At his commencement from Brandeis University in 1979, Mitch Albom promises his favorite teacher, Morrie Schwartz, that he will keep in touch. Life intervenes, however, and Mitch loses contact with his old mentor until sixteen years later, when he sees him being interviewed by Ted Koppel on ABC's "Nightline." Morrie has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease will eat away at his nerves, rendering his body useless but leaving his soul and mind intact. Although doctors give him a prognosis of two years, Morrie knows it will be less.
(The entire section is 99 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
Tuesdays With Morrie is a memoir about the lessons the author, Mitch Albom, learned from his professor while at university and later at the end of his professor’s life. Chapter 1, “The Curriculum,” introduces the narrative structure of the opening chapters, the characters, and the themes Mitch Albom discusses in Tuesdays With Morrie.
Morrie Schwartz was Mitch Albom’s favorite professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The first half of “The Curriculum” explains that Morrie is dying and that they have begun to meet each other on a weekly basis, likening their visits to a class. Although Albom is learning from his former professor, this is not a traditional class. Albom juxtaposes the reader’s expectations of a traditional class with the more intimate classes that his “Tuesdays With Morrie” took. The class is unorthodox because it does not contain tests, grades, or lectures, but it does involve an oral exam and the student is expected to ask questions. Instead of a graduation ceremony, this class has a funeral. Albom explains that the book Tuesdays With Morrie is the class’s final paper.
Albom provides an overview of his memoir in “The Curriculum.” Broadly, the book discusses the meaning of life. Specifically, the topics include love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and death. The opening chapters of Tuesdays With Morrie discuss the difficulties Morrie Schwartz faced at the end of his life, juxtaposing them with the lessons Albom learned from his old professor. This structure of juxtapositions is an organizing device that makes for a mood that is in turns nostalgic, sentimental, and uplifting.
The latter half of “The Curriculum” tells of Morrie’s college graduation in 1979. Even at this time, Morrie was already old and fragile, but he is still very intelligent and kind, which is reflected through his honest and warm smile. Albom clearly admired Morrie during their time together in college; he took nearly all of the classes Morrie taught.
Albom explains that graduation is the end of childhood. It also seems to be the end of his time with Morrie. When Albom introduces his parents to Morrie, it is clear that both the professor and the student have a great deal of respect and affection for each other. Morrie describes Albom as “a special boy” and Albom gives his professor a briefcase. As they embrace, Albom...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
“The Syllabus” outlines the disease Morrie Schwartz suffered from before he died. Albom introduces the disease, its effects, and how Schwartz responded to his decline. Bravely, Schwartz fought to remain useful and a part of his community rather than going into retreat during his illness. Albom’s writing relies on repetition and juxtaposition to create the chapter’s sentimental mood.
Although he was a distinguished professor of sociology, Morrie Schwartz could be found every Wednesday night at “Dance Free,” which was primarily a student gathering. Albom explains Morrie’s love of dance, a love so pure that he would dance without a partner to any music, ranging from the tango to Jimi Hendrix. Dressed in sweat pants, a white T-shirt, and a towel around his neck, he danced every week. He knew something was wrong with him when he was no longer able to dance.
Although it took several tests, Morrie’s doctors eventually diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1994, which is more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Although doctors did not know the cause, they knew the disease was terminal. Albom likens ALS to a burning candle because it “melts your nerves and leaves your body like a pile of wax.” Morrie slowly lost his ability to dance, to drive, and to dress himself—a depressing process that Albom emphasizes by using the refrain “that was the end of” to organize the details of Morrie’s decline. At first, Albom explains, Morrie was surprised to find that the world had not ended, but he later strove to make the most of his remaining time. He refused to become “useless.” Instead, Morrie went on to teach his final course, warning his students that he might die before it ended.
Morrie lead discussion groups about death and dying and he refused to “wither,” choosing instead to “narrate” the process of dying. This unusual attitude led to unusual events. After attending a friend’s funeral, Morrie felt that the time had been a waste because the deceased never heard all those wonderful expressions of love and friendship in life. So Morrie planned a living funeral for himself so he would be able to hear and experience all the kind things people would say to him. However, this “living funeral” was not the end of Morrie’s life. Albom ends the chapter suggesting that “the most unusual part of his life was about to unfold.”
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Chapter 3 Summary
Mitch Albom explains in “The Student” what happened to the promise that he made to Morrie to keep in touch. Rather than keep in touch, Albom went on to participate in a daily and nightly grind following his dream of becoming a professional pianist. Unfortunately, Albom explains, he did not become a professional pianist. For all his nights in dank nightclubs and for all his time writing songs, he found himself failing for the first time. He did not enjoy the experience.
However, this came to an end when Albom’s favorite uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Albom explains that this had been the uncle who taught him about music, driving, girls, and football, and even as a child Albom identified this uncle as one of his first role models. When his uncle died, Albom’s life changed. No longer would he waste time writing songs at night that no one would listen to.
Instead, he returned to university and obtained a master’s degree in journalism. Rather than following his own dreams, he would write about athletes following their dreams. Albom explains the breakneck pace and relentless drive that led him to success. He wrote all night and all day; he took jobs in Florida and New York. However, his great success as a sports journalist came when he wound up in Detroit, a city so enthusiastic for sports that it has professional teams in every popular American sport. Albom explains how he moved from writing articles to columns to books to appearing on the radio and television. Although he married a woman named Janine and bought a house on a hill, he found that he did not have time to start a family.
Although it may sound like working for the Detroit Free Press was a waste of time, Albom did not think it was. He felt he had gained a sense of control over his life. The rapid pace with which he worked would bring him happiness. Albom recalls thinking that his uncle died young, in his forties; therefore, he should squeeze every ounce of happiness out of life that he could. Consequently, Albom did not have time to keep up with the affairs of Brandeis University. He was busy working, buying cars, and building a stock portfolio; he ended up throwing away his alumni letters. Ultimately, Albom was unaware that his favorite professor was sick.
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Chapter 4 Summary
In “The Audiovisual,” Albom recalls how he discovered that his university mentor was suffering from ALS. By 1995, a year after his diagnosis, Morrie was wheelchair bound and increasingly reliant on the people around him. However, he was still focused on making the most of his life and being productive and engaged rather than useless and withdrawn.
One thing he began to do at this point was to write aphorisms on Post-It Notes. The sentences he wrote contained bits of wisdom like “Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do” and “Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it.” These notes soon became so numerous that Morrie’s colleague, Maurie Stein, eventually collected them and passed them on to a journalist from the Boston Globe. If that were all that happened, then Albom would not have learned about his mentor’s illness and would not have reconnected with Morrie. However, the article, which was entitled “A Professor’s Final Course: His Own Death” caught the eye of Ted Koppel, the host of television show Nightline. Koppel decided to interview the ailing professor.
Albom contrasts Koppel’s glamour and fame with the stark reality of Morrie’s approach to life. Koppel arrives in a glamorous limousine, wearing a “crisp blue suit,” while Morrie sits in a wheelchair, wearing a “shaggy gray sweater.” However, when Koppel and Morrie first meet, they form a bond—even though Morrie admits he has only seen Nightline twice and that he thought Koppel was a narcissist.
Albom was changing channels at home when he caught Ted Koppel’s interview with Morrie. The camera did not show Morrie’s withered legs, but it caught the “great passion” with which he explained his philosophy of dying. In spite of all the sadness and bitterness and fear he felt, Morrie confesses that his greatest dread is that “one day soon, someone’s gonna have to wipe my ass.” It is clear that even as he is losing control of his body, both Morrie’s mind and his sense of humor remained sharp.
In the second part of “The Audiovisual,” Albom briefly recalls the first time he met Morrie. He was considering whether to take Schwartz’s class. Morrie was calling the register when he asked Albom whether he preferred to be called Mitch or Mitchell. Albom answered that his friends called him the former. Morrie said, “Well Mitch, I hope that one day...
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Chapter 5 Summary
In “The Student,” Mitch Albom discusses the conflict between Morrie’s life and his own obsessive drive to succeed as a sports journalist. “The Orientation” brings this conflict into the open.
“The Orientation” opens as Mitch Albom is in his car with a coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Albom is talking to his producer about a television clip, asking to hear a segment again. After seeing his dying professor interviewed by Ted Koppel on Nightline, Albom has decided to visit Morrie while in Boston. He has a few hours until his flight. Suddenly, Albom realizes that he has arrived at Morrie’s house. Although he wishes that he could circle the block a few times to finish talking to his producer, Morrie and his nurses are waiting on the lawn and have already spotted him. Albom’s obsession with success has caused him to lose sight of the importance of his relationships. Although he promised Morrie he would stay in touch after graduation, he did not. Now, instead of hanging up on his producer, he pretends he has lost his keys in the car so he can quickly conclude his business on the phone. For Albom, these gestures represent his lack of perspective on what matters. His obsession with his phone and his coffee and multitasking is symbolic of his misplaced focus.
However, in spite of Albom’s crass behavior, Morrie warmly welcomes his former student back into his life. Morrie has changed a great deal since Albom last saw him in 1979 at his college graduation. Now Morrie is wheelchair bound, and he relies on nurses for almost everything. Morrie is dying and the strain can be seen. Albom explains:
His eyes were more sunken than I remembered them, and his cheekbones more pronounced. This gave him a harsher, older look—until he smiled.
Albom uses his imagery to show the power of Morrie’s determination not to let his impending death ruin what remains of his life. When Morrie asks Albom if he would like to know what it is like to die, Albom says yes. Their last class together had begun.
In the second half of “The Orientation,” Albom recalls his early days on campus. He was young for a college freshman and attempted to make himself seem older. He wore old gray sweaters, boxed at the gym, and pretended to be a smoker. However, Morrie seemed to make him...
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Chapter 6 Summary
In “The Classroom,” Mitch and Morrie have their first discussion about the meaning of life, but it is only preliminary. Albom uses this chapter to highlight some of the conflicts that drive his discussion of life in America. Surprisingly, Morrie seems to be happier in his state of dying than Albom is in his state of health and success. Morrie is surrounded by people who care about him. Over the years, he has influenced the minds of many students and others; Mitch is not the only one to have returned to pay his respects or to reconnect with the old professor.
It cannot be denied that Morrie is dying. Albom recalls how his mentor struggled to eat. Morrie even explains that he will die of suffocation. ALS has already taken Morrie’s legs. Because he is asthmatic, when the ALS begins to affect his lungs, Morrie will die. He invites Mitch to exhale while counting, and Mitch is able to reach 70. Morrie, in contrast, can only reach 18. He was able to reach 23 when he was first diagnosed. Morrie explains that he has become a symbolic bridge to people. He is not quite dead, but he is not as alive as most people around him are. Because dying is the final journey people take, many are curious about what they should “pack.”
At times during this conversation, Mitch feels awkward, but he and Morrie have a few moments that recall their former closeness, including when Mitch suddenly refers to Morrie as his coach. Morrie immediately admits that he is still Mitch’s coach. He here gives Albom advice that would haunt the younger man. He suggests:
The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.
As the two part, Morrie invites Mitch to keep in touch, just as he did at Mitch’s college graduation. This time, Albom will keep his promise to return.
The second half of “The Classroom” recalls Mitch’s early relationship with Morrie. While buying books from Morrie’s class reading list, he feels lost about his identity. Morrie explains the “tension of opposites,” an idea that refers to the way people negotiate conflicted loyalties in life. Mitch likens this to wrestling and asks which side wins. Morrie replies that love wins every conflict. However, by the end of the 1990s, Albom seems to have lost sight of the tension of opposites and has lost the...
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Chapter 7 Summary
In “Taking Attendance,” Albom recalls his time in England covering the Wimbledon tennis competition. Albom is juggling a number of jobs for newspapers, television, and radio stations while in England; this has become routine in his life. On the stands in front of the venue, he sees tabloids that speculate about the British royalty. Looking at these articles, Albom finds himself recalling Morrie’s advice about not buying into a culture that fails to help you.
For many years, Albom has found satisfaction in his work, and only recently has he begun to realize that this is misguided. Now, when he looks around him, he sees people chasing the wrong things, like a group of tabloid photographers chasing tennis players and their celebrity girlfriends. One of them even knocks Albom down in his rush to get a photo. Seeing this tabloid culture, Albom recalls Morrie’s approach to life and how the professor focused on “human activities” like conversation and affection rather than “silly activities” like television sitcoms or celebrity gossip.
When Albom returns to Detroit, he discovers his union has gone on strike. He is suddenly out of work for the first time in years, and his union representative warns him against contacting his editors. Instead of covering sports, he is watching them at home. Although he had long prided himself on his newspaper column, claiming that it made him feel alive, Albom is discouraged to discover that no one seems to care that that the column is no longer in print. Finding himself curiously irrelevant and idle, Albom ends up calling his old mentor, who invites him to visit.
The second half of “Taking Attendance” describes how Albom and Morrie’s relationship continued during the author’s sophomore year at college. He is now taking two classes with Morrie, and they often spend time together outside of class visiting and discussing life. A younger Mitch Albom shares with his mentor his dream of becoming a pianist. Although Morrie describes it as a hard life, he encourages Albom to follow his dream. However, this is exactly what Albom has not done. Perhaps ironically, he abandoned his dream of becoming a pianist after his uncle died of cancer. Now that his professor is dying of ALS, Albom is discovering that he has overcompensated in adjusting his values in the wrestling match that is the tension of opposites.
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Chapter 8 Summary
In “The First Tuesday: We Talk About the World,” Albom returns to his old professor’s home. Morrie’s crushing illness is again juxtaposed with his optimistic, compassionate attitude. Recalling his confession that his greatest dread was to have someone “wipe my ass,” Morrie has come to accept this fate and chooses to view it as a unique way to return to life as a baby. These contrasts are used to discuss the nature of sympathy and love.
Morrie’s nurse, Connie, invites Albom into the house. Albom has brought food, hoping to help his ailing mentor somehow. As they sit down to eat, Albom is surprised to find that Morrie still reads newspapers. Morrie explains that although he is dying, he still cares about what is happening in the world. In fact, he finds that his illness has brought him a heightened sense of sympathy when reading about the plights of others, no matter how far away they may be.
During this conversation, he explains that he and Albom are both “Tuesday people,” but he does not explain what this means. Whether or not they are Tuesday people, when Albom reflects on his own life, he finds that he could not be any more different from his mentor. He works and reports the news, and although he actually stands witness to the conflicts and tragedies that are reported in newspapers, he finds that he is never emotionally affected as a journalist by what he writes about—this although he has covered stories of death, attended funerals, and interviewed people in mourning.
Albom is also struck and embarrassed when he finds that Morrie is crying out of sadness for others. Morrie gently teases his student, suggesting that it is acceptable for men to cry. He then explains that
the most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
He also quotes Levine’s statement that “love is the only rational act.” This is the conclusion of their first conversation, and Albom goes so far as to kiss his mentor’s cheek, suggesting that although he has not fully changed his ways, he is still trying to learn from Morrie.
The second part of the chapter concerns one of Albom’s early lessons in Morrie’s college class. Albom recalls how Morrie entered the classroom and sat silently for fifteen minutes. The students at first laughed at the awkwardness of the situation before sitting quietly. Morrie uses...
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Chapter 9 Summary
In “The Second Tuesday: We Talk About Feeling Sorry for Yourself,” Morrie explains how he deals with the daily reminder that he is dying. The ALS is accelerating, and Albom reminds himself that he only has a little time left with his mentor. Now Morrie no longer sits in the dining room. Instead, he spends most of his time in a recliner in his study. When he needs to use the washroom, he rings a bell to summon one of his four nurses. Albom lifts his professor from the wheelchair into the recliner and notices that Morrie is no longer able to even hold onto the person helping him. Albom wonders how Morrie can deal with such difficulties. The professor explains that the morning is his time of mourning. He feels for parts of his body that are no longer under his control and allows himself to feel sorry. He explains that he lets himself cry if he needs to, but otherwise he goes on with his day. He feels lucky to be able to have so much time to die and to say goodbye to his loved ones.
Albom considers his own life. His newspaper union in Detroit is still on strike and the conflict between the workers and the owners is turning ugly. In Boston, newspapers are reporting stories about girls who murder seniors and then throw parties with the corpse on display. Everywhere he looks, Albom finds misery and people who feel sorry for themselves. He wonders what the world would be like if people only allowed themselves to feel self-pity for a set amount of time each day. However, when he is with Morrie, he finds life refreshing, as though he is shedding all the negativity of the outside world while sitting with his dying professor. Albom is flying several hundred miles each week to sit with his professor, but he feels that it is worth it.
Albom reflects on his time in college with Morrie. In this chapter he explains the dynamics of a class called “Group Process.” The class is meant to study how people interact with each other, but the young Mitch Albom finds it mostly “touchy-feely.” His professor encourages him to be more open-minded and goes on to lead an experiment meant to illustrate how trust is formed. The students are asked to fall backward into the arms of their partner. The first girl closes her eyes before she falls, and Morrie points out that being able to trust people means feeling that you can count on them even when you are in the dark.
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Chapter 10 Summary
In “The Third Tuesday: We Talk About Regrets,” Albom once again returns to Morrie’s home with food. This time he has also brought a tape recorder. He hopes to record Morrie’s lessons, but then he worries that he has introduced an invasive and foreign object into their intimate discussions. However, Morrie explains that he welcomes the tape recorder because he wants to share his life with Mitch.
Their conversation turns to regrets, and Morrie explains that many people focus on certain things without realizing they should be pursuing other goals as well. This is why people need teachers and mentors—to help them keep track of what they have not been paying attention to. It seems that this is the role that Albom needs Morrie to fill. On one of his flights to Boston, he begins sketching out the conflicts, or the tension of opposites, that make up his life. Should he embrace tradition or reject it? Should he satisfy others or satisfy himself? Albom points out that there is an entire economy of self-help books, television shows, and counselors available to Americans, but he does not consider them meaningful. Instead, he thinks Morrie has gained a clear vision of his values now that he is facing death, and he realizes that he wants to gain as much from his professor as he can, which is why he is glad to be able to record his conversations with Morrie.
