A Review and Analysis of the Final Teachings of Morrie to Mitch in Tuesdays with Morrie

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The film Tuesdays with Morrie was such a heartening tale about a 77-year-old man who was diagnosed with ALS. This story is narrated by one of his college students, Mitch, a successful sports journalist in Michigan. As such, Mitch is often extremely busy to the point where his personal relationships are beginning to suffer. Ultimately, this ends up being the story of Morrie’s final teachings to Mitch.

“We must love one another or die” was one of the most memorable quotes that Morrie said, in my opinion. It was such an impacting quote, that even Mitch repeats it back on one of his final visits before Morrie passes. To me, the quote basically touches upon how everyone needs someone. Although Morrie had his wife, nurse, kids, and even media surrounding him, he still needed someone, and that someone was Mitch. In reality though, I believe that Mitch was the one who actually needed Morrie. This is proven as Mitch constantly feels the need to visit Morrie, to the point where he even sacrifices his job for him. Something he never did for his girlfriend. Tying this scene to me: this is scene really changed my perspective on solitude. Nowadays, people feel as if we do not need each other to survive, in a sense, we have become dispensable to others. It’s nice to show that sometimes you need a specific person.

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Morrie at one point notices how uncomfortable Mitch gets with certain topics: love, death and even touch. Morrie later in the movie mentions how important touch is for people. “As babies we live to be touched, we live to be comforted” and after Morrie says this, he becomes emotional and reminiscent over the lack of affection/contact his father provided him as a kid. I definitely share this concept with Morrie, being as how as a kid, my father was also quite aloof towards me. He did not believe in showing affection, as he did not want me to grow up weak. However, as a kid, and even now, I know how impacting it would have been if he had shown affection. Touching someone is a way to connect with another human being. It’s a way to show warmth, connection, and a sort of understanding. Without this connection, it can lead to many problems later in life.

The scene where we learn that Morrie had to learn of the death of his Mother in front of his family, whilst reading/translating a telegram they received from the hospital impacted me. It is quite impressive how such an atrocious event can happen to someone, and they still seem psychologically intact. Not only had he identified his father when he passed, but he was the bearer of the news of his mother as well. He had encountered many deaths, and thus had become acquainted to death. Perhaps these are the things that motivate Morrie to live. This event may have been the spark that enlightened him to enjoy life.

At first, Mitch seemed to shun death, however, this changed when he learned about Morrie’s condition. Instead, he hopped on a plane to go see him, in a sense, embracing death. Throughout the movie Mitch continued to push the boundaries. At first he was not as committed to seeing Morrie, but eventually he too became accustomed to being “Tuesday people”, as Morrie had phrased it. Mitch transitioned throughout the film, he began with death anxiety, and eventually progressed to someone who embraced it. He no longer cared if that meant he had to take care of Morrie. He went so far as to learn how to care for him. He learned how to carry him, how to administer him oxygen, and even at the end he learned to massage him. He began to known down the walls he had built up on touch and death at this moment. It is almost as if he would have never gotten over his complexes, had he not embraced them.

Finally, one of the most impressive scenes was the day Morrie was shown crying. Morrie himself had admitted he had his mornings where he was reluctant towards death, but during that scene it emphasized the fact that even if you have come to terms with your sentence, it does not mean that it will not affect. Morrie is shown as this existentialist teacher who wanted to teach the world a final lesson: “when you know how to die, you know how to live.” Yet, does anyone know how to die? If a guy who plans his own funeral, who is constantly aware of his impending death, and who plans his own burial site, is scared at times, does that not mean that we all do not know how to die? I have always been haunted by the concept of death, for some reason, the fact that someone can cease to exist is quite incomprehensible to me. I am aware that it happens, I am aware that it will happen to everyone who I know –and do not- but the fact that it will happen to me, is just unimaginable. Like Mitch, I strive to stay away from anything that closely represents death, however in the movie, we learn that we must embrace it. Only by embracing it, can we uncover our issues. Before Morrie, Mitch was in a constant strife with his girlfriend, he did not know how to make time for her, but after Morrie, he learned to arrange his priorities. This eventually led to their reconciliation and even to their engagement.

According to Morrie, life tends to pull you, it is the attention of opposites. Sometimes all you want to do is escape death, but in order to escape the anxiety, you must embrace it. This movie has enlightened me on the idea that one must embrace one’s fears. One must prioritize what is important in life. One must enjoy life: whatever your happiness is, embrace it, whether it be dancing or eating. Life is about learning to cope with death, in order to enjoy your life. It’s kind of like when you were a little kid, one must eat dinner to finally enjoy deserts.

Works cited

  1. Albom, M. (1997). Tuesdays with Morrie. New York: Broadway Books.
  2. Bormann, J. E. (1997). Morrie Schwartz's way of being: A humanistic critique. Humanistic Psychologist, 25(3), 264-271.
  3. Fleming, D. (2014). ALS Untangled No. 18: “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration, 15(1-2), 131-133.
  4. Gage, E. (1999). Tuesdays with Morrie. Booklist, 96(4), 344.
  5. Hatcher, A. (2004). Unpacking the backpack of whiteness: White identity and the paradox of imperialism in Tuesdays with Morrie. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 4(3), 295-317.
  6. Kaplan, L. J. (2013). Tuesdays with Morrie: A qualitative analysis and critique. Omega-Journal of Death and Dying, 67(3), 237-254.
  7. Kessler, D. (2000). The Life Lessons in Morrie's Classroom. Newsweek, 136(9), 56.
  8. Miller, B. M. (2007). The language of empathy in Tuesdays with Morrie. Journal of Aging Studies, 21(1), 37-48.
  9. Roth, D. L., Perkins, M., Wadley, V. G., Temple, E. M., & Haley, W. E. (2009). Family caregiving and emotional strain: Associations with quality of life in a large national sample of middle-aged and older adults. Quality of Life Research, 18(6), 679-688.
  10. Young, M. E. (2005). The Morrie Phenomenon. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 8(1), 55-62.

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