The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
Morrie says this on the fourth Tuesday in response to Mitch's question about how one can prepare for death. He responds with a Buddhist philosophy that every day, one must ask the bird on his shoulder if that day is the day he will die. The philosophy serves as a metaphor for his awareness that his death may come at any moment. The bird itself is symbolic of Morrie's consciousness that his death is fast-approaching, and his readiness to accept it when it does arrive. He hopes that Mitch will realize that this bird is on everyone's shoulder at every moment of their lives, despite how young or old they may be. When he tells Mitch that one must know how to die before one can know how to live, he means that one must accept the possibility of one's own death before he can truly appreciate what he has on earth. The sobering awareness that one day, it will all be out of reach, prompts the urge to appreciate and value what one can have only for a limited period of time, and to use every moment of that time doing something that one will not regret when the bird sings its last note.