like it so much? And what does that poem mean? 500 words minimum.