The author of the book, Mitch Albom, recounts the story of his graduation in the spring of 1979 at Brandeis University. He approached his cherished professor, Morrie Schwartz. He presented him with a monogrammed briefcase. While still studying, Mitch took up almost all the Sociology courses of Morrie. He promised Morrie that he will be in contact and would visit him. However, he was unable to fulfill his promise. Years passed, Morrie was forced to stop dancing, his favorite hobby, as he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
It was a motor neuron disease that leaves his “soul perfectly awake, imprisoned inside a limp husk” of a body. Morrie’s wife, Charlotte was the caretaker of Morrie. Through the insistence of Morrie to do her usual activities, she keeps her activity as a teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After graduation from Brandeis University sixteen years ago, Mitch is feeling frustrated. He feels that the life he lived was not what he envisioned.
A once full of dreams and aspirations lad is now going through a different path. When his uncle succumbs to pancreatic cancer, Mitch relinquished his failing career as a musician. He then worked as a journalist for a Detroit newspaper which he was generously compensated. Since his career is going well, he promised his wife, Janine, that they will have children eventually. However, he invests most of his time and energy at work and away on reporting assignments.
One night, while watching television, Mitch recognized Morrie’s voice.
Mitch was surprised to see his favorite professor again. Morrie was among the first of three interviews in the programs “Nightline” hosted by the news analyst, Ted Koppel. But before Morrie proceeded with the interview, he asked Ted Koppel what is “close to his heart”. Mitch was stunned by the question. After watching him on “Nightline”, he decided to contact and visit him. He traveled from his home in Detroit to West Newton, Massachusetts. When Mitch arrived in Morrie’s house, he delayed greeting him and instead, spoke with his producer on the phone. He later regretted this decision.
After his reunion with Morrie, Mitch worked harder than usual, reporting on the Wimbledon tennis tournament held in London. There, he kept on thinking about Morrie. By this time, Mitch refused to read the tabloids and he now seeks more meaning and significance in his life. He knows that he will not gain it from reading sensationalized storied from celebrities and high-profile people involved in scandals. One time, Mitch was thumped over by a swarm of reporters chasing after Andre Agassi and Brooke Shields. It was then when he further realized that he was chasing pointless things. When he returned home, Mitch learned that the article he worked so hard for will not be published. It was because the union he belonged to was on strike against the newspaper company he worked for. Once again, Mitch goes to Boston to visit Morrie.
Mitch returned consistently every Tuesday after their first meeting. He listened to Morrie’s lessons on “The Meaning of Life”. Each week, Mitch brings food for Morrie. However, as his condition worsened, he lost his appetite and no longer appreciated solid food. What Morrie dreaded over his worsening condition was that soon, he would not be able to wipe himself after using the bathroom. Eventually, the fear of Morrie came true.
Interspersed visit of Mitch to Morrie, are flashbacks to their days together at the university. Mitch described himself as a student who acted tough but sought the calmness and sincerity he saw in Morrie. At Brandeis, he and Morrie shared a close-knit like a father and a son more than a teacher and a student. Before Morrie’s demise, his condition further deteriorated that he was unable to breathe or move on his own. Mitch saw the struggles of Morrie and at one point, became a caretaker. Morrie then told Mitch that if he had a chance, he would choose him as a son.
One Tuesday, Morrie recalled his life as a child. During his childhood, Morrie came from a very poor family. His father, Charlie, was cold and dispassionate. He neglected to provide emotional and financial support for him and his younger brother. At the age of eight, Morrie was forced to read a telegram about his mother’s death. He was the only one who can read English in his family. After, his father married Eva, a kind woman who gave Morrie and his brother the love and affection they needed. His stepmother instilled in him his love of books and his desire for education. However, Charlie insisted that Morrie keep his mother’s death a secret. His father wanted his younger sibling to believe that Eva was his real mother. This request demanded an emotional burden for the young Morrie. He kept the telegram all his life as proof that his mother existed. Morrie sought love and affection growing up to his family and friends. Now that he was nearing death, he stated that he reverted to infancy and tried enjoying being an infant again. He and Mitch often held hands during their Tuesday meetings.
Morrie encouraged Mitch to create his own culture instead of following a popular one. The individualistic culture he will create for himself will be founded on love, acceptance and human goodness. This culture must uphold a set of ethics, values unlike the mores of the mainstream culture. The popular culture, as Morrie described, promotes greed, selfishness and superficiality. He urged Mitch to overcome this culture and renew his mindset. Morrie also stressed that he and Mitch must acknowledge that death and aging are inevitable.
In his exercises, Morrie encourages Mitch to dismiss the mainstream culture for making his own. The individualistic culture Morrie urges Mitch to make for himself is a culture established on affection, acknowledgment, and human goodness, a culture that maintains a lot of moral qualities dissimilar to the mores that mainstream culture embraces. Mainstream culture, Morrie says, is established on insatiability, self-centeredness, and triviality, which he asks Mitch to survive. Morrie additionally focuses on that he and Mitch must acknowledge demise and maturity are unavoidable.
On one of the meetings, Mitch came with his wife, Janine. She was a professional singer and Morrie asked her to sing for him. Janine does not usually sing upon request, she agreed to perform. Morrie was moved to tears. He cried openly without awkwardness. Morrie encouraged Mitch to do the same. As his condition deteriorated, the pink hibiscus plant near the window of his study was also drying up.
Morrie wanted to share his stories with the world. Mitch recorded Morrie every session. He planned to write a book titled “Tuesdays With Morrie”, a project which he and his favorite professor referred to as their last thesis together.
Before Morrie left, he continuously encouraged Mitch to mend his relationship with his brother, Peter. For many years, Peter refused help from his family in battling pancreatic cancer. He sought treatment alone. To mend the relationship, Mitch called Peter and left messages numerous times. The only reply he got from his brother was an assurance that he was doing fine. Peter did not want to talk about his illness. After much time, Mitch and his brother got closer again.
On the day of Morrie’s funeral, Mitch promised to continue his conversation with him. He must conduct a silent dialogue with him in his head. Mitch expected for it to be awkward, however, it felt more natural.
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