Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson

by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson

by Mitch Albom

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The blockbuster book that is one of the top-selling memoirs of all time and is the basis for the Emmy Award-winning film and stage adaptations that have been produced continuously worldwide since 2002 • An unforgettable story of friendship, the timeless wisdom of older generations, and healing lessons on loss and grief

“A wonderful book, a story of the heart told by a writer with soul.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder.  Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom had that second chance.  He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life.  Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college.  Their rekindled relationship turned into one final "class": lessons in how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385484510
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/18/1997
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 42,934
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 7.57(h) x 0.82(d)
Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Mitch Albom writes for the Detroit Free Press, and has been voted America's No. 1 sports columnist ten times by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Albom, a former professional musician, hosts a daily radio show on WJR in Detroit and appears regularly on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters." He is the author of Bo and Fab Five, both national bestsellers, and has also published four collections of his columns. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan.

Hometown:

Franklin, Michigan

Date of Birth:

May 23, 1958

Place of Birth:

Passaic, New Jersey

Education:

B.A., Brandeis University, 1979; M.J., Columbia University, 1981; M.B.A., Columbia University, 1982

Read an Excerpt

The Curriculum

The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves.  The class met on Tuesdays. It began after breakfast. The subject was The Meaning of Life. It was taught from experience.  

No grades were given, but there were oral exams each week. You were expected to respond to questions, and you were expected to pose questions of your own. You were also required to perform physical tasks now and then, such as lifting the professor's head to a comfortable spot on the pillow or placing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Kissing him good-bye earned you extra credit.  

No books were required, yet many topics were covered, including love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and, finally, death. The last lecture was brief, only a few words.  

A funeral was held in lieu of graduation.  

Although no final exam was given, you were expected to produce one long paper on what was learned. That paper is presented here.  

The last class of my old professor's life had only one student.

I was the student.

It is the late spring of 1979, a hot, sticky Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of us sit together, side by side, in rows of wooden folding chairs on the main campus lawn. We wear blue nylon robes. We listen impatiently to long speeches. When the ceremony is over, we throw our caps in the air, and we are officially graduated from college, the senior class of Brandeis University in the city of Waltham, Massachusetts. For many of us, the curtain has just come down on childhood.  

Afterward, I find Morrie Schwartz, my favorite professor, and introduce him to my parents. He is a small man who takes small steps, as if a strong wind could, at any time, whisk him up into the clouds. In his graduation day robe, he looks like a cross between a biblical prophet and a Christmas elf. He has sparkling blue-green eyes, thinning silver hair that spills onto his forehead, big ears, a triangular nose, and tufts of graying eyebrows. Although his teeth are crooked and his lower ones are slanted back--as if someone had once punched them in--when he smiles it's as if you'd just told him the first joke on earth.  

He tells my parents how I took every class he taught.  He tells them, "You have a special boy here."  Embarrassed, I look at my feet. Before we leave, I hand my professor a present, a tan briefcase with his initials on the front. I bought this the day before at a shopping mall.  I didn't want to forget him. Maybe I didn't want him to forget me.  

    "Mitch, you are one of the good ones," he says, admiring the briefcase. Then he hugs me. I feel his thin arms around my back. I am taller than he is, and when he holds me, I feel awkward, older, as if I were the parent and he were the child.  

He asks if I will stay in touch, and without hesitation I say, "Of course."  

When he steps back, I see that he is crying.


The Syllabus

His death sentence came in the summer of 1994. Looking back, Morrie knew something bad was coming long before that. He knew it the day he gave up dancing.  

He had always been a dancer, my old professor. The music didn't matter. Rock and roll, big band, the blues. He loved them all. He would close his eyes and with a blissful smile begin to move to his own sense of rhythm. It wasn't always pretty. But then, he didn't worry about a partner.  Morrie danced by himself.  

He used to go to this church in Harvard Square every Wednesday night for something called "Dance Free."  They had flashing lights and booming speakers and Morrie would wander in among the mostly student crowd, wearing a white T-shirt and black sweatpants and a towel around his neck, and whatever music was playing, that's the music to which he danced. He'd do the lindy to Jimi Hendrix. He twisted and twirled, he waved his arms like a conductor on amphetamines, until sweat was dripping down the middle of his back. No one there knew he was a prominent doctor of sociology, with years of experience as a college professor and several well-respected books.  They just thought he was some old nut.  

Once, he brought a tango tape and got them to play it over the speakers. Then he commandeered the floor, shooting back and forth like some hot Latin lover. When he finished, everyone applauded. He could have stayed in that moment forever.  

But then the dancing stopped.  

He developed asthma in his sixties. His breathing became labored. One day he was walking along the Charles River, and a cold burst of wind left him choking for air. He was rushed to the hospital and injected with Adrenalin.  

A few years later, he began to have trouble walking.  At a birthday party for a friend, he stumbled inexplicably.  Another night, he fell down the steps of a theater, startling a small crowd of people.  

    "Give him air!" someone yelled.  

He was in his seventies by this point, so they whispered "old age" and helped him to his feet. But Morrie, who was always more in touch with his insides than the rest of us, knew something else was wrong. This was more than old age. He was weary all the time. He had trouble sleeping. He dreamt he was dying.  

He began to see doctors. Lots of them. They tested his blood. They tested his urine. They put a scope up his rear end and looked inside his intestines. Finally, when nothing could be found, one doctor ordered a muscle biopsy, taking a small piece out of Morrie's calf. The lab report came back suggesting a neurological problem, and Morrie was brought in for yet another series of tests. In one of those tests, he sat in a special seat as they zapped him with electrical current--an electric chair, of sorts--and studied his neurological responses.  

    "We need to check this further," the doctors said, looking over his results.  

    "Why?" Morrie asked. "What is it?"  

    "We're not sure. Your times are slow."  

His times were slow? What did that mean?  

Finally, on a hot, humid day in August 1994, Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, went to the neurologist's office, and he asked them to sit before he broke the news: Morrie had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig's disease, a brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system.  

There was no known cure.  

    "How did I get it?" Morrie asked.  

Nobody knew.  

    "Is it terminal?"  

Yes.  

    "So I'm going to die?"  

Yes, you are, the doctor said. I'm very sorry.  

He sat with Morrie and Charlotte for nearly two hours, patiently answering their questions. When they left, the doctor gave them some information on ALS, little pamphlets, as if they were opening a bank account.  Outside, the sun was shining and people were going about their business. A woman ran to put money in the parking meter. Another carried groceries. Charlotte had a million thoughts running through her mind: How much time do we have left? How will we manage? How will we pay the bills?  

My old professor, meanwhile, was stunned by the normalcy of the day around him. Shouldn't the world stop? Don't they know what has happened to me?  

But the world did not stop, it took no notice at all, and as Morrie pulled weakly on the car door, he felt as if he were dropping into a hole.  

Now what? he thought.

As my old professor searched for answers, the disease took him over, day by day, week by week. He backed the car out of the garage one morning and could barely push the brakes. That was the end of his driving.  

He kept tripping, so he purchased a cane. That was the end of his walking free.  

He went for his regular swim at the YMCA, but found he could no longer undress himself. So he hired his first home care worker--a theology student named Tony--who helped him in and out of the pool, and in and out of his bathing suit. In the locker room, the other swimmers pretended not to stare. They stared anyhow.  That was the end of his privacy.  

In the fall of 1994, Morrie came to the hilly Brandeis campus to teach his final college course. He could have skipped this, of course. The university would have understood. Why suffer in front of so many people? Stay at home. Get your affairs in order. But the idea of quitting did not occur to Morrie.  

Instead, he hobbled into the classroom, his home for more than thirty years. Because of the cane, he took a while to reach the chair. Finally, he sat down, dropped his glasses off his nose, and looked out at the young faces who stared back in silence.  

    "My friends, I assume you are all here for the Social Psychology class. I have been teaching this course for twenty years, and this is the first time I can say there is a risk in taking it, because I have a fatal illness. I may not live to finish the semester.  

    "If you feel this is a problem, I understand if you wish to drop the course."  

He smiled.  

And that was the end of his secret.

ALS is like a lit candle: it melts your nerves and leaves your body a pile of wax. Often. it begins with the legs and works its way up. You lose control of your thigh muscles, so that you cannot support yourself standing.  You lose control of your trunk muscles, so that you cannot sit up straight. By the end, if you are still alive, you are breathing through a tube in a hole in your throat, while your soul, perfectly awake, is imprisoned inside a limp husk, perhaps able to blink, or cluck a tongue, like something from a science fiction movie, the man frozen inside his own flesh. This takes no more than five years from the day you contract the disease.  