Morrie suggests that the American culture does not encourage people to think about their regrets. Albom suggests that this may be why the country seems so lost in comparison to what Albom describes as Morrie’s “mystical” clarity. He recalls his time in the airport during August after the air conditioning has gone off. Everyone looks ready to kill someone, even though they are really only a little uncomfortable. In contrast, Morrie is dying yet he maintains a positive, caring attitude. Even though there are many self-help books in America, there is still a need for a great teacher like Morrie.
The second part of “The Third Tuesday: We Talk About Regrets” discusses Albom as he approaches his graduation. He had taken so many classes with Morrie that he has nearly earned a major in sociology. At his professor’s prompting, he decides to do a thesis at the end of his program. He chooses to write about the rituals and social interactions inherent in American sports. At the end of the semester, he shyly and proudly presents his work to his professor, who...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
In “The Audiovisual, Part Two,” Ted Koppel from the television program Nightline returns to talk to Morrie. The first episode had gone so well that the producers decided to do a second program. This time, the process is different. Koppel and Morrie are warmer and do not need to check each other out before the interview. They begin talking to each other about their childhoods before moving on to more dire topics.
Koppel comments that Morrie is looking much the same as he did during their first meeting. However, Morrie explains that he is getting worse however much he might look and sound the same. In their previous interview, Morrie explained that he dreaded having to need someone to “wipe [his] ass” because it would make him dependent. However, he has since made his peace with this and now dreads losing control of his hands and his voice. He suggests that losing the ability to swallow would be minor in comparison because he could still be fed through a tube, but it is by using his hands and his voice—his tools to communicate—that he gives to people. When Koppel asks what Morrie will do after this happens, Morrie, ever the optimist, suggests that he will have people ask him yes-or-no questions. Morrie also shares that his friend of 35 years, Maurie Stein (who collected his aphorisms and passed them on to the Boston Globe), is now going deaf. When Koppel asks how they will eventually communicate—with one person deaf and the other mute—Morrie says they will hold hands because a friendship of such depth expresses love without words. Morrie admits that there are times when he feels despair, but his relationships make him feel happy.
Since their first interview, Morrie has received a great deal of mail. One of the letters came from a teacher in Pennsylvania who has nine students who have all lost parents. Morrie reads from his response, in which he shares his experience of losing his mother at a young age, but he breaks down in tears. When asked whether he still feels so much pain after nearly seventy years without her, Morrie says that he does: although Morrie’s response to his illness is brave and of value, death is not a trivial part of life.
(The entire section is 384 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Albom explains in “The Professor” how Morrie’s childhood experiences with death led him to become a professor. “The Professor” is among the saddest chapters in Tuesdays With Morrie for its description of childhood loss and life in poverty.
Morrie’s mother died when he was still young. Morrie was the son of a Russian immigrant who spoke little English, so he had to read a hospital telegram that announced his mother’s death to his father. Furthermore, after Morrie took his younger brother, David, out to scrub porches for nickels, David woke up the next morning unable to move. He had polio, and Morrie naively blamed himself for his brother’s illness. It was a dark time in Morrie’s life, and he spent a great deal of time at the synagogue praying to God to care for his mother and to protect his brother.
Morrie’s father remarried while David was still sick. Eva was a Romanian immigrant who had the energy of two women. She pushed Morrie to do well in school because she saw education as the way out of the poverty they lived in. Eva was kind and caring, though some nights she was only able to serve the family bread for supper. When David had recuperated, Morrie’s father was determined that David should grow up thinking that Eva was his real mother. Consequently, Morrie was not allowed to discuss his mother and only had the telegram announcing her death to remind him of her.
As a teenager, Morrie’s father tried to get work for his son at a fur factory. Albom explains how horrified Morrie felt at seeing the factory floor with a supervisor yelling at the workers. He determined never to work in any industry that exploits others. He also ruled out law, because he did not like lawyers, and medicine, because he could not stand blood. Albom concludes that the greatest professor he ever had ironically settled upon teaching as a career “by default.”
Albom closes the chapter with a quote from Henry James: “a teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” If Eva was correct that an education is a way out of poverty, perhaps James’ statement suggests that teaching allows people to give to others even after they have died. By writing Tuesdays With Morrie, Albom is demonstrating the truth of James’s claim.
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Chapter 13 Summary
In “The Fourth Tuesday: We Talk About Death,” Morrie responds to Albom’s request that they discuss death. Morrie’s continued decline is reflected by the addition of an oxygen machine to his office. The rest of America’s culture is noticeably out of sync with the peace Morrie feels: O. J. Simpson’s lawyers are becoming famous and a woman has murdered her family to protect them from “the bad people.” In contrast to all of this, Albom continues to find solace in the company of his former professor.
According to Morrie, most people do not believe that they will die. In fact, he claims that even in his sixties he was unable to believe in his own death. However, he says there is a better way: “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” When asked how one can achieve this, he cites Buddhist monks (Albom explains in passing that Morrie is a “religious mutt” who incorporates aspects from many religions into his life) who ask a little bird on their shoulder whether today is their last day alive. Morrie claims that this philosophy brings life into focus and helps people ignore distractions.
Morrie predicts that his student will find this maxim difficult to embrace. In fact, he warns Albom that he may find himself less ambitious in his work if he learns how to die and how to live. He also predicts that Albom will find all of this discussion of spirituality too “touchy feely.” However, he maintains that there is something missing from people’s day-to-day life and that he has the ability to feel the power and beauty of the season’s changing in a way Albom does not.
“We Talk About Death” includes a brief scene in which Morrie’s sons, Rob and Jon, are home and helping Morrie answer the letters he has received since appearing on Nightline with Ted Koppel. At this point, Morrie’s handwriting is all but illegible to anyone but himself, so his sons write as their father dictates letters. Morrie encourages people to find the “healing power” of grieving. Throughout all of these exchanges, it is clear that Morrie has an unusual capacity to feel the pain of others around him.
In previous chapters, the final scene has been devoted to past experiences shared between Albom and his professor during the author’s college years. Now Albom begins to share brief vignettes of his and Morrie’s final time together. In...
