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 However, he was still focused on making the most of his life and being productive and engaged rather than useless and withdrawn.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 you will think of me as your friend.”