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Summary: Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie (1997) chronicles an important relationship in Mitch Albom’s life – the one between himself and his old college professor, Morrie. As they reconnect during the professor’s final months of life, they discuss everything from greed and forgiveness to death and a meaningful life.

Introduction: Discover a powerful story of connection, and learn how to live a meaningful life.

Have you ever lost touch with someone who once meant the world to you? If you haven’t, consider what it might be like to slowly drift out of each other’s lives – or to separate with the intention of keeping up the relationship, but never quite finding the time to do so.

It’s painful, right? You might feel guilt, disappointment, or regret about not reaching out. You might yearn for the connection you used to have, or the person you were during that time.

Now imagine you learn that person is dying. How would you feel? What would you do?

Well, if you’re like Mitch Albom, you’d reach out to reconnect.

In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom recounts an incredible final lesson between himself and an old professor of his – Morrie. As Morrie deals with a devastating disease, Albom visits him every Tuesday during the professor’s last three and a half months of life. The book is the final thesis they wrote together, and it covers topics including aging, family, and society.

In this summary, we’ll trace the men’s special relationship from the beginning to the reconnection and, finally, the end. We’ll delve into some of Morrie’s thoughts on living and dying. And as we do, you’ll find new ways of thinking about life and what matters most.

Book Summary: Tuesdays with Morrie - An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

The old relationship

You know those student-teacher friendships depicted in movies or books? The ones with a quirky, loveable professor and an at-first reluctant student whose confidence blooms under the instructor’s compassionate guidance?

Maybe you had one yourself. Maybe you yearned for one. But Mitch Albom actually experienced that very type of relationship with his university professor, Morrie Schwartz.

As one might expect, when Albom first met Morrie, he was reluctant to open up. But from the start, he knew something was different – this wasn’t going to be a typical, distanced student-teacher relationship. Morrie was the first instructor to ask Albom whether he preferred Mitch or Mitchell. When Albom responded that his friends called him Mitch, Morrie answered that that was what he would call him too. And, the professor said, he hoped to one day be considered Albom’s friend himself.

Morrie taught classes in sociology, psychology, and the study of human relations. Albom took them all. He hadn’t realized the field of study existed before he took Morrie’s courses.

Albom graduated high school a year early, so he was younger than almost every student on campus. Granted, it was only a year difference, but remember how much older the kids in higher grades felt throughout school?

Albom dealt with his insecurity and discomfort at being younger by acting a little edgy, a little hard. Morrie was the one to draw him out of himself while simultaneously building up his self-confidence.

The duo met up nearly every Tuesday – sometimes just to eat together, sometimes to walk, and always to talk philosophy and life. At Morrie’s encouragement, Albom wrote an honors thesis, something he hadn’t even considered himself capable of.

When Albom graduated, he proudly introduced his parents to Morrie, who he’d taken to calling Coach, because that’s what he was – a bit of a life coach, before such a thing had become a popular profession. Albom felt nervous yet excited to be graduating, to be joining the real world. He felt full of potential. And when Morrie told him to stay in touch, he had no doubt that he would.

We all know where this is going, don’t we?

The years apart

Fast forward 16 years from Albom’s college graduation, and he had most decidedly not kept in touch with his old professor. He’d also lost almost all the optimism he’d felt that day, so many years before. As he neared 40, he was experiencing anxiety about how his life was turning out and what the point of everything was.

By society’s popular criteria, Albom’s life was fantastic – he’d become a successful sportswriter, made tons of money, bought fancy cars and a house, gotten married to a woman he loved. And yet Albom couldn’t help feeling he wasn’t successful enough. He felt restless. He worried about aging out and being replaced by younger people.

Albom filled his time chasing accomplishment after accomplishment. He stayed focused on achieving so he didn’t have time to think about how unsatisfied he was. In fact, for a while, he believed he was satisfied.

Think about it – when you accomplish something, how do you feel? It’s satisfying, right? At least at first. But how quickly does that feeling fade? How quickly do you fall back into the grind, working away toward the next task to be completed?

Albom was stuck in this cycle.

To make matters worse, he’d lost contact with almost everyone from college – all the people who’d influenced him and been part of his life during those years of incredible self-discovery and possibility. Including Morrie.

As Albom’s life expanded, Morrie’s wound down. It started slowly, a story that might sound familiar – a few stumbles, difficulty breathing, issues with fatigue. He was in his seventies, so no one thought much of it. Eventually, though, Morrie knew something was truly wrong.

After numerous tests offered no answers, one doctor finally ran a muscle biopsy. Ultimately, this led to a diagnosis of ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – in the summer of 1994.