Morrie's doctors guessed he had two years left.  

Morrie knew it was less.  

But my old professor had made a profound decision, one he began to construct the day he came out of the doctor's office with a sword hanging over his head. Do I wither up and disappear, or do I make the best of my time left? he had asked himself.  

He would not wither. He would not be ashamed of dying.  

Instead, he would make death his final project, the center point of his days. Since everyone was going to die, he could be of great value, right? He could be research. A human textbook. Study me in my slow and patient demise.  Watch what happens to me. Learn with me.  

Morrie would walk that final bridge between life and death, and narrate the trip.  

The fall semester passed quickly. The pills increased.  Therapy became a regular routine. Nurses came to his house to work with Morrie's withering legs, to keep the muscles active, bending them back and forth as if pumping water from a well. Massage specialists came by once a week to try to soothe the constant, heavy stiffness he felt. He met with meditation teachers, and closed his eyes and narrowed his thoughts until his world shrunk down to a single breath, in and out, in and out.  

One day, using his cane, he stepped onto the curb and fell over into the street. The cane was exchanged for a walker. As his body weakened, the back and forth to the bathroom became too exhausting, so Morrie began to urinate into a large beaker. He had to support himself as he did this, meaning someone had to hold the beaker while Morrie filled it.  

Most of us would be embarrassed by all this, especially at Morrie's age. But Morrie was not like most of us. When some of his close colleagues would visit, he would say to them, "Listen, I have to pee. Would you mind helping? Are you okay with that?"  

Often, to their own surprise, they were.  

In fact, he entertained a growing stream of visitors. He had discussion groups about dying, what it really meant, how societies had always been afraid of it without necessarily understanding it. He told his friends that if they really wanted to help him, they would treat him not with sympathy but with visits, phone calls, a sharing of their problems--the way they had always shared their problems, because Morrie had always been a wonderful listener.  

For all that was happening to him, his voice was strong and inviting, and his mind was vibrating with a million thoughts. He was intent on proving that the word "dying" was not synonymous with "useless."  

The New Year came and went. Although he never said it to anyone, Morrie knew this would be the last year of his life. He was using a wheelchair now, and he was fighting time to say all the things he wanted to say to all the people he loved. When a colleague at Brandeis died suddenly of a heart attack, Morrie went to his funeral. He came home depressed.  

    "What a waste," he said. "All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it."  

Morrie had a better idea. He made some calls. He chose a date. And on a cold Sunday afternoon, he was joined in his home by a small group of friends and family for a "living funeral." Each of them spoke and paid tribute to my old professor. Some cried. Some laughed. One woman read a poem:

"My dear and loving cousin ...
      Your ageless heart
      as you move through time, layer on layer,
      tender sequoia ..."


Morrie cried and laughed with them. And all the heartfelt things we never get to say to those we love, Morrie said that day. His "living funeral" was a rousing success.  

Only Morrie wasn't dead yet.  

  In fact, the most unusual part of his life was about to unfold.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
THE CURRICULUM1
THE SYLLABUS5
THE STUDENT14
THE AUDIOVISUAL18
THE ORIENTATION26
THE CLASSROOM32
TAKING ATTENDANCE41
THE FIRST TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT THE WORLD48
THE SECOND TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF55
THE THIRD TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT REGRETS62
THE AUDIOVISUAL, PART TWO69
THE PROFESSOR73
THE FOURTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT DEATH80
THE FIFTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT FAMILY90
THE SIXTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT EMOTIONS100
THE PROFESSOR, PART TWO109
THE SEVENTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT THE FEAR OF AGING115
THE EIGHTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT MONEY123
THE NINTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT HOW LOVE GOES ON130
THE TENTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT MARRIAGE142
THE ELEVENTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT OUR CULTURE152
THE AUDIOVISUAL, PART THREE160
THE TWELFTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT FORGIVENESS164
THE THIRTEENTH TUESDAY WE TALK ABOUT THE PERFECT DAY171
THE FOURTEENTH TUESDAY WE SAY GOOD-BYE181
GRADUATION187
CONCLUSION190

What People are Saying About This

Amy Tan

I love this book. I've been telling all my friends 'you have to read this.' Mitch Albom was given a wonderful gift from his teacher Morrie Schwartz and now he has the great pleasure of auditing the same class. This is a true story that shines and makes you forever warmed by its afterglow.

Robert Bly

This is a sweet book of man's love for his mentor. It has a stubborn honesty that nourishes the living.

M. Scott Peck

A beautifully written book of geat clarity and wisdom that lovingly captures the simplicity beyond life's complexities.

Reading Group Guide

1. Did your opinion about Mitch change as book went on? In what way?

2. Who do you think got more out of their Tuesday meetings, Mitch or Morrie? In what ways? How do you think each would answer this question?

3. Do you think Mitch would have come back to Morrie's house the second time if he hadn't been semi-idled by the newspaper strike?

4. Discuss Morrie's criticisms of Mitch throughout the book. Do you think Morrie should have been tougher on him? Easier?

5. Do you think Mitch would have listened if Morrie hadn't been dying? Does impending death automatically make one's voice able to penetrate where it couldn't before?

Let's Talk About Death

6. Does this book make Morrie's death a public event? If so, how is it similar to other public deaths we've experienced as a society? How is it different?

7. Morrie referred to himself as a bridge, a person who is in between life and death, which makes him useful to others as a tool to understand both. Talk about other literary, historical, political, or religious figures who have also served this purpose.

8. Most of us have read of people discussing the way they'd like to die, or, perhaps, have been a part of that conversation. One common thought is that it would be best to live a long, healthy life and then die suddenly in one's sleep. After reading this book, what do you think about that? Given a choice, would Morrie have taken that route instead of the path he traveled?

9. On "Nightline," Morrie spoke to Ted Koppel of the pain he still felt about his mother's death seventy years prior to the interview. Is your experience with loss similar or different? Does what you've read in this book help ease any of that pain?

10. Morrie was seventy-eight years old when diagnosed with ALS. How might he have reacted if he'd contracted the disease when he was Mitch's age? Would Morrie have come to the same conclusions? The same peace and acceptance? Or is his experience also a function of his age?

Let's Talk About Meaning

11. Try the "effect of silence" exercise that Mitch described in your class or in your group. What do you learn from it?

12. Talk about the role of meaningful coincidence, synchronicity, in the book and in Mitch and Morrie's friendship.

13. Morrie told Mitch about the "tension of opposites" (p. 40). Talk about this as a metaphor for the book and for society.

14. Mitch made a list of topics about which he wanted Morrie's insight and clarity. In what ways would your list be the same or different?

15. Discuss the book in terms of structure, voice, and tone, paying attention to Mitch's use of flashbacks and other literary devices. How do his choices add to the meaning?

16. Are college students today missing out because they don't have the meaningful experiences that students in the 1960s had? Do you think Morrie thought they were?

17. Morrie said, "If you've found meaning in your life, you don't want to go back. You want to go forward" (p. 118). Is this true in your experience?

Let's Talk About Religion, Culture, and Ritual

18. Morrie believed, "You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create your own" (pp. 35-36). How can people do this? How can this book help?

19. As his visits with Morrie continued, Mitch explored some other cultures and religions and how each views death. Discuss these and others that you've studied.

20. To the very end, Mitch arrived at Morrie's house with food. Discuss the importance of this ritual.

Let's Talk About Relationships

21. Was Morrie making a judgment on people who choose not to have kids with his statement: "If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children" (p. 93)? Whether or not he was, do you agree?

22. Mitch wrote, "Perhaps this is one reason I was drawn to Morrie. He let me be where my brother would not" (p. 97). Discuss Mitch's relationship with Peter.

23. Discuss the practical side of Morrie's advice: "Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone" (p. 128). How could this advice be useful the next time you're in a social or other situation where you feel out of place or uncomfortable?

24. Morrie said that in marriage, "Your values must be alike" (p. 149). In what ways do you agree or disagree?

25. Would Morrie's lessons have carried less weight if Mitch and Peter hadn't resumed contact by book's end?

Interviews

On Wednesday, October 21st, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Mitch Albom, author of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.


Moderator: Good evening, Mr. Albom. We're very excited to have you join us. Do you have any opening comments for our audience tonight?

Mitch Albom: Just to say thanks for the continuous stunning reaction to this small little book.


