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 this scene, they discuss the baseball player Lou Gehrig who, like Morrie, died of ALS. Morrie quotes Gehrig’s famous farewell speech in which he declared, “today, I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” At this point, Albom points out, “the disease owns” Morrie, who at the end of the chapter declines to agree with Gehrig’s sentiment.