ALS is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. It attacks the neurological system, slowly causing the body to lose the ability to control itself. Although Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, survived for five decades after his ALS diagnosis, most people only survive up to five years after being diagnosed.

Morrie would end up living less than two.

The professor grappled with this diagnosis, figuring out what it would mean for the rest of his life even as he started losing control of his body. Though he’d lost the ability to drive a car and needed a cane to walk, Morrie taught one final class in the fall of 1994. He was determined not to leave this life before he had to.

In fact, Morrie asked his friends and family not to treat him any differently. He wanted to keep hearing their problems, keep visiting with them and discussing life. He started writing down bits of wisdom that came to him as he considered both life and his nearing death.

One of his friends sent Morrie’s words to a reporter who published an article on him, which led to several appearances on television. And thus, one Friday night as Albom flipped through channels, he heard a TV show host mention Morrie Schwartz.

This is how Albom learned his old professor was dying.

The new relationship

Have you ever heard news that utterly shocked you? Felt the entire world as you know it begin to crumble?

When Albom learned of Morrie’s struggle with ALS, he went numb at first. Then, he set up a meeting. After 16 years, he wasn’t sure how to feel about reconnecting – besides guilty and awkward.

He also felt embarrassed. Morrie had once believed in him so much, but Albom had lost touch with his younger self. He hoped he could fool his professor into thinking he was still that young, idealistic student … at least for the length of his visit.

By the time they reconnected, Morrie was in a wheelchair, his legs unable to support him. Albom hugged his professor tightly, clinging to both his old Coach and the memory of his younger self.

That first visit, Morrie started their conversation right off the bat – he wanted to tell Albom how it felt to be dying.

Not the light chitchat you might expect after so long apart, huh? But then, theirs had always been a relationship of deep conversation and connection. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Albom’s last class with his favorite professor had just begun.

They talked for over two hours during that visit. Morrie was candid about his situation – he would eventually die by suffocation, his lungs losing the ability to function. But he didn’t feel sorry for himself, which surprised Albom.

Instead, Morrie wanted to appreciate life while he had it. He also wanted to give all he had to those around him for as long as he could. He talked about meaningful connections with others, how lucky he was to love and be loved by so many people. He mentioned the disconnect many people feel even as they pursue things they think are important. He touched on passion and devoting oneself to the things that give them a sense of purpose.

As they spoke, Albom felt everything – the guilt and discomfort, yes, but also some of his old optimism and idealism. Upon his departure, his professor told him to come back and visit again.

Albom promised to do so, though he couldn’t help feeling uneasy remembering the last time he promised Morrie to stay in touch.

What do you think happened this time?

Well obviously we know he went back again – it’s the premise of this whole story! But it was over a month later that Albom actually returned. He flew to London for work, covering the Wimbledon tennis tournament. He felt disconnected, wondering at how deeply people actually cared about sports and media coverage of celebrities.

A side note here – Albom later learned that Morrie had continued to read newspapers even as he slowly lost ground to ALS. The professor liked keeping up with world events, even if he didn’t desperately covet others’ lives.

Anyway, after Albom returned home, he awoke to some unsettling news – his union was on strike. He couldn’t work, visit the office, or even contact anyone at his newspaper. After a week of feeling entirely unmoored, still digesting his conversation with Morrie, he called up his former professor.

They planned a visit for the following Tuesday.

For 14 weeks, Albom visited Morrie every Tuesday. Morrie told him to ask anything, and Albom took him at his word. They covered topics like aging, society, and death. And together, they came up with the material for one last thesis about a meaningful life.

We’ll explore some of their conclusions in the following section.

Final notes on living

How much time have you spent thinking about the meaning of life? Do you have a clear, guiding philosophy for living?

Many of us today don’t. Or we subscribe to societal views, which are often propagated by media and businesses that want us to continually buy new products.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons Albom struggled with his life before reconnecting with Morrie was that he’d bought into society’s lies about what a meaningful life entailed.

He was so focused on his next success at work, or his next big purchase, that he didn’t take the time to sit back and enjoy life or think about what was most meaningful to him.

But as Albom reconnected with his old professor, his thoughts changed. Morrie’s direct experience with dying gave him a unique perspective – and he eagerly shared his knowledge with those still in the living stage of life.

As we learned before, Morrie asked those around him to not treat him differently. Sure, he eventually needed help getting dressed and going to the bathroom, but he didn’t let that change the discussions and problem-sharing he had with others. He told his wife and his sons to continue living their lives, so that his own life would be the only one the disease took.

