Tuesdays with Morrie - book review
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
It's often hard to contextualize a chronic illness. When reading books, websites or blogs, you often find yourself lost in the illness's medical terminology, its symptoms and its treatment options. There are some books, however, like Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, that transcend the illness jargon and offer a beautiful glimpse of the lived and felt experiences of those individuals living with a chronic illness and those individuals surrounding, caring, supporting their loved ones.
Tuesdays with Morrie is a memoir about a series of visits Albom makes every Tuesday, just as he used to back in college, to his former professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is slowly losing his life to ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease) is a progressive nervous system (or neurological) disease that destroys nerve cells and causes disability. In other words, ALS gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that are typically able to move at will (ALS.ca, 2019). Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, individuals living with ALS lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and eventually breathe.
As the memoir unfolds, you come to notice the essence of humanity. Albom shares the final conservations he has with his former professor on important topics surrounding death and dying. These conversations are Albom's final "class"; they are lessons in how to live.
When faced with death and dying, most of us shy away from what seems like an impossible topic to talk about. Yet, when reading this book, the fear, worry, and sadness of it all simply melts away as you become engulfed in the simplicity of Morrie's "life lessons".
“As you grow, you learn more. Aging is not just decay… it’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand that you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.” Acknowledgement goes such a long way in the healing process. It might take you some time to summon up the courage to face what it is you are facing. Being diagnosed with an illness or living with a disease is not easy. It is quite the opposite; it's very difficult. However, when you acknowledge the fears around your own death or that of your loved one, you might then notice a sense of calm. Relief in knowing that the unknown is okay. When you acknowledge you then grow, and when you grow you perceive and feel things differently. This simple yet powerful change in perspective and feeling can be monumental in living a fuller life until the very end.
"Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel." Too often you flutter around your days without really feeling connected with what you're doing or who you're with. In this state of disconnect, you forget about yourself, your being, your humanity. Come back to yourself. Do a head-to-toe body scan. Name the sensations. Name the emotions. Ground yourself in your body. Sometimes connecting with yourself will give you the greatest insight. Believe in what you feel. Trust that what comes up as sensations, as feelings and emotions, is the Truth.
"Love each other or perish - W.H. Auden." Love is so much more than a feeling. It is a connection with both yourself and others. It helps you bridge your being with others through emotional connection. Humans are known to be social beings. And in some ways, being social has helped us to survive through centuries. It has enabled us to form relationships of all kinds with the people that surround us. If you do not love, can you really survive?
There is so much more depth to this book then beats the eye. If you are curious about knowing more on death and dying, love and relationships, pain and relief, and so much more, I encourage you to read Albom's memoir: Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man and life's greatest lesson.
For those of you inclined to know more about ALS here are some resources that might offer more support: