The central theme in Tuesdays With Morrie is, of course, death. In recounting his meetings with Morrie Schwartz during the final weeks of his life, the author chronicles the inexorable and merciless destruction of a human body with unflinching honesty. Morrie, who sixteen years earlier had been a vibrant doctor of sociology, the man who would dance with idiosyncratic abandon at a church in Harvard Square, has been stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable disease which insidiously destroys the neurological system, leaving the body a useless shell. Morrie's decline begins with asthma, which he contracts in his sixties; when he reaches his seventies, the formerly vigorous man is having trouble walking. By the time of his first interview with Ted Koppel and his reunion with Mitch Albom, Morrie is confined to a wheelchair and must be lifted from chair to bed and bed to chair. During the fourteen Tuesdays of their last "class" together, Mitch notes with sadness the progression of his professor's decline - the point at which he can no longer eat, no longer use the commode, no longer speak for any length of time, no longer get out of bed. Even though the author, with Morrie's guidance, learns to accept death as a natural thing not to be feared, he makes it clear that though death which is met with dignity and serenity is endowed with an aura of nobility, there is no way around the fact that the ultimate demise of the physical body is a messy and unpleasant process.
Although Tuesdays With Morrie is the story of the death of a human being, its focus is paradoxically less about death than it is a call to life. For Morrie, accepting the fact that one might die at any time is the key to living well. Facing death, one sees things differently, and is able to focus on what is essential in life. Instead of blindly trying to amass the material things which are purported to bring happiness, one is drawn instead to appreciate and nurture those elements in life that bring true satisfaction - nature, and giving, and loving other people. Morrie stresses that modern culture, with its emphasis on youth and acquisitiveness, actually devalues life, in the worst-case scenario making it a kind of living death. Instead of seeing the passing of youth as a calamity, Morrie looks upon it as an opportunity for growth, and he counsels that while preoccupation with material rewards brings only frustration and emptiness, it is its opposite, giving freely of one's self, which bestows life with meaning. In his final days, Morrie celebrates life with an intensity made possible through the heightened awareness that comes only when one is completely at peace with the undeniable inevitability of death. It is significant that when Mitch asks him what he would do if he could be healthy again for twenty-four hours, Morrie describes an ordinary day spent...
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