(The entire section is 479 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
In “The Fifth Tuesday: We Talk About Family,” Morrie’s illness continues to worsen. Albom emphasizes this by explaining that the tape recorder he had begin to bring to their meetings no longer works well because its microphone is too heavy for Morrie to hold. Now they use a microphone that clips onto Morrie’s loose sweater. The sweater is so loose that Albom sometimes has to readjust it, which Morrie likes because he now craves physical contact on a regular basis.
When they begin to discuss the importance of family, Albom is really concerned about his relationships with his own family. At this point, Albom has concentrated on his career to the exclusion of everything else. He views parenting as a sort of anchor that will restrict his freedom. However, seeing how much Morrie has enjoyed the affection of his family, which is displayed in photos on the walls around him, Albom begins to wonder what it would be like to be old and alone. He wonders, would it not be unbearably lonely? Furthermore, Morrie suggests that family is the only foundation upon which people can build their lives.
They next begin to compare their families. Both Morrie and Albom have younger brothers, but their relationships with their brothers are very different. Mitch Albom explains that he has always been different from his younger brother. He had dark hair, got good grades, and avoided alcohol and drugs. His brother was the exact opposite and upon growing up moved to Europe so he could live a more relaxed lifestyle. After their uncle died, Albom threw himself into his work to get a sense of control over his life before he might likewise die of cancer. However, it ended up being his brother who was diagnosed with cancer—pancreatic cancer, the same rare form their uncle died of.
Albom’s brother was able to battle his cancer into remission but chose to do so alone. He cut himself off from his family and rarely answered their messages. Now, Albom finds himself wondering about his relationship with his younger brother. He suspects that Morrie is aware of his student’s inner turmoil and that their sessions may have an impact on the Albom brothers’ relationship.
Albom closes the chapter reminiscing about a time that he and his brother were tobogganing in winter. Plunging down the hill, one brother on top of the other, they suddenly realized that a car was coming and that they had to roll off the sled. They nearly died...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Throughout Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom has struggled to face his emotions, often dismissing them as too touchy-feely. In contrast, Morrie has often been very open about his emotions and has been encouraging Albom to put more effort into facing his emotional side. In “The Sixth Tuesday: We Talk About Emotions,” Morrie tries to teach Albom about emotional detachment and emotional penetration.
Like most chapters, “The Sixth Tuesday” opens as Albom arrives at Morrie’s house with his usual bag of food. Today, it is not one of Morrie’s nurses that answers the door but rather Morrie’s wife, Charlotte. In accordance with Morrie’s wishes, she has continued to work throughout Morrie’s illness, and Albom rarely sees her during his visits. She is still working, but it is clear to Albom that she is unnerved by her husband’s illness, particularly because Morrie seems to be getting so ill that it is a struggle for him to meet with Albom. However, she reassures Albom that he should stay because Morrie seems to derive a sense of purpose from their Tuesdays together. Morrie describes their meetings as his last project. Charlotte sadly informs Albom that no one has been able to eat the food that he has been bringing each week. Morrie has been too ill to eat solid food for some time. Albom admits that he was only trying to help and Charlotte informs him that it is his presence that helps Morrie, not the food. This scene illustrates Albom’s struggle to deal with his emotions.
When he meets with Morrie this morning, he is distraught to find his mentor in such a weakened condition. He is also surprised to hear Morrie say that he has been working on detaching himself from his emotions. Albom suggests that this detachment sounds like what he does, particularly when he dismisses his emotions as touchy-feely. Morrie explains that people must first experience their emotions so thoroughly that they are penetrated by the emotions. Albom has been afraid of his emotions and has not allowed them to penetrate them. For Morrie, who is more in touch with his emotions, it is important to detach from his emotions because if he dies in a coughing fit he does not want to feel horror. Instead, he wants to feel at peace.
Albom asks his mentor about reincarnation. Morrie has decided that if he could come back as another creature, he would like to be a gazelle. At first, Albom is incredulous. However, looking at...
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Chapter 16 Summary
In “The Professor, Part One,” Albom explained how a series of childhood encounters with death and disease shaped Morrie’s desire to help others and why he went on to choose to become a professor. In “The Professor, Part Two,” Albom summarizes Morrie’s early career and the influence of the 1960s, and he contrasts Morrie’s worth with that of highly paid lawyers and businessmen.
After completing his doctorate at the University of Chicago, Morrie did a study in a mental hospital in the 1950s. Although this seems routine today, Albom points out that it was a breakthrough idea in the 1950s. Albom outlines the challenges that staff faced at the mental hospital, ranging from people who soiled their pants to people who refused to eat. At first, Morrie observed the day-to-day social interactions at the hospital and took notes; over time he also began to help people. Albom focuses on one story in which a woman would spend the entire day with body and face pressed against the floor. Morrie began to spend time with this woman and eventually convinced her to sit up and to return to her room during the day. Morrie discovered that the woman wanted someone to acknowledge her.
When Albom challenges his mentor that he is too influenced by the 1960s, Morrie responds that the ‘60s were a good time, especially compared to the decades that followed. Albom relates how Morrie and the sociology department not only taught their courses but also became politically active. For example, because poor grades could cause students to be drafted into the army to fight in the Vietnam War, Albom and his colleagues determined to award all students A grades. Albom’s understanding that people want to be acknowledged and cared for also helped him negotiate peace between opposing factions at his university and in the conflicted society as well. Albom notes that Morrie always managed to negotiate a lasting peace. Not coincidentally, Albom’s newspaper is still on strike, and the two sides seem to be struggling to reach a compromise.
Albom closes “The Professor, Part Two” with an acknowledgement that Morrie’s teachings were not based on career skills. He also predicts that some readers would balk at Morrie’s success in teaching because his students did not go on to earn vast sums of money. For Morrie, and increasingly for Albom, the values of these careerists are...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
“The Seventh Tuesday: We Talk About the Fear of Aging” opens with another loss for Morrie. His great dread—relying on others to wipe his behind—has finally come to pass. Morrie cannot reach around behind his body anymore and he must rely on his nurses to clean him. However, as Morrie predicted in “The First Tuesday: We Talk About the World,” he is able to accept this latest inability by viewing it as a return to childhood. Morrie has discussed his need to give to people, but now he is focused on receiving. What he receives is the physical touch and intimacy that children receive from their mothers. Morrie argues that people do not get enough love as children, and he in particular did not because he lost his mother at a young age. Albom concludes that Morrie’s determination to remain positive and focused on the joys of life is brave.
Their conversation turns to aging. Albom outlines the way youth is portrayed in advertising. After all, no model on a billboard can pass for more than thirty-five. For Albom, it has come to the point that he is ashamed to admit how hold he is, and he is driven to work out and constantly watch his weight. It seems that there is no place in society for the middle aged, not to mention the elderly. Morrie’s response is that the obsession with youth is an illusion. He points out that there are many difficulties with being young, particularly the sense that one is constantly being used and manipulated due to a lack of experience and self-knowledge. Furthermore, Morrie points out that no matter how much people try not to age, they cannot stop time from passing. Therefore, the obsession with fighting one’s age is misguided and causes people to lose focus on living their lives to the fullest.
Usually Albom is quick to endorse his mentor’s views, but he challenges Morrie on this point. He cannot help but feel that Morrie must envy people who are young and healthy, especially given the advanced stage of the illness. However, Morrie responds that while he may envy the health of others, he prefers to think that people are given a time to live their age. He has had his time to be in his thirties and he made the most of that age. Now it is his time to be in his seventies, an age that gives him insight into all ages he has lived through up to this point. Morrie maintains that people who complain about their age or...
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
“The Eighth Tuesday: We Talk About Money” opens with the headline “I don’t want my tombstone to read ‘I never owned a network.’” The newspaper is quoting billionaire Ted Turner, who had been struggling to acquire CBS at the time. Albom finds himself wondering whether Turner would really lament his lack of a network if he were facing death as Morrie was at the end of his life. Morrie explains that this is yet another symptom of the way American culture has lost sight of what is important. This lack of perspective explains why people tend to be so disillusioned about their lives.
Morrie explains that the American culture is unduly influenced by the need to acquire commercial goods, and he explains that constant advertising has led people to think that “more is good.” He shares how people constantly bragged to him about their new cars and their new acquisitions, but these things are merely substitutions for what is really important. Unfortunately, Morrie explains:
You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.
For Morrie, who knows he is dying, material things are not what he wants or needs.
Morrie, who has always enjoyed dancing and music, now finds it more moving than ever before. Looking around Morrie’s office, Albom notes that his mentor has not bought anything new since his illness. Although there are no new possessions in the house, Albom feels that the house has changed because it is now “filled with friendship and family and honesty and tears.” Perhaps the most satisfying thing of all, Morrie argues, is the ability to “offer others what you have to give,” a statement that recalls Morrie’s interview with Ted Koppel in which he revealed his fear of losing his voice.
Albom considers his attempts to impress rich athletes and realizes how misguided these attempts are. Morrie suggests that trying to impress the rich is pointless because they will look down on the poor anyway. Conversely, trying to impress the poor using one’s wealth will only cause them to feel envy. The only way to help them is to give what you have to offer. The chapter concludes with a return to Ted Turner’s tombstone; Morrie finds it a little disappointing that Ted Turner’s life has been about something as frivolous as a television network.
The chapter closes with a quote...
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Chapter 19 Summary
In “The Ninth Tuesday: We Talk About how Love Goes On,” the summer has ended and autumn has begun. Albom’s newspaper is still on strike and the process has stagnated. Meanwhile, televised news is still broadcasting depressing stories. The primary concern for most Americans has become the O. J. Simpson trial. Meanwhile, Albom explains that he had been trying to contact his brother in Spain. Morrie’s health has continued to worsen, and he now has a catheter in his penis, which allows him to urinate. While he cannot control his legs, they still give him pain. Finally, he can no longer move his head.
Morrie explains that Ted Koppel and Newsline are thinking about doing a third interview. However, Albom is irritated to learn that they want to wait a little longer before doing the interview. Morrie acknowledges that the show might be trying to create a little extra drama, but he is also using the networks to spread his message. He explains that he does not feel that he will be forgotten after his death because he has managed to reach so many people during his illness. In particular, he feels that as long as Albom can hear his voice, he will live on; this suggests that Morrie’s legacy is centered on his final message. Morrie shares that he has decided what he wants to write on his tombstone. Unlike Ted Turner, who declared that he did not want to have “I never owned a network” written on his tombstone, Morrie, would like to have “A Teacher to the Last” written on his tombstone.
The conversation turns to paying attention to people. Albom admits that he appreciates the way Morrie responds to his presence. Morrie explains that he believes in being fully present and engaged in his present company rather than being distracted. Albom recalls a Brandeis University class with Morrie, Group Process. At the time, the class had not impressed Albom because it did not seem important to learn how to pay attention to people. Now, with Morrie so close to dying, it would not be surprising if he were to focus on his own problems. Instead, he takes the time to talk to Albom, and Albom values this gift.
Morrie discusses the difference between making small talk and really listening to people. Albom observes that Morrie is like the father everyone wishes they had. Morrie explains that he lost his own father prematurely. Charlie Schwartz was mugged; after giving up his wallet, he ran all the way to a relative’s...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
In “The Tenth Tuesday: We Talk About Marriage,” Morrie has continued to decline. He now requires oxygen to be supplied to his lungs, his coughing has become frightening, and Albom cannot help remembering Morrie’s prediction that he would die when the disease started to affect his lungs. Albom brings his wife, Janine, to meet Morrie after the two of them talk briefly on the phone. As Morrie looks at their wedding photos, he shares a story from his time teaching in Detroit when he allowed a surgeon to watch him teach. In return, he watched the doctor operate on a woman. Just as the surgery began, Morrie had to leave because he could not stand the sight of blood. Yet now, Albom reflects, Morrie is enduring ALS.
Morrie and Janine talk. Janine is a professional singer, and she is usually shy about singing casually for people. Surprisingly, she sings a Ray Noble song that was popular in the 1930s for Morrie, which leads Albom to reflect how effectively Morrie causes people to drop their emotional guard and to share with him. Furthermore, Albom finds that Morrie is able to appreciate his wife’s singing on a level that he cannot. Albom goes on to discuss marriage.
What Albom has observed is that marriages in America are breaking up so often that it has become commonplace to encounter married men out with women who are not their wives. Morrie laments that marriages seem to be failing in a culture where people so rarely encounter real love. He explains that many people do not know what they want from their relationships or do not know how to take part in a real relationship. In contrast, Albom notes, Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, have been married for forty-four years. When Albom asks whether there is a way to tell whether a marriage will work, Morrie says things are not that simple. However, he suggests that respect, compromise, and common values are important. Morrie concludes that everyone should strive to marry. Morrie concludes with one of his favorite quotes: “love each other or perish.”
At the end of the chapter, Albom suggests that Morrie is like the Biblical figure Job. Job’s faith was tested when God took away his house, money, health, and his family. When asked about his thoughts on God’s testing of Job, Morrie concludes with a smile that “God overdid it.”
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Chapter 21 Summary
“The Eleventh Tuesday: We Talk About Our Culture” opens with Albom hitting Morrie’s back. By beating his professor’s back, Albom can help prevent the poison in Morrie’s body from solidifying. Ultimately, Morrie is dangerously close to choking to death as the ALS begins to close in on his lungs. Although these are disheartening moments for Albom, they reveal the extent to which he has changed since he first started visiting Morrie. Before, Albom kept his emotions inside and felt awkward focusing on his feelings. Now, he and Morrie often hold hands, and he has taken on more therapeutic responsibilities.
Morrie and Albom begin to discuss American culture, how it affects people, and how people affect it. Although Morrie believes that people are essentially good, he is aware of what people could be driven to do. Essentially, people are most likely to do wrong when they feel threatened. Morrie points out that America’s obsession with money drives them to feel threatened about their jobs even when they are employed. As a result, there is a potential for a vicious circle of negativity.
Morrie’s solution is for people to form their own subculture. Although he does not advocate overthrowing society or rebelling against the law, Morrie does recommend that people consider the big picture, like how people think and what they value. These principles and values cannot be determined by anyone but the person who holds them. Morrie argues that people are made to feel embarrassed about their income or their weight because society tells them to feel that way, but there is nothing inherently embarrassing about being overweight, and Morrie uses the “indignities” he has suffered as an example.
The O. J. Simpson trial, which has proceeded in the background throughout Tuesdays With Morrie and which has served as an example of America’s misguided values, is concluded. Although the media has dubbed the case “the trial of the century,” Albom finds that he cares very little about the final result (in contrast to Morrie’s nurse, Connie, who says “Oh my God!” when she hears the verdict is not guilty). Albom underscores how trivial it is by writing:
As “The Trial of the Century” reached its dramatic conclusion, my old professor was sitting on the toilet.
The chapter closes with an anecdote from 1979. While watching a basketball game, the crowd...
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
In “The Audiovisual, Part 3,” Morrie once again meets with Ted Koppel for Nightline. The chapter is noteworthy for how it differs from the previous “Audiovisual” entries. Of course, Morrie’s disease has significantly progressed since the first interview, conducted just six months earlier. Now Morrie can barely raise his arm, and he only changes his clothes every other day—he does not change his clothes for the interview because it is not held on the “other day.” When they first met, Koppel and Morrie were somewhat suspicious of each other, but now they are quite close. Koppel worries that Morrie will be unable to complete the interview and says that he would come to say “goodbye” no matter what. However, Morrie says he is willing to do the interview, though they will have to hold it in his office, a room so small that the cameraman struggles to keep Koppel in the camera’s range of vision.
Morrie and Koppel discuss Stephen Hawking, another sufferer of ALS who became famous for his work in physics and for his book A Brief History of Time. Hawking is also famous for the apparatuses by which he communicates; he relies on a computer to speak for him. Morrie, however, does not wish to live like this, arguing that his voice and his ability to respond to people are key to his identity. Morrie feels that when his ability to communicate naturally is gone, “Morrie is gone.” His latest aphorism is “don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.”
Koppel once again asks Morrie about what Albom here refers to as the “ass wipe test.” Unfortunately, Morrie is not strong enough to be playful with this question. At this point, he can no longer sit up straight while using the washroom. In short, Morrie is aware that he is nearing the end of his illness and that he will soon pass on. After the interview ends, the camera keeps rolling and Morrie is heard to say that although ALS is taking his body, it cannot take his spirit. He says that he feels he is negotiating with God about the afterlife. Albom closes the chapter by noting that “it was the first time Morrie admitted talking to God.”
Morrie’s final piece of advice for his televised audience is to encourage people to act with compassion, and he also includes his favorite quote from Auden: “Love each other or die.”
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Chapter 23 Summary
“The Twelfth Tuesday: We Talk About Forgiveness” opens with Albom massaging Morrie’s ankles. Although Morrie cannot move his legs, they still give him pain. Albom is grateful to be able to alleviate that pain through massage. Although it might once have bothered him to touch Morrie, he has overcome his inhibitions and would now do anything to please his old professor.
Morrie is eager to tell Albom about the importance of forgiveness. His latest aphorism is “Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.” Morrie illustrates his point by pointing to a bronze bust in his study. Albom has never noticed the sculpture before, but it actually a bust of Morrie in his 40s. Morrie explains that he spent weeks posing for the sculpture while his friend Norman made it in his basement. Albom notices that Norman captured Morrie’s whimsical spirit. Morrie explains that although the sculpture represents how close he and Norman were to each other, they later fell out. Morrie’s wife, Charlotte, was seriously ill and hospitalized; although Norman knew, he never phoned to ask after her. Consequently, Morrie and Charlotte not only dropped the relationship but Morrie also rebuffed Norman’s attempts to apologize and restore the relationship. Now, however, Morrie finds himself wracked with guilt for not having renewed their friendship before Norman died of cancer.
Morrie instructs Albom to forgive himself and others before he dies because not everyone will be lucky enough to know when their time is coming. Morrie offers a new and more positive interpretation of the “tension of opposites.” Up to this point, it has referred to the value conflicts that divide Albom. Morrie explains:
I mourn my dwindling time, but I cherish the chance that it gives me to make things right.
He concludes his session on forgiveness by telling Albom that if he could have had a third son, he would have wanted it to be Mitch. Although Albom at first wonders whether he is being disloyal to his own father, he discards the concern.
The chapter concludes with an anecdote in which Morrie explains where he wants to be buried. His preference is to be buried on a hill, under a tree, in front of a lake. Furthermore, he invites Morrie to continue visiting him to tell him his problems. Even if he cannot respond, Morrie promises that he will “give what I can.”
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Chapter 24 Summary
Morrie has begun talking to his Rabbi and family about how to deal with his remains. Morrie has determined that he would like to be cremated, though he jokes that he does not want to be overcooked. The Rabbi is shocked, but Albom interprets this joke as evidence that Morrie had come to identify primarily with his spirit and perceive that his body is just a container. Morrie and Albom go on to discuss how people are scared to look at corpses, almost to the point that you would think they were contagious. As evidence, Morrie points out that in hospitals, after people die, the bodies are quickly covered in a sheet, wheeled away, and sent down a chute. Morrie explains that death should be viewed as a natural part of life.
Morrie shares an experience from the previous night in which he had nearly coughed to death. Rather than feeling horror, he felt at peace once he realized that he felt that he could cross a bridge to another reality. Morrie explains that all people want to reach a point where they feel that they are at peace with death. Morrie argues that if people can make peace with the fact that they will die, then they can move on to the realization that all of the love they created in life will remain after they die. He concludes that “death ends a life, not a relationship.”
A recent drug has been developed to alleviate, if not cure, ALS, but it will not be in place soon enough to save Morrie. However, it prompts Albom to ask what Morrie would do if he had twenty-four hours of perfect health, or a “perfect day.” After a moment’s thought, Morrie determines that he would do his exercises, eat well, swim, and spend time exchanging sentiments with his friends. At first it strikes Albom as a painfully average day, but he afterward realizes that this is exactly the point Morrie is trying to make. In these simple pursuits, true happiness can be found. The obsession with wealth and success are not part of Morrie’s vision for happiness.
Their last discussion of the day refers to Albom’s brother, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Albom and his brother are not as close as Albom would like. Morrie explains that Albom needs to respect his brother’s space and that relationships need to be negotiated. However, he encourages Albom to find a way to reach his brother.
The final anecdote briefly presents a story about a wave that is afraid to crash into the ocean—only to realize that it is already...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Most of the chapters in Tuesdays With Morrie begin with a discussion of Morrie’s declining health. However, in “The Fourteenth Tuesday: We Say Goodbye,” there are no new machines or nurses in Morrie’s home. Rather, when Albom receives a call from Morrie’s wife, Charlotte, Albom learns that Morrie has reached his final days. The gravity of this final stage is emphasized when Albom arrives at Morrie’s home and finds that his mentor is not even in the study. He is in bed, has been cancelling the appointments he holds so dear, and has been sleeping a great deal.
Albom, perhaps not wanting to admit the extent to which Morrie’s illness has changed for the worse, enters the bedroom with his tape recorder and tapes. However, he realizes his impotence when he reflects, “I always had tapes.” They will not save Morrie. Albom goes on to reflect that he will not be taping any conversations during this visit. Instead, as the chapter title suggests, they will be saying goodbye.
Albom does not know how to say goodbye. Morrie, ever the teacher, explains that the trick is to express one’s love for the other. Although he is extremely ill and weak, Morrie expresses how much his time with Albom has meant to him. He tells Albom that he has a good soul and that they have always loved each other. Morrie has long joked that he would try to break through Albom’s shell of not expressing emotions; in “We Say Goodbye,” Albom finds himself crying as he kisses Morrie goodbye.
Although most of the chapters in Tuesdays With Morrie end with a brief anecdote or a quote from a poem, this chapter has no additional content to add context or a sense of conclusion to the interview. Instead, it emphasizes Albom’s last exchange with Morrie. Albom jokes that he will expect to see Morrie in better shape the following week, to which Morrie whispers in reply, “Okay, then.”
(The entire section is 334 words.)
Morris (Morrie) Schwartz died on November 4th, a Saturday morning. His family had all managed to return to see and be with him during his last days. His son Rob had to travel from Tokyo, but he did, which is a testament to the closeness of Morrie’s family. When all of the family members briefly left his room—for a coffee and for the first time in days—Morrie stopped breathing and passed on. Albom suggests that Morrie died this way intentionally so that no one would have to witness his final moments in the way he had been forced to deliver his mother’s death-notice telegram as a child. Although Morrie had feared he would die horribly, he was fortunate enough to pass serenely.
At the start of Tuesdays With Morrie, Albom explains that the “graduation” of Morrie’s last course was his funeral. As Morrie’s ashes were covered with dirt, in the hill within which Morrie had wanted to be buried, Albom found himself recalling Morrie’s instruction to visit his grave—“You talk, I’ll listen.” As Albom tries to do this, he finds that his relationship with Morrie does endure. Albom notes that perhaps one reason their connection endures is because the “graduation” was held on a Tuesday.
As Albom concludes his memoir, he explains that he has overcome some of the personal conflicts that drove him to seek out Morrie. The conflicts are not material or related to The Detroit Free Press writer’s strike. Albom has largely overcome the difficulties he has with emotions that prevent him from engaging in his life and in his relationships. It seems that with his graduation complete, he has managed to learn “life’s greatest lesson,” which is about the importance of love and relationships. Albom explains how he reaches out to his brother, who is battling cancer in Spain. Albom expresses his desire to be closer to his brother so he can “hold him in my life as much as he could let me.” His brother responds by fax with a note that is written with humor and anecdotes.
The final paragraphs in Tuesdays With Morrie explain that the memoir was actually Morrie’s idea. The advance on the text allowed Morrie to pay his extensive medical bills. However, the book also allows Morrie’s teachings on the meaning of life to continue after his death. The novel closes with a reference to the ongoing impact of Morrie’s wisdom represented in Tuesdays With Morrie. In Albom’s...
(The entire section is 428 words.)