Own Every Second

About a month ago, Kyle and I were having a date at our favorite rooftop bar. We were on top of a Jersey City hotel sipping cocktails and looking out at the best view of NYC. Suddenly, I was overcome with gratitude for living and working in such a beautiful city and for experiencing everything I had these past five years.

I relayed this emotion to Kyle and asked if that feeling of “Wow I can’t believe I live here” ever hits him because it sure as hell hits me from time to time. We were definitely in agreement on this one.

It’s this emotion and experience that is the point of a book like Tuesdays with Morrie, a nonfiction account in the same vein as The Last Lecture. The book stresses the importance of reveling in every single moment and illustrates that the simple things in life matter most. When death comes upon you — like it does to the main character, Morrie — you’re reminded that your time on Earth is too short to be distracted by money, success, vanity, and pride. Just like I need moments such as the one overlooking NYC a month ago, I need books like Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture to remind me of everything that’s important. I’m pretty sure we all do.

Tuesdays with Morrie

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” — Tuesdays with Morrie

Mitch Albom thought he was living the good life. As a famous reporter, he traveled the world to cover the best sports stories; he worked insane hours that he loved because it brought him “success”; and he had the fat paycheck that paid for the best kind of luxuries. But he started questioning his way of living after seeing his favorite professor — who he hadn’t seen since graduation — on TV.

Morrie Schwartz was interviewed by Ted Koppel for a Nightline interview in March 1995 after he was diagnosed with ALS, a crippling disease known to crush spirits in the long and painful path to death. Morrie wasn’t your average man though. As a sociology professor, he didn’t care about grades or specifics; he just wanted his students to learn and to be their fullest selves. As a dying man, he had the same standards for him and for his loved ones, and he approached death the same way he approached his classes: with grace, energy, purpose, and nothing resembling fear. To be cliché would be to say he walked the walk and he talked the talk.

After watching the Nightline interview in which Morrie discussed not just his disease but also his impressive positive outlook, Albom reached out to Morrie, the mentor who he had lost touch with just as he had lost touch with himself. In the last few months of Morrie’s life, the two arranged to meet on Tuesdays (because they were “Tuesday people”) and discussed everything from family to money and from forgiveness to the perfect day. Tuesdays with Morrie chronicles these weekly sessions when Albom’s loving professor imparted his priceless wisdom on someone who needed them most — the author.

“In business, people negotiate to win. They negotiate to get what they want … Love is different. Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.” — Tuesdays with Morrie

This is a book of both second chances and also of not looking back. And it’s a book that will break your heart. Like The Last Lecture, I bawled in the corner of my couch as I finished it. It didn’t seem fair that such an inspirational man who could teach others so much could leave this world too soon. But Morrie would disagree with that. I know he’d say that it’s not about how much time you have on earth; it’s about how you make the most of the time you do have (which of course makes me want to cry even more).

“Morrie speaks to every person because he is every person,” wrote Stephanie Bowen for CNN in 1998. Morrie didn’t have fame or celebrity — at least not until the Nightline segment. He wasn’t loaded with money, showcased by how the advance of Albom’s book paid for Morrie’s costly medical bills toward the end. He wasn’t a world-renowned professor whose research had been celebrated for years among sociologists. He was just like you and me. An every day man trying to do his best.

This book makes every reader want to do better and be better. To me, the best part is that Albom accomplishes this without sugarcoating the explicit details of death. Albom doesn’t hide the unpleasantness that comes with disease and the pain of saying goodbye. He writes about Morrie’s “sagging cheeks gathered up like curtains” and the pounding on his back so the poison wouldn’t solidify in his lungs. And he also talks about Morrie needing someone to wipe his ass — the extent of Morrie’s shame.

“So he hired his first home car worker … who helped him in and out of the pool, and in and out of his bathing suit. In the locker room, the other swimmers pretended to not stare. They stared anyhow. That was the end of his privacy.” — Tuesdays with Morrie

In the midst of the descriptive detail, Albom makes sure Morrie shines brightly in the spotlight by giving quotes only to Morrie. Even when Albom conversed, it always appears as an afterthought almost as if to declare that whatever this dying man has to say is the only thing that matters. It’s a clever writing technique, and the power of it was not lost on me. This book’s main character deserved to be revered all on his own; thankfully, Albom knew that too.

Everyone needs a supporting character like Morrie in their life. Someone who sees the bigger picture. Someone who lives life to the fullest and doesn’t get caught up in the minutia of life. Someone who will remind you in the middle of a rough day that things aren’t actually as bad as they may appear. Luckily, I have two of those in my life: Kyle and my mom. While my partner understands that there’s more to life than stress, anxiety, and pricey possessions, my mom lives and breathes experience. Happiness always shines through them, and they’re rarely stressed or upset. I’m a better person for having their influence. If we all had that kind of inspiration — like the kind Morrie gave — and actually listened to it, this world would be a better place too.


2 thoughts on “Own Every Second

  1. Pingback: It’s Been a Cruel Summer | Big Little Literature

  2. Pingback: Ranked: Reads in 2019 | Big Little Literature

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