Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Tuesdays With Morrie"

Over the weekend I picked up a book I had heard I should read and I now recommend it to others, Tuesdays with Morrie, because I think it does a good job at showing the journey for one man as he approaches death, but is a very short read.  In reading Final Gifts and how what is truly important to a person is what becomes the focus for them as the approach the end of their life.  It has really gotten me to start thinking about what is truly important in my life and how I choose to give my time and energy.  Many of us have heard, and even used, the cliches about living life to the fullest, and "live like there's no tomorrow," but I wonder how much we take that to heart and transform our lives if we really were going to die tomorrow?  What would we do differently?  What would we spend our time doing?  Who would we spend it with?  Is there someone I need to reconcile with to die peacefully?  I think we take our lives for granted thinking we have all the time in the world, and we get caught up spending our time and energy on things that aren't that important to us.  In my exposure to hospice work there is talk about how, although someone may be in hospice care and thus facing the end of their life in a real way, their life is not over yet, they are not just a "dying person," but a life with a very beautiful gift, the gift of time.  Because they are becoming more aware of their own mortality and the end of life the things that are the most important to them become more aware and the important things can fade into the distance.  They have the gift of time to do what they need to do and say what they need to say to die peacefully.  Some never have this chance due to a sudden tragedy, so might we learn from those living our their final days as to what is really important in our life so that we might not wait until we don't have the opportunity anymore to say or do what we need to do.

I offer some passages from Tuesdays with Morrie that struck me...
~ "The most important thing in life is learn how to give out love, and to let it come in."
~ "It's horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing.  But it's also wonderful because of all the time I get to say good-bye."  He smiled.  "Not everyone is so lucky."
~ The first time I saw Morrie on "Nighttime," I wondered what regrets he had once he knew his death was imminent... he nodded, "It's what everyone worries about, isn't it?  What if today were my last day on earth?"... "Mitch," he said, "the culture doesn't encourage you to think about such things until you're about to die.  We're so wrapped up with egotistical things, careet, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks - we're so involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going.  So we don't get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all I want?  Is something missing?"
~ "Everyone knows they're going to die," he said again, "but nobody believes it.  If we did, we would do things differently."
So we kid ourselves about death, I said.
"Yes.  But there's a better approach.  To know you're going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time.  That's better.  That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you're living."
~ "I believe in being fully present," Morrie said.  "That means you should be with the person you're with.  When I'm talking to you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us.  I am not thinking about something we said last week.  I am not thinking of what's coming up this Friday.  I am not thinking about doing another Koppel show, or about what medications I'm taking.  "I'm talking to you.  I'm thinking about you."
~ "In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right?  And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?"  His voiced dropped to a whisper.  "But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well."
~ "As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without every really going away.  All the love you created is still there.  All the memories are still there.  You live on - in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."  His voice was raspy, which usually meant he needed to stop for a while.  I placed the plant back on the ledge and went to shut off the tape recorder.  This is the last sentence Morrie got out before I did: "Death ends a life, not a relationship."


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Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent excerpts. Thank you.