The Audiovisual, Part Three
The "Nightline" television crew, including Ted Koppel, arrives at Morrie's house in West Newton, MA for their third and final interview, which Mitch notes is more like a solemn farewell. Morrie isn't confident that he will be able to give the interview, as he now has trouble breathing and speaking. When Morrie tells Koppel about his reservations, Koppel is understanding, as he now calls Morrie a "friend." When Koppel had first been reunited with Morrie, he had kissed him. Ultimately, Morrie does do the interview, during which he wears the same shirt he had worn the day before. He now changes his clothes only every other day. This third interview, unlike the previous two, is conducted in Morrie's study, as he is now confined to his chair.
In the interview, Morrie explains that he is gradually letting go of the outside world. He tells Koppel that he admires the courage and perseverance of ALS victims such as the famous physicist and author Stephen Hawking, who has a breathing hole in his throat and speaks through a computer synthesizer. Morrie, however, does not want to live this way. He would instead like to die in serenity, and relays his newest aphorism, "Don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long." Afterwards, he reiterates that love and compassion are life's most essential lessons, and tells Koppel that his disease may be attacking his body, but he will not allow it to attack his spirit. At this, Koppel is near tears. In the last segment of the interview, Morrie divulges that he has been "bargaining with Him up there," the first time Mitch has heard him admit that he talks to God.
The Twelfth Tuesday: We Talk about Forgiveness
As Mitch massages Morrie's aching feet, they discuss the pointlessness of vengeance and the importance of forgiveness. Morrie admits his regret for past bouts of pride and vanity, and Mitch wonders if he feels the need to apologize before he dies. With that, Morrie points to a bronze sculpture in the corner of his study. It is a bust replica of Morrie that had been sculpted by his former friend Norman thirty years before. He and Norman had been close friends until Norman had moved to Chicago. Shortly after he had moved, Charlotte was due to undergo a serious surgery, and Morrie was offended that his old friend, who knew of the upcoming surgery, never called to wish her well or show his support. Years later, Norman made repeated attempts at reconciliation, but Morrie had refused. Norman had died of cancer only a short time ago, and now Morrie regrets never accepting his apology and reconciling. He begins to cry as he talks about his old friend.
Morrie stresses that is is vital to forgive oneself, just as it is vital to forgive others. Once again, he calls himself "lucky" for having the time to forgive himself and others while he is dying. Mitch notices that the hibiscus plant by the window is "still holding on, small but firm." Morrie confides that if he could have had another son, he would have wanted it to be Mitch. Upon hearing this, Mitch fears that accepting Morrie's statement will betray his own father. Though, when he sees Morrie crying, he knows that there is no betrayal in such a loving moment, and that his fear lies in saying good-bye.
Morrie has chosen to be buried on a hill, beneath a tree, by a pond. He tells Mitch that it is a very serene location, and asks him if he will come and talk to him, tell him his problems, there on Tuesdays, because they are "Tuesday people." Mitch tells him that it will not be the same, as he will not be able to answer back. Morrie assures him that even after he is dead, he will continue to listen to Mitch.
Morrie's talent for overcoming communication barriers is shown by his relationship with Ted Koppel. Morrie, a man of modest means, is able not only to befriend Koppel, one of the nation's most famous newsmen, but to move him almost to tears. Koppel has transitioned from a man who, in Morrie's view, was merely a narcissistic television personality, to a caring friend who kisses Morrie upon their reunion. In this way, Morrie has an uncanny ability to communicate and share his love with everyone around him, regardless of the drastic difference in their social social stature.
The progression of the friendship between Koppel and Morrie is steady from their first meeting until their last, as is evident in Koppel's affection towards him and expression emotion at his story. Morrie's friendship with Koppel can be attributed to Morrie's sheer honesty; from their very first meeting, Morrie refuses to put on airs, or even dress differently for Koppel's visit, although his friends and family are bent on impressing him. Immediately, upon their first meeting, Morrie breaks Koppel down to find the essence of his humanness, as Morrie has no use for the distinction popular culture makes between the famous man and the man who works ten hour days to earn his bread. It is this humanness that Morrie uses to communicate with Mitch, as he had his other students, as well.
On the twelfth Tuesday, Morrie drops recognizable hints that his dying day is approaching. When Morrie explains that he is gradually letting go of the outside world, he is admitting that he has come to grips with his so-called 'death sentence.' He would like to die in peace and serenity, not in struggle or fear, and can only do this in his gradual release of life, as each small piece he frees himself from brings him closer to acceptance of death, both his own and the idea of it, which will ultimately allow him to die the peaceful death he so desires. Morrie's idea of slowly 'letting go' of the outside world correlates with the idea he spoke of earlier with Mitch about the Buddhist belief in detachment. Gradually, as he grows closer to death by the day, Morrie is detaching himself from his life, and immersing himself in acceptance and faith that death will only bring new life.
This theory of detachment also applies to Morrie's latest aphorism, "Don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long." If Morrie is to cling to his last moments of life, desperately craving more, he will die having felt in his last minutes only frustration and dissatisfaction. This belief is much like Morrie's understanding of age. As he has explained to Mitch, he believes that a specific age, whether old or young, should be enjoyed during the year that it is being lived. Just as older people who have enriched their lives with meaningful and satisfying endeavors do not feel the need to return to or relive their youth, the dying should not feel the need for a longer life, given they have lived their life to its fullest extent.