I came back the next Tuesday. And for many Tuesdays that followed. I looked forward to these visits more than one would think, considering I was flying seven hundred miles to sit alongside a dying man. But I seemed to slip into a time warp when I visited Morrie, and I liked myself better when I was there. I no longer rented a cellular phone for the rides from the airport. Let them wait, I told myself, mimicking Morrie.
Meanwhile, I looked for signs of the disease’s progression. His fingers worked well enough to write with a pencil, or hold up his glasses, but he could not lift his arms much higher than his chest. He was spending less and less time in the kitchen or living room and more in his study, where he had a large reclining chair set up with pillows, blankets, and specially cut pieces of foam rubber that held his feet and gave support to his withered legs.
I was losing Morrie, we were all losing Morrie—his family, his friends, his ex-students, his fellow professors, his pals from the political discussion groups that he loved so much, his former dance partners, all of us. And I suppose tapes, like photographs and videos, are a desperate attempt to steal something from death’s suitcase. But it was also becoming clear to me—through his courage, his humor, his patience, and his openness—that Morrie was looking at life from some very different place than anyone else I knew. And he was about to die.
He was standing on the tracks, listening to death’s locomotive whistle, and he was very clear about the important things in life. I wanted that clarity. Every confused and tortured soul I knew wanted that clarity. “Ask me anything,” Morrie always said. So I wrote this list: Death Fear Aging Greed Marriage Family Society Forgiveness A meaningful life