Mankind has always been obsessed with its own mortality. This obsession of death and dying has fuelled the interests in many professions ranging from doctors to playwrights. Interestingly enough, love and death have always been intertwined; stories such as Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet easily come to mind as examples of this curious relationship. It is no surprise that Mitch Albom’s novel “Tuesdays with Morrie” aims to prove why the concepts of death and love are continuously paired. This book is based on a true story about Mitch Albom’s interactions with his favourite professor Morrie Schwartz.
They part ways but are reconnected by Morrie’s illness and in the short time he has left Mitch is inspired by Morrie’s strength, appreciation for life and compassion for others and he changes his life forever. Mitch is a former student of Morrie’s from the Brandeis University as well as a close friend. During his university years Morrie and Mitch spent much time together discussing the meaning of life. After his graduation, Mitch loses touch with Morrie and after his dream of being a musician fails, he is then consumed in a life of financial success and material wealth as a newspaper writer.
After losing his job he finds himself on a search for a new meaning in life. Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University, is diagnosed with ALS, a debilitating, incurable disease which destroys his body, but leaves him intellectually intact. He is a wise old man and loves to listen and solve others problems. In his last days of his life he continues to share the meaning of life with his close friends and family and especially Mitch. Morrie’s idea about the meaning of life is the main concept of the book.
Mitch learns that death is not to be feared but embraced. That with a combination of love, support and life fulfilment anyone can cope with and accept death with open arms. “Once you learn how to die you learn how to live” (Albom, page 82). The concepts of love and death are the main themes throughout ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. Morrie feels that once we learn and accept that we are going to die and if we have people who love and care for us that we can live our lives to the fullest without having any regrets. He sees this as fulfillment in one’s life.
The ideology of love is explained in the text as “one of those things that everybody can feel but nobody can define adequately or completely” (Cavanaugh et al, pg 371). Morrie’s ideology of love is that it should be reciprocated “the most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love and to let it come in” (Albom, pg 52). Love can be seen from many angles but I will be focusing on consummate love, familial love and love for oneself. Consummate love can be defined by Sternberg as a true love relationship, such as marriage, that includes all three components of his theory: intimacy, passion and commitment (Cavanaugh et al, pg 371).
Morrie states “I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you’re missing a hell of a lot if you don’t try it” (Albom, pg 149). Familial love deals with relationships such as family and close friends. Morrie’s view on family is that “if you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. ” (Albom, pg 91). This familial love can also include siblings. The text states “relationships with siblings are the most common and enduring relationships you will ever have” (Cavanaugh et al, pg 370).
Love for oneself simply means that you have an appreciation and love for who you are inside and out. In Morrie’s eyes, having all these types of love in your life means your life is fulfilled. Clinical Death is defined as “a lack of heartbeat and respiration” (Cavanaugh et al, pg 446) and this death is something many of us fear. In the book “Tuesday’s with Morrie” Morrie tries to change that fear into something different; he tries to help people to accept it. According to the Kubler-Ross theory, there are 5 ways to deal with death. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Cavanaugh et al, pg 454).
Strangely, Morrie seems to skip right to acceptance. Instead of being afraid of death he embraces it and uses his last days to share his story and his meaning of life with the rest of the world through news interviews and individual meetings with family and friends. Although like any other person he has moments of grievance, he finds a way to look at the positives in his life “I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear” (Albom, pg. 57).
He believes that you should not feel sorry for yourself but instead find peace in your life and cherish the time you have with those you love. Also, you must have forgiveness. In order to die in peace you must be able to “Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others” (Albom, pg. 164). The text supports this statement saying that “the final days, weeks and months of life provide opportunities to affirm love, resolve conflicts and provide peace”. Aging is another concept included in death and in Morrie’s eyes you must look at aging “not just as decay, you know, its growth.
Its more than the negative that you’re going to die, It’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it. (Albom, pg. 118). It is stated in the text that “older adults are less anxious about death and more accepting of it than any other age group” (Cavanaugh et al, pg. 454). Morrie is a perfect example of someone who is accepting death and he advises “don’t let go too soon but you don’t hang on too long” (Albom, pg. 162). These two concepts seem to intertwine in a means that death with love is not something to be feared, but something to be accepted.
And once you accept death your life is fulfilled. In conclusion, “Tuesday’s with Morrie” is a book about the meaning of life in the eyes of a sociology professor, named Morrie Schwartz, and about the person he shares the meaning of life with, Mitch Albom. It is a true story about the struggles of a man with ALS and how he takes his death and looks at it in a positive way. He shares his ideologies of love and death with Mitch in hopes he will pass them on and so they are heard by those who need it most. Love is something that everyone needs in order to have a happy life.
Morrie feels that every aspect of one’s life is about love. Death is something that will come to everyone with time and some in an instant. Death is not to be feared but to be cherished as it is a symbol of life well lived but only with the combination of love can one have a life that is fulfilled. This book utilizes a unique way of intertwining the concepts of love and death to make it something of beauty. It seems to symbolize that if you live a life that is filled with love then death becomes something that is accepted rather then something that is feared.
The acceptance of death means that you have fulfilled your life. A fulfilling life is simply one filled with love, this love changes death from a burden into an end to a beautiful journey called ‘life’. Morrie wants us all to believe that “death ends a life not a relationship” (Albom, pg. 133) and that if you have love for someone you will always have the person with you. Death is just the body saying goodbye and not the spirit of that person. In the words of Morrie Schwartz; “love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone” (Albom, pg. 133).
January 9, 2018
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