Linus from home: So, did Morrie really remember you when you called after seeing him on "Nightline"? Professors always have so many students, I always think they won't remember me.

Mitch Albom: It's funny you should ask that question. When I was in college, back in the '70s, I used to call Morrie "coach." It was a nickname that I had for him. When I called him up 16 years later, and his nurse put him on the phone -- this was the day after I'd seen the "Nightline" program -- I began by saying, "Morrie, my name is Mitch Albom. I was a student of yours in the '70s. I don't now if you remember me." And the first thing Morrie said after 16 years was, "How come you didn't call me coach?" So, it was obvious that our relationship had stayed close to his heart, despite my absence.


Mark from Bennington, VT: In your book, you describe how the "eighties happened" to you, and how you lost sight of the vision you had had of yourself in college. How has your life changed now in the way you approach it? Is it changed in the way you view your life today, or have you made changes to your lifestyle?

Mitch Albom: Both. Ever since Morrie's death, I've tried to reorganize my priorities, putting less emphasis on work and accomplishments and far more on family, friends, time to absorb nature, and being involved in my community. I've cut my workload down at the newspaper where I work from five columns a week to two. I've negotiated long stretches of time off with my radio commitments -- I now get between two and three months a year away from the job -- and dropped several television obligations. My wife and I are trying to start a family, something that had never been a priority with me prior to Morrie. Also, my attitude towards death, towards the sick, and towards taking care of the elderly has been profoundly affected by my time with Morrie. So to answer your question briefly, while I am far from a perfect student, even of my own book, I try every day to keep my priorities in a healthier focus than I did before I was reunited with my old professor.


Judd from Boulder, CO: I just finished your book and loved it. I'm currently trying to reach out to my 84-year-old father who is the antithesis of Morrie, but has much in common with Morrie's father. You broke down barriers to open up to Morrie -- how did [you] do it? How can I and others reach out to the parents we love who refuse intimacy?

Mitch Albom: That's a great and important question. There's no perfect answer, but what I imagine Morrie would suggest is, first of all, to be direct with your expression of your feelings. Tell your father, for example, that you love him and that the limited time that you may have together is important for you, and you want to get closer to him. Many times, breaking down the barriers, as you refer to them, simply requires communicating in a different way than you always have. People build up baggage over the years and don't say certain things to one another and do say certain things in an annoying or discouraging fashion to the other party -- so that sometimes they're not even listening to what you say, but how you say it. I think if you sit down next to your father, hold his hand -- if he'll let you -- and begin by saying, let's put everything up to this point behind us and focus on the time we have left. Maybe that will be a beginning. I hope so, for both of you.


John R. from Binghamton, NY: In many cultures, it is a part of life that you care for your dying elders. And yet, because of our lifestyle, with nursing homes, etc., Americans don't often witness death and, in some ways, miss out on a very rich perspective on how we live our lives or what life means to us. Could you please comment on this?

Mitch Albom: Yes, you're very correct. Interestingly, I recently returned from Japan where they are releasing TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE in Japanese, and the people there saw my book as controversial, because in Japan they do not tell terminally ill patients that they are dying. It is somehow considered impolite. So they marveled at the very idea of sitting alongside a dying man who knew he was dying and was still willing to speak about it. What I learned from Morrie -- and what he wanted desperately to get across -- is that dying is in every way a part of living, and there is much to be learned from those of us who have truly recognized our fate and are in the final stages of our life. There is a clarity, a wisdom, an insight, and even a certain serenity that often comes with facing death, and these things are invaluable in living a good life as well. So I feel if we spent more time with the dying and the sick, we would lose some of the horror that we associate with it, and when our turns came to face that fate, we would be much better prepared both emotionally and spiritually.


Roland Tolliver from Freeport, IL: Mr. Albom, thank you for the gift of sharing Morrie's life lessons with us. Has a foundation been established in honor of Morrie Schwartz now that his medical costs have been paid? If not, has any thought been given to the idea? Thank you.

Mitch Albom: Yes, we are in the process of doing exactly that. It's my hope that we -- when I say we, I mean myself and Morrie's family -- can use some of the money from the book, which was originally only written to pay Morrie's medical expenses, to establish a way for the things he taught to go on. We are discussing with different schools and scholarship organizations what the best way to do this [is]. When we have it firmly established, we will publicize it through all the same mechanisms that are used to publicize the book. Thank you for your interest in this.


