It’s a wonderful story of a blossoming relationship between a student and his teacher that took place at the teacher’s home every Tuesdays. True to the title of the book by Mitch Albom (1997), Mitch would meet his teacher, Mr. Morrie Schwatz, at his home every Tuesdays to discuss about the meaning of life. The book is broken into many parts; The Syllabus, The Student, The Audiovisual, The Orientation, The Classroom, Taking Attendance, The First Tuesday We Talk About The World, and so on. The book takes the reader through the life of two protagonists; Professor Morrie Schwatz and Mitchell. Mitch, who wants to become a famous musician ends up becoming a successful journalist, while Morrie, fights destiny by remaining optimistic and prepared to die. They meet again by fate after sixteen years. Though Mitch remembers Morrie somewhere in the corner of his memory, he didn’t think he would ever get the opportunity to meet Morrie alive. It was perhaps through this that fate led Mitch to Morrie again who was on the last leg of his association with life. In The Classroom, when Morrie tells Mitch that “People see me as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be, but I’m not yet dead. I’m sort of in-between,” and tells Connie, his help, “I’m visiting with my old pal now,” “let them call back,” it sums up the gist of the story.
The chapter on Audiovisual could be termed as that chapter of the book that has the most impact. Why this chapter assumes that much significance is perhaps because Mitch, a successful journalist meets up with Professor Morrie after a gap of sixteen years. It is also the chapter where Mitch enters the story after the Syllabus. Morrie, to Mitch, would have remained a distant memory had it not been for Ted Koppel, who on one of his shows asked the question, “Who is Morrie Schwatz?” which Mitch had accidentally switched to while tuning channels on his TV set. Mitch then reminiscence his school days and recollects his first meeting with Professor Morrie who, while taking attendance asks Mitch, “Do you prefer Mitch? Or is Mitchell better?” and later tells Mitch, “And Mitch,” “I hope that one day you think of me as your friend.” The story revolves around Morrie, who after being diagnosed for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is disintegrating physically, builds a strong bond with young Mitch. Mitch too considers Morrie as his best teacher. Years later, when a successful Mitch meets his dying friend by accident, the reunion is extremely heart-rending. While Morrie showers his love on his dearest student and friend, Mitch is unable to reciprocate. This is because of Mitch never had the opportunity to love or be loved; he was too busy working his way to the top.
The Syllabus is all about Morrie. It takes the reader through the various stages of Morrie’s professional life and his physical deterioration. There is a passage that describes his physical attributes in the 1970s, and as one reads passages after passages, it tells them about his stage-by-stage physical disintegration. The day he failed to apply the brake of his car, his driving days were over and when he tripped and fell and had to use a cane to walk, his free walking days were over. He lost his privacy when he appointed a home care nurse to help him dress, undress and helped him get in and out of the swimming pool. Finally, he lost the plot when he told his class, “My friends, I have been teaching this course for twenty years, and this is the first time I can say there is a risk in taking it, because I have a fatal illness. I may not live to finish the semester.” That was the end of his secret. What transformed Morrie from surrendering himself to the inevitable was when, while attending a friend’s funeral service he recollected, “All these people saying all those wonderful things and Irv never got to hear any of it.” He decided then that he didn’t want his to end that way and started calling people home to experience a living funeral.
There are fourteen Tuesdays that follow in the book. These fourteen Tuesdays follow the Classroom, the time when Mitch meets Morrie after fourteen years and they begin their classroom meetings on Tuesdays. Each chapter is different from the other and while it ends on the fourteenth Tuesday, there is a gradual build up in the understanding, the realization, the acceptance and the final submission of Morrie to the inevitable. All chapters are exclusive and give prominence to the two protagonists and their professional and personal life. Therefore, it would be difficult to understand the book unless each chapter is read in detail. Morrie’s end is quite nostalgic and comes at the end of the fourteenth Tuesday. On that eventful day, as Mitch gets up and says that he would be back the next Tuesday, as fate would have it, Morrie doesn’t live to see that Tuesday. Before leaving, Morrie, patted Mitch’s hand weakly, keeping it to his chest before saying, “This is how we say goodbye ” The end was imminent, and on fourteenth Tuesday, Charlotte, Morrie’s wife, called Mitch and said, “He wants you to come visit,” “But Mitch”, “He’s very weak.” Morrie died on a Saturday morning.
During the Fourth Tuesday, one gets to read the essence of Morrie’s philosophy on life; “Everybody knows they’re going to die,” he said again, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.” This seemed to have had a positive impact on Mitch as towards the end of the book, long after Morrie died, he reaches out to his brother Peter. Mitch said something that he had never said before, “You’re my only brother,” he said, “I don’t want to lose you. I love you.” A few days later, he received a fax that read, “Hi I’ve joined the nineties!” It was from his brother.
Albom, M, (1996), Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson