Morrie once said, “dying is only one thing to be sad over… living unhappily is something else.” Morrie Schwartz was a remarkable person, a wonderful husband, a loving father and an amazing professor. His loving personality has touched the lives of many people around him, including his students, family and friends. During our lessons in the weeks before his passing, he managed to change my whole life and my outlook of the world. I knew Morrie was different, the I met him, 16 years ago on the very first day of class. Right off the bat, he said, “ I hope that one day, you think of me as your friend.” And let me tell you, Morrie was a lot more than just a friend to me. He was my best friend, my confidant, my mentor, my coach. Morrie was like no one I’d ever met before. He had a completely different view of life…and death. He used to say, “learn to die, and you’ll learn to live.” That if you strip away all the “stuff” and focus on the essentials, you see everything around you differently.
Over the past 14 weeks, I have learned from Morrie, many valuable lessons that we tend to forget as we live our daily lives. Morrie was a strong believer in disregarding popular culture, and living life on our own terms. He used to say, “ sometimes you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.“ He always told us that society shouldn’t be allowed to determine what values you want to follow, choose for yourself. Coach always believed that love was the most important part of anyone’s life. He would say “ without love, we are birds without wings.” During our 5th Tuesday together, Morrie and I talked about the importance of family, and he quoted the great American poet, W.H. Auden, who said, “love each other, or perish.” This became Morrie’s mantra. He had unconditional love for everyone around him.
He had a way of making everyone feel unique when they walked in through the door and were greeted with his special smile. And it didn’t stop with the greeting. When Morrie was with you, he was really with you. He looked you straight in the eye, and he listened as if you were the only person in the world. Morrie also possessed the rare talent to make any situation bright and optimistic. During the painful progress of his illness, there were many embarrassing and unpleasant situations that he was put through, yet he never complained and the atmosphere around him was always rosy and positive. Someone once asked Morrie if he was afraid of being forgotten after he was gone, and I know I speak for everyone present here when I say Morrie was such an amazing personality, that he wouldn’t be forgotten for ages. In Morrie’s words, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”