Morrie certainly had enough visitors and phone calls to keep him busy anyway – the many people whose lives he’d touched all wanted to connect at least once more before he died.

At the end of his life, Morrie could provide direct evidence of the benefits of valuing and working on love and connections with others. Many people today search for meaning in materialism, just as Albom did before he reconnected with Morrie. We place importance on having the nicest television or car or latest fashions. But as Morrie saw in his last few months of life, it was the love and connection he experienced with those around him that brought the most joy and meaning to his days.

This was one lesson Morrie taught Albom – when your culture isn’t working, when it’s not providing you a fulfilling life, you have to be strong enough to turn away and create your own purpose and meaning. That could mean spending time with loved ones instead of working endless hours in the office. Or spending money on events and experiences with people you care about rather than on material objects.

One way Morrie went against traditional societal expectations was to hold a living funeral in the last half year of his life. He invited friends and loved ones over, and they shared their favorite memories with Morrie and the lessons he’d taught them – just as we do at traditional funerals. But because Morrie was still alive, he got to experience and appreciate all the wonderful things people said about him.

Does the idea of a living funeral make you feel a little uncomfortable? It’s OK – that’s part of what bucking society’s trends does! But it also opens the door to feeling wonderful, beautiful emotions. Although Morrie mourned his failing body, he looked at the experience of dying as another opportunity to give to and connect with those around him. Because of this, his last few months of life were full of not only tears but also love, connection, and joy.

If we refocus our lives toward the things we find truly meaningful and toward the people we care about, we too can feel those rich, powerful emotions of fulfillment and happiness.

Summary

We know how this story ends. Morrie died in November of 1995. His whole family was in the house, but he took his last breath at a time when no one was in his room. Albom suspects his professor chose that moment specifically to spare his loved ones.

And Albom? His life was forever changed by his relationship with his professor, his Coach. He wrote and published Tuesdays with Morrie, their final thesis together. He went on to reconnect with his earlier dream of becoming a musician and published many other books as well.

What would you do if you weren’t stuck in the cycle of chasing success? Who would you want around you as you were dying? As Morrie taught Albom, you can live a fulfilling, purposeful life. All it takes is refocusing on the people and things you truly care about.

Review

“Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson” is a heartwarming and thought-provoking book that chronicles the weekly meetings between Morrie Schwartz, an elderly man dying from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and Mitch Albom, a young journalist who reconnects with his former college professor. Through their conversations, Morrie shares his insights and reflections on life, love, death, and the human condition, offering profound lessons that resonate with readers of all ages.

The book is divided into 14 chapters, each representing a different Tuesday meeting between Morrie and Mitch. The conversations are witty, engaging, and often poignant, as Morrie shares his wisdom on topics such as love, marriage, family, aging, and the meaning of life. Throughout the book, Albom weaves together Morrie’s stories, experiences, and teachings to create a beautiful and moving narrative that celebrates the human spirit and the importance of living life to the fullest.

One of the most striking aspects of the book is Morrie’s remarkable outlook on life, even in the face of his terminal illness. He is unwaveringly optimistic, using his sense of humor and his love for life to find joy in the everyday moments and to cherish the people and experiences that bring him happiness. Through his example, Morrie encourages readers to embrace life’s preciousness and to live each day with intention and purpose.

Albom’s writing style is engaging and accessible, making the book easy to read and understand. He skillfully interweaves his own experiences and emotions with Morrie’s teachings, creating a sense of intimacy and connection with the reader. The book is also filled with practical advice and insights that can be applied to readers’ own lives, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

One of the most profound lessons from the book is the importance of human connection and love. Morrie emphasizes the need to cultivate meaningful relationships with others, to cherish the time we have with them, and to show appreciation and gratitude for their presence in our lives. He also stresses the importance of self-love and self-acceptance, encouraging readers to embrace their own uniqueness and to live authentically.

Another key theme of the book is the inevitability of death and the importance of embracing it as a natural part of life. Morrie’s acceptance of his own mortality is a powerful example of how to approach death with grace and dignity, and how to live life to the fullest in the face of death’s certainty.

Overall, “Tuesdays with Morrie” is a beautiful and moving book that offers profound lessons on life, love, and the human condition. Through Morrie’s wisdom and example, readers are encouraged to live life with intention, purpose, and joy, and to cherish the people and experiences that bring them happiness. The book is a powerful reminder of the importance of human connection, self-love, and the preciousness of life, and it is a valuable resource for anyone looking to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

I hope this brief review of “Tuesdays with Morrie” is helpful! Let me know if you have any further questions or if you’d like me to expand on any of the themes or lessons from the book.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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