Tuesdays With Morrie Summary
Tuesdays With Morrie is a memoir by Mitch Albom in which Albom recounts the fourteen Tuesdays he spent with his friend and mentor, Morrie Schwartz, prior to Morrie’s death.
- Mitch Albom sees his former professor Morrie Schwartz doing an interview about his ALS diagnosis. Mitch visits Morrie, and the two men agree to meet every Tuesday from then on.
- During their meetings, Mitch and Morrie discuss death, family, marriage, aging, and a variety of other topics. Mitch is amazed by the grace with which Morrie accepts his impending death.
- Over the weeks, Morrie’s health deteriorates. Shortly after the fourteenth visit, Morrie dies peacefully.
Last Updated on February 17, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1265
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.
Mitch is stunned to see his old teacher on television. During the years since his graduation, Mitch has tried but failed to make a living as a musician. The death of a close relative instills in him a sense of urgency to do something significant with his life, and he turns to journalism as a career. Mitch works obsessively, burying himself in accomplishments in a single-minded but ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of happiness. Because of his frenetic lifestyle, Mitch has cut himself off from all his past acquaintances and forgotten the lessons Morrie had taught about relationships and “being human.” Seeing the dying man on television rekindles old yearnings, however, and Mitch is drawn to visit his former mentor.
Morrie greets Mitch with unqualified joy, but Mitch reacts with feelings of guilt. Mitch is not the idealistic, sensitive young man he had been when he was in college; he has become jaded, having “traded lots of dreams for a bigger paycheck.” Morrie asks Mitch if he is at peace with himself, and Mitch can only squirm uncomfortably in response. Morrie says that dying is only one thing that brings sadness; living unhappily has the same effect. His words strike a cord with the troubled young man, and, upon returning from a short business trip, Mitch arranges to visit Morrie again on Tuesday, in what essentially becomes the opening session of the professor’s last class, a class for one.
Mitch and Morrie slip easily back into their old manner of college dialogue during their first Tuesday meeting. Observing the havoc the disease is wreaking on Morrie’s once vigorous body, Mitch is astonished at the positivity his teacher shows in facing his inexorable decline. Morrie calls death “the great equalizer,” because it allows him to better understand the suffering of others. He is thankful to have been given the time to reflect on the important things in life before he dies.
The topic of the second Tuesday class is self-pity. Morrie, who has every reason to feel sorry for himself, tells Mitch that he consciously imposes “a daily limit on self-pity,” a few tearful minutes in the mornings when he allows himself to mourn before focusing on the good things in his life and carrying on with his day. Mitch learns to lift Morrie from his wheelchair to his recliner, and as he holds his mentor’s wasted body, he knows that for Morrie, time is truly running out. Mitch brings a tape recorder to their third session, during which Morrie talks about living without regret. Perhaps because of the imminence of his own death, Morrie approaches subjects with a “mystical clarity of thought,” and Mitch wants to remember the wisdom he imparts for as long as he can.
Morrie explores the topic of death more deeply in his fourth session with Mitch. Borrowing freely from the philosophies of a variety of religions, he stresses the importance of living as if each day is one’s last. Drawing from his own experience, he tells Mitch, “Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.” Morrie pointedly applies what he is saying to Mitch’s situation, observing that people who have not accepted that they can die at any time tend to get caught up by material ambitions which do not satisfy them, rather than focusing on things that are truly fulfilling. In their fifth and sixth sessions, Morrie and Mitch discuss family and emotions. Morrie admits that without the support of his family, the burden of his illness might be impossible to bear. The love of family, to him, is even more significant that that of friends because of the knowledge that family will always be there for him. Morrie then addresses the need to allow one’s self to feel emotions fully, in order to understand them. Having done this, one would then have the capability of detaching one’s self from them and letting them go.
By the seventh Tuesday, Morrie has deteriorated to the point he has most been dreading—someone must now wipe his behind for him. With typical aplomb, he manages to remain positive, even learning, like a child, to enjoy his dependency. The topic of the day is the fear of aging. Morrie looks at aging as growth, not decay, and, as he does with all things, embraces it. On the eighth Tuesday, Morrie talks about money and the way society brainwashes people into believing that material things will make them happy. Morrie emphasizes the falsehood of that orientation, telling Mitch that true satisfaction comes from sharing one’s talents with others and through giving from the heart.
By the time of their ninth meeting, Morrie can only speak for short periods without needing a rest, but he is determined to go on. He talks about being fully present when with another. He wants all his loved ones to be around him when he dies, and he desires to be remembered for his legacy of love. Mitch brings his wife, Janine, to his tenth class with Morrie. Morrie, who himself has been married for forty-four years, talks about the sacredness of marriage and the basic rules of having a good one—respect, the ability to compromise and talk openly with one’s spouse, and the sharing of a common set of values. Morrie believes people are inherently good but are corrupted by our culture, which makes them feel threatened and so brings out their meanness. In their eleventh session, Morrie stresses the importance of creating one’s own subculture, whose values are more in line with what will bring contentment. Morrie talks about the importance of forgiving others at his twelfth meeting with Mitch. He also stresses the need to forgive one’s self for one’s shortcomings. Addressing the tension of opposites, he says that he mourns his “dwindling time,” even as he cherishes the opportunity he has been given to “make things right.” Finally, with utter transparency, he tells Mitch that if he could have had another son, he would have liked it to have been him.
Morrie is on oxygen by the time of the thirteenth Tuesday and relates that he had had a very bad spell the night before. Thinking that his time had come, he discovered that he was ready and at peace. He tells Mitch that as long as people love each other, they can die “without really going away.” They live on in the hearts of those whom they love, because “death ends a life, not a relationship.” By the fourteenth Tuesday, the end is very near for Morrie. When Mitch arrives, Morrie is in bed and is almost too weak to speak. Mitch says good-bye and is brought to tears as he kisses his dear friend. Morrie dies four days later, serenely, with his immediate family close by. Mitch is present when Morrie’s ashes are laid in the ground, and he realizes, with quiet bemusement, that it is Tuesday.