Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Mitch Albom speaks with his beloved teacher and friend, Morrie Schwartz. Albom met with Schwartz for 14 consecutive Tuesdays to discuss life’s greatest lessons.

Photo Courtesy of, © 2013

Mitch Albom speaks with his beloved teacher and friend, Morrie Schwartz. Albom met with Schwartz for 14 consecutive Tuesdays to discuss life’s greatest lessons.

Manu Kondapi, Campus Life Editor

Books usually don’t make me too emotional. So when Tuesdays with Morrie reduced me to tears, I knew I had come across something special. A story of a rekindled relationship, Tuesdays with Morrie chronicles the time spent by a student, Mitch Albom, with his former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is dying from ALS. Mitch meets with Morrie every Tuesday for fourteen weeks, and their conversations turn into a final “class”- lessons on how to live. There wasn’t one certain passage which captured my attention; rather, it was the professor, his ideologies, and his gestures which touched me. Morrie Schwartz, what a character- a sociology professor, dancer, father, and most importantly, a mentor. His childhood was difficult as his family dealt with poverty and death, and he worked hard to create a better life for himself. One of the most respected professors at Brandeis University, he inspired so many students, and continues to do so through Tuesdays with Morrie. He found joy in things as basic as human contact, and wasn’t dispirited when his death sentence was announced. Rather, he decided that death would be his last project. He would cross the ultimate bridge between life and death, and narrate the trip.

“Be compassionate. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.”

I was moved by Morrie’s compassion when he responded to the letters after his appearance on Nightline with Ted Koppel. He was in constant pain and still took the time to help others through their times of difficulty. Morrie sobbed when he shared his mother’s death with Koppel, because the pain, even after 70 years, was fresh in his mind. Even in death, Morrie seemed to be considerate of his family. He probably didn’t realize it, but he passed away when they left the room for a brief moment. His subconscious must have been familiar with his empathy – Morrie didn’t want his family to be haunted by his last breath, the way he had been by the telegram informing him of his mother’s death.

“The big things—how we think, what we value—those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone–or any society—determine those for you.”

All of Morrie’s lessons show that developing one’s own values is more important than adhering to popular cultural values. This idea really struck me, and I couldn’t agree more. Our culture doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves- every ad we watch, everything we eat is limited by the constant notion of “perfection.” Our culture is too superficial to benefit us.  We separate ourselves based on difference, rather than coming together with our similarities. Morrie spent his life creating his own culture based on love, acceptance, and open communication, after he realized that pop culture was too full of violence and superficiality. “So many people walk around with a meaningless life… this is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others and to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Morrie definitely found his own form of happiness- he danced to his music in Harvard Square, helped the poor receive mental health services, read books to find innovative ideas to share with his classes, and watched nature instead of the TV. I hope to create my own culture, one that makes me fulfilled, and proud of myself.

“It’s wonderful because of all the time I get to say good-bye. Not everyone is so lucky.”

Even as he lay in his chair, suffering from ALS, Morrie refused to be disheartened.  His optimism towards any situation truly surprised me. ALS causes one to lose control of their muscles, starting with the legs and moving upward towards the lungs, until the patient suffocates. Morrie was so independent, and ALS took that away from him- “Someone wiping your bottom. It’s the ultimate sign of dependency.” Still, he stayed positive. He says to Mitch, “I get to be a baby one more time.” In the case of both of his parents, Morrie never had the chance to say good-bye. His mother died in the hospital, and he had to read the death announcement to his family, as his dad wasn’t literate. Morrie wasn’t close with his dad and found out about his death when he was called to identify the body.  Therefore, Morrie saw his death sentence as a type of blessing; he was able to say good-bye to his loved ones.

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

Morrie said to Ted Koppel, “When all this started, I asked myself ‘Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live? I decided I’m going to live-or at least try to live–the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure.” Morrie touched everyone he met through his warm gestures and abundance of love, and he continues to do so in Tuesdays with Morrie. Morrie may be gone, but his teachings most certainly live on.