Jill from Beverly Hills, CA: Were you close with your grandparents as well? Do you think after this experience you wished you had done anything different with them?

Mitch Albom: That's an interesting question. I never knew one grandfather -- he died before I was born. His wife, my grandmother, lived with us from the time I was seven years old, so I was extremely close with her. My other set of grandparents were immigrants, and my grandfather did not speak very often or very much. He died rather suddenly without my ever having a chance to really relate to him as an adult. My remaining grandmother, sadly, died very slowly and lost her memory to Alzheimer's, which was a very painful thing to observe. I remember going to visit her in the hospital and having her not recognize me. She then tried to leave her bed and go to the bathroom but had an "accident" before she made it. This event -- seeing someone so old suffering such a childish indignity -- haunted me for many years. And it wasn't until Morrie opened my eyes to the fact that a decaying body does not necessarily mean the decaying spirit or a decaying mind, that I was able to change my thinking about death and aging.


Bernie from Novi, MI: Mitch, You've been highly successful at a young age. How does one strike a balance between paying homage to Morrie's axioms, and still chasing your dreams with the necessary commitments required?

Mitch Albom: That's a good question, too. I always tell people who ask about TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE that it is not a book after which you read it that you must quit your job, sell your house, burn your clothes, and move to Oregon and join an Ashram. Rather, the whole idea behind TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE is learning a balance in life, the ability to be productive and do important work while not losing sight of the big picture in life -- the big picture being love, family, community, nature. So, what I have tried to do is temper my ambition. When I want something in my career I ask myself, do I just want it because I want the success, or do I want to do it because it's important to me and is a worthwhile use of time? You'd be surprised at how much of our working life doesn't fit that second description. I have learned to accept the fact that there will always be people moving faster than me, achieving more than me, making more money than me, and that is perfectly fine. I have learned not to feel like a loser if I choose to slow down my life or say no to certain projects or jobs, even if they would mean advancement. Once you realize that trying to run faster than everyone else in the work world is not really a worthwhile use of your time, you find it very easy to enjoy the simpler things that are all around us. So, I haven't quit all my jobs, but I have cut them back. I haven't stopped wanting to advance, but I have given up the idea that my pace has to somehow exceed everyone else's. This is how you begin to unwind, to unhook, to detach from things that really give you no meaning in your life, and slowly your eyes are opened to the things that do.


Carol K. from Naperville, Illinois: Your book helped me last November when I was taking care of a friend dying of cancer. Your discussions with Morrie gave me the courage to talk openly with my friend, and as a result, he found peace and I learned more than I ever thought I could. Thanks for such a powerful, small book. Do you still find yourself learning lessons from the coach even though he is gone?

Mitch Albom: Oh, yeah, it never ends. I have conversations with him pretty much every day. I only wish he were alive to see how many students he could reach over this "computer business." He would have gotten a big kick out of it.


Grace from Michigan: When will we see this on the big screen? You have an important message, Mr. Albom, and I think it'll translate well to film.

Mitch Albom: Well, Oprah Winfrey bought the film rights to TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE early on. I was very hesitant, to be honest, at any idea of a film, as was Morrie's family. It was for that reason that we decided if anyone were to handle this, Oprah, who I have gotten to know a little bit, would be sensitive to the story and true to the book. Remember, these are real people we're talking about, not fictional characters. I happened to visit with Oprah last week, and the plan right now is to have this as a special "Oprah Winfrey Presents" TV-movie on ABC in May of 1999. However, Oprah also mentioned an enormous amount of feature film interest from big-name actors and big-name directors who have read the book and have been touched by it. So I don't really know what's ultimately going to happen. I'm just the writer -- they leave me out of the loop. But I hope whoever ultimately makes this, be it for TV or feature film, is moved by Morrie's spirit and is true to his ideas and words. That's all I want from the project. And hopefully, that's what will happen.


Jennifer from Bryn Mawr, PA: Has this inspired you to look up other professors? Or do you think that this only worked because you were so close to him before?

Mitch Albom: No, it has definitely inspired me to look up not only old teachers, but old friends and other influences in my life. I believe that if someone touched you with their wisdom and their spirit when you were younger, chances are, if you encounter them again, they will still be able to do so. More importantly, you may find that you are more willing to listen, because you slip back into your student mode, the way you used to feel before you knew it all. It was this magical chemistry that worked for Morrie and me and, I believe, exists in some form between all favorite teachers and students.


Bill from Minneapolis, Minnesota: If you had met Morrie again and he wasn't dying, do you think you would have clung to him and renewed your friendship as you had? Would you have listened as well?

Mitch Albom: Thats a really interesting question. It's hard to answer, because I was only reunited with Morrie by accident because he was on the "Nightline" program talking to Ted Koppel about what it was like to die. Had he not been dying, he would have never been talking to Koppel. And given my self-absorbed frame of mind at the time, had he not been dying, I might not have felt as guilty or ashamed by my absence from his life and might not have been compelled to visit him as I did. I'm just being honest here. I do think that Morrie's conversations with me took on a certain focus, inspiration, and, even in a small way, a desperation, because of his dwindling time. I like to think that as a result of my time with him, I have become the kind of person that would no longer need a terminal illness to reunite me with someone who I cared about so much.


Reggy from Dallas: How did Ted Koppel hear about Schwartz to begin with?

Mitch Albom: There was a newspaper article in The Boston Globe, which came about because one of Morrie's friends had written the reporter about Morrie. That article found its way to Koppel, Koppel found [his] way to Morrie, I found my way to "Nightline," and everything fell into place.


Arthur from Queens, NY: The writing of this book must be such a different experience from writing your sports column. I'm sure both are rewarding in their own way. How do they compare?

Mitch Albom: Well, as a columnist, or rather as a journalist, you are firstly trained not to talk about yourself. So that was the toughest part for me about writing TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Dealing with my own emotions and weaknesses is much more difficult than simply stating who I think is going to win the Super Bowl. Conversely, I know a lot of people think writing about sports is simply a lot of words about curveballs and touchdowns, but I believe sports is a human activity, same as politics, education, space travel, you name it. And the truth is, you can find the whole of the life experience -- glory, heartbreak, inspiration, greed, even death -- while writing about the sports world. So, in some ways, the experience was similar in that I was recording what another person was saying, and writing about another person's life, but in other ways, the subject matter and the complete lack of a playing field or crowds or fame was completely new and different.


Jonathan from Seattle: What makes a good mentor?

Mitch Albom: Whew. First of all, I think a good mentor listens to his student. Doesn't prejudge him. Doesn't become aloof or feel superior. I think a good mentor is able ot inspire his student to want to learn from his experience, maybe even become like the mentor, but not because the mentor insists on imitation. Rather, the mentor's actions and teachings should somehow find their way to the student's heart on their own so that the student should always hunger to hear and learn more from his or her mentor.


Naomi from Bangor, ME: are there any questions you wish you could ask Morrie now but didn't think of while he was alive?

Mitch Albom: Yes, there are countless times that I wish Morrie were here with me to answer my questions. I have gone to his grave several times, as he asked me to in the book, and, although I had a million things I wanted to ask him, what I found myself asking him over and over was, "Am I doing okay by you down here?" I mostly hope that I am representing what Morrie believed and what our conversations were truly about, and I guess every now and then, I would love to hear Morrie say in that raspy voice of his, "You're doing okay, kid." I guess, like all of us who have lost someone, I will just have to trust the voice that I hear in my heart, which is often his anyhow.


Leonard from Lubbock, TX: Clearly you found that Morrie had a universal message. Did you think everyone else would get it the way they have?

Mitch Albom: No, I must admit, I never thought there would be anything like this response. As you may know, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE was written simply as a way for me to pay Morrie's medical expenses, which were enormous due to his desire to die at home, a process which therefore was not covered in any way by insurance and which took more than two years, thanks to the cruelty of ALS [Lou Gehrig's disease]. The original printing of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE was 25,000 copies, and I would have been delighted if we sold those and called it a day. So the fact that there is now something like 1.1 million copies out there, and that nice people like yourselves are bothering to sit in front of a computer to hear anything I have to say is a constant surprise to me. But a good one because it shows that when you do something from the heart, people pick up on it and react with their hearts. And one of the great lessons of this whole TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE experience has been my renewed faith in the goodness of people and the universality of our experiences, especially grief, loss, and the desire for love to go on even after death. So, I thank everyone who has opened their heart to this book, and I remain surprised, but pleasantly so, at how a simple story about an old man and a young man can reach so many people around the world.


Moderator: Thank you for your wonderful answers tonight! Do you have any closing comments you'd like to make?

Mitch Albom: Maybe just this: If you have someone in your life that you are separated from and that you care about -- be it because of distance, or anger, or a crumbling relationship, or even simply because you are too "busy" to get in touch with them -- be smarter than I was. Find your way back to them. Open your heart to them. And soak them in for all the good and love that they have to offer you and you have to offer them. I assure you, you will be glad that you did. Thank you for your continued interest in this book. Goodnight.


Foreword

1. Did your opinion about Mitch change as book went on? In what way?

2. Who do you think got more out of their Tuesday meetings, Mitch or Morrie? In what ways? How do you think each would answer this question?

3. Do you think Mitch would have come back to Morrie's house the second time if he hadn't been semi-idled by the newspaper strike?

4. Discuss Morrie's criticisms of Mitch throughout the book. Do you think Morrie should have been tougher on him? Easier?

5. Do you think Mitch would have listened if Morrie hadn't been dying? Does impending death automatically make one's voice able to penetrate where it couldn't before?

Let's Talk About Death

6. Does this book make Morrie's death a public event? If so, how is it similar to other public deaths we've experienced as a society? How is it different?

7. Morrie referred to himself as a bridge, a person who is in between life and death, which makes him useful to others as a tool to understand both. Talk about other literary, historical, political, or religious figures who have also served this purpose.

8. Most of us have read of people discussing the way they'd like to die, or, perhaps, have been a part of that conversation. One common thought is that it would be best to live a long, healthy life and then die suddenly in one's sleep. After reading this book, what do you think about that? Given a choice, would Morrie have taken that route instead of the path he traveled?

9. On "Nightline," Morrie spoke to Ted Koppel of the pain he still felt about his mother's death seventy years prior to theinterview. Is your experience with loss similar or different? Does what you've read in this book help ease any of that pain?

10. Morrie was seventy-eight years old when diagnosed with ALS. How might he have reacted if he'd contracted the disease when he was Mitch's age? Would Morrie have come to the same conclusions? The same peace and acceptance? Or is his experience also a function of his age?

Let's Talk About Meaning

11. Try the "effect of silence" exercise that Mitch described in your class or in your group. What do you learn from it?

12. Talk about the role of meaningful coincidence, synchronicity, in the book and in Mitch and Morrie's friendship.

13. Morrie told Mitch about the "tension of opposites" (p. 40). Talk about this as a metaphor for the book and for society.

14. Mitch made a list of topics about which he wanted Morrie's insight and clarity. In what ways would your list be the same or different?

15. Discuss the book in terms of structure, voice, and tone, paying attention to Mitch's use of flashbacks and other literary devices. How do his choices add to the meaning?

16. Are college students today missing out because they don't have the meaningful experiences that students in the 1960s had? Do you think Morrie thought they were?

17. Morrie said, "If you've found meaning in your life, you don't want to go back. You want to go forward" (p. 118). Is this true in your experience?

Let's Talk About Religion, Culture, and Ritual

18. Morrie believed, "You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create your own" (pp. 35-36). How can people do this? How can this book help?

19. As his visits with Morrie continued, Mitch explored some other cultures and religions and how each views death. Discuss these and others that you've studied.

20. To the very end, Mitch arrived at Morrie's house with food. Discuss the importance of this ritual.

Let's Talk About Relationships

21. Was Morrie making a judgment on people who choose not to have kids with his statement: "If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children" (p. 93)? Whether or not he was, do you agree?

22. Mitch wrote, "Perhaps this is one reason I was drawn to Morrie. He let me be where my brother would not" (p. 97). Discuss Mitch's relationship with Peter.

23. Discuss the practical side of Morrie's advice: "Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone" (p. 128). How could this advice be useful the next time you're in a social or other situation where you feel out of place or uncomfortable?

24. Morrie said that in marriage, "Your values must be alike" (p. 149). In what ways do you agree or disagree?

25. Would Morrie's lessons have carried less weight if Mitch and Peter hadn't resumed contact by book's end?

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