While the book Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson, by Mitch Albom, tells the true story of Morrie’s Schwartz’s illness and death, this book teaches as much about life and living well as it does about dying with dignity.
Mr. Albom had not seen his former professor for sixteen years, when he saw a news broadcast of Ted Koppel’s first interview with Mr. Schwartz (available on DVD; see Resources below). During the final months of his life, Mitch Albom traveled each Tuesday to spend time with his former sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz.
During their visits, the two discussed a wide variety of topics, including terminal illness, life regrets, family, aging, money and materialism, marriage, culture, forgiveness, and most important to Mr. Schwartz, relationships and love. Mitch Albom skillfully weaves the content of these conversations with anecdotes about both of their childhoods, important life events, and their relationship sixteen years prior as professor and student.
Morrie Schwartz had a terminal neuromuscular disease called Amotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS; often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This deadly disease is one of the motor neuron diseases. It affects the muscles of the legs and arms, throat, and mouth, and eventually involves all of the voluntary muscles causing paralysis. The muscles involved in eating and respiration become involved as the disese progresses. This disease usually progresses rapidly, and average survival after diagnosis is only about three to five years.
I first read this book more than thirteen years ago when it first came out, long before being diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). It deeply moved me then. Rereading Tuesdays with Morrie, now, after being diagnosed with a different and not nearly as serious neuromuscular disease, I find that this book continued to teach, inspire, uplift, and move me deeply.
During this reading, I also watched the Ted Koppel’s interviews with Mr. Schwartz for the first time. Seeing these interviews (filmed over the course of about six months) highlighted the contrast between Mr. Schwartz’s optimism, courage, and emotional strength in the face of ALS and the rapid physical devastation of the disease to his body.
If you have not read this book, I highly recommend that you read it. If it has been awhile since you last read this book, I would recommend that you read it again. While this book highlights one man’s ability to rise above the horrors of ALS even as he was dying, it is a book for anyone who wants to learn about living life to one’s fullest potential.
ABC News, (2005). ABC News presents Morrie Schwartz: Lessons on Living (DVD). ABC News Productions, Inc.: Port Washington, NY.
Albom, M., (1997). Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. Doubleday: New York, NY.
FTC Disclosure: I obtained copies of the book and DVD described in this review at no cost from my local public library.