Summary of Tuesdays with Morrie Tuesdays with Morrie, is a look a man dying from a terminal illness and how he chose to deal with his prognosis. The book was written by Morrie Schwartz’s former student, Mitch Albom. Mitch was busy with his career, but one night while watching Nightline in 1995, he rediscovered his old professor, dying with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s disease is also known as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosisis). ALS is a fatal degenerative disease of the nervous system marked by progressive muscle weakness and atrophy.
It is a form of motor neuron disease. Morrie did what most people who are aging and dying usually don’t do; he decided to face death with inner dignity and he taught a young man how to live through his impending death. Morrie was a perfect example of the continuity theory. The continuity theory emphasizes that people age best when they are able to view the changes in later life inside an existing thought and behavior pattern. Aging best, in my opinion is not just how long you live, but how you live.
Morrie’s behaviors were; to talk about death, maintain social connections by spending time with friends and family, remain mentally active as long as he could, write and mentor Mitch, his former student. Morrie’s thought pattern changes were to write about death, make decisions as to how he was going to live out his remaining time, and anticipate the physical limitations that would occur as the disease progressed. He believed the more you anticipated the loss of physical powers, not just because of a disease, but also because of age, that causes physical limitations, or the end of physical abilities, the easier the adjustment would be.
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Morrie anticipated the total end of his physical abilities. Morrie’s behaviors and thought about the changes that took place in his life and physical body was the reason he could face his journey from life to death. Anyone going in to the field of gerontology will have to deal with aging clients and the prospect of their clients impending death. Tuesday’s with Morrie brought a realization of how society talks about living, but does not deal with the unavoidable reality of dying which is something all human beings must do.
Morrie did not lose his ability to love in the midst of losing his battle with ALS. It was interesting for someone to be so candid about death, how it felt to know that one is dying, and using this as a platform to share with others the journey. Morrie was the epitome of knowing how to die. He possessed altruistic qualities, the belief that acting for the benefit of others is right and good, no matter what one’s own circumstances may be. Morrie was generative in life and generative in the midst of facing his own mortality.
His generative behavior was shaped by his unique life experiences, including experiences of suffering. Leaving a legacy to succeeding generations was tied to suffering experiences, to the personal and communal identities that emerged from suffering, to the importance of intergenerational and intragenerational community, and to what men believed others needed from them. Morrie told a story about a male wave that was worried about crashing into the ocean. The male wave met a female wave that was happily head toward the shore.
The male wave said you are going to crash into the shore and you will no longer exist. The female wave said I am not just a wave; I am part of the ocean. Morrie did not feel he was just an individual human being, but a part of the whole universe. It will be important for anyone working with the elderly to have the ability to understand from that individual’s point of view. It also impacted me personally because death is something we all have to face one day. It’s part of every human being’s journey.
Unknown, but still a road all must travel. Morrie taught Mitch how to live while he was dying. Although Morrie was dying he still felt death was a mystery. Although death is unknown to all human beings, how people choose to deal with it is a decision they can make. The unknown is a fearful thing because it is not familiar. I like Morrie’s experience because he did not deal with the mystery of death, but with the things that were known to him. He used all of the resources he had in order to deal with his situation.
Morrie’s use of crystallized intelligence,; the ability of his knowledge grow by taking every piece of life wisdom he had and applied it to his journey into death. His use of semantic memory, the basic facts of life he was able to maintain, helped him to rationally think about his impending inability to speak, go to the bathroom on his own, use his hands, or walk. Morrie dealt with how he would feel; the depression that would set in and he thought about how to handle his emotions as his body shuts down.
Tuesday’s With Morrie made me think about death, and how I would handle it. Now death comes in many ways; one may be in a fatal accident, natural death, which I consider unexpected; or by a terminal illness that may be quick or drag on for months maybe even years. However it comes, death remains a mystery. I hope I can deal with the known fact that all must die; and no matter how death comes, that my life counted and that I did what I was suppose to do while here, and I helped others to learn how to live by my life, and ultimately by my death like Morrie.
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