By Barbara Janelle M.A.

In Touch, Vol. XI, No. 2, May 1999

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom (Doubleday, New York: 1997)

Reviewed by Barbara Janelle

The usual set of serendipitous events brought this book to me. First, a friend in Vermont called to say she had read it and found it wonderful. Two days later, Rose Philip, a member of our London TT hospital Team, told me the same thing and lent the book to me.

This is a special book, about a special man, written by a gifted writer. Morrie Schwartz was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: ALS). In his life as a university professor, he touched many people, and in his dying he chose to teach many more. Ted Koppel interviewed Morrie for “Nightline” three times during the progress of the illness, and through those interviews he taught a huge audience about humanity and courage. These lessons became even clearer in the Tuesday “classes with his former student, Detroit Free Press sports writer, Mitch Albom.

In the months of Tuesday visits, Morrie asks the questions and tells the stories of life. “Have you found someone to share your heart with?” he asks Mitch. “Are you giving to your community?” “Are you at peace with yourself?” “Are you trying to be as human as you can be?” Mitch explores these questions in his own life as he records Morrie’s insights. Mitch’s flashbacks to university classes and examination of his own life combine with Morrie’s memories of family and friends, profoundly humane understandings of life and immediate awareness of growing physical dependency on others.

Human hopes, fears, bravery and integrity are offered here. “Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing but you are bound to do something else…” “Which side wins?” Morrie smiles, “Love wins. Love always wins.”

Tears fell down his nose. “I lost my mother when I was a child…and it was quite a blow to me…I was so lonely.” ” ‘Morrie,’ Koppel said, ‘that was seventy years ago your mother died. The pain still goes on?’ ‘You bet,’ Morrie whispered.”

“Most of us all walk around as if we’re sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, because we’re half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do.” “And facing death changes that?” “Oh yes. Learn how to die and you learn how to live.”

“Aging is not just decay, you know. It is growth…” “Accept who you are and revel in that…You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now.” “The truth is part of me is every age..I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be. I am every age up to my own..”

“Love each other or perish.” “Be compassionate,” Morrie whispered, “and take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be a better place.” He took a breath and added his mantra: “Love each other or die.”

Mitch Albom has been voted America’s Number 1 sports columnist ten times by the Associated Press Sports Editors. I read his book on the train going to Toronto. Powerful, beautiful – a gift. I recommend it. – Barbara Janelle