The Thirteenth Tuesday: We Talk about the Perfect Day
Morrie decides that he wants to be cremated and discusses his funeral plans with Charlotte and Al Axelrad, a rabbi from Brandeis and a long-time friend of Morrie's. Now, Morrie must breathe through an oxygen tube which has been inserted up his nose. Mitch hates the sight of the oxygen tube, as he views it as a symbol of complete helplessness and even has the urge to yank it from his nose. Morrie describes to him a violent coughing spell he had suffered the night before, and explains that he found serenity in those frightening moments when he was able to accept his own death. It was only then that he truly felt ready to die and transcend. He stresses that while we are alive, we must "make peace" with the reality of dying.
Morrie asks to see the hibiscus plant on the window ledge of his study. Mitch cups it in his hands and brings it close to his professor's face, which makes Morrie smile. Death, Morrie says after seeing the plant, is only natural. Morrie again mentions that a person can die without ever completely going away, as they are recalled by the living who lovingly remember them. The love one creates while alive, he says, remains long after death.
Brutally realistic, Morrie has never hoped that his illness could be cured. He tells Mitch that there is no possible way he could ever return to being the man he had been before contracting the disease, as he is now a completely different self. Mitch then asks what Morrie would do if he could have twenty-four hours of full health. Morrie replies, very simply, that he would do what he would have done on any average day, such as eat lunch with friends and go for an evening walk. Mitch is surprised at first, and then realizes that Morrie is trying to exemplify that there is perfection in the average day.
Later, Morrie broaches the sensitive topic of Mitch's younger brother, Peter. Mitch remembers him as a carefree child, and thinks how different he is now as an adult, frail from the chemotherapy treatments. Mitch has called his brother, though he has not been able to speak to him. Peter continually refuses Mitch's support, and reiterates that he does not want to talk about his cancer. Morrie assures Mitch that his loving relationship with his brother will be restored in time.
Morrie tells a story he had heard about a wave on the ocean. The wave had felt good until it had realized that, like all the other waves, it would soon crash to shore and be destroyed. Another wave tells him not to be afraid, for all of the small waves are a part of the larger ocean.
The Fourteenth Tuesday: We Say Good-bye
Charlotte had called the day prior to Mitch's visit to let him know that Morrie had not been doing well, a sign that he had reached his final days. Morrie is asleep when he arrives on this last and fourteenth Tuesday, and he must wait to see him. For a moment, Mitch worries that he has forgotten to bring tapes for his tape recorder. He has brought food for him, as usual, though Morrie has not been able to eat such food for quite a while. He apologizes to Charlotte for bringing the food, and explains that it has become a tradition. Mitch reads the newspaper while he waits for Morrie to wake, and again reads of murder and hatred. As he enters Morrie's bedroom, he notices a 24-hour hospice nurse sitting in the hall and recalls Morrie's aphorism, "When you're in bed, you're dead."
Morrie is barely able to speak, though he manages to tell Mitch that he is his friend, a good soul, and that he loves him. Throughout their last conversation, Mitch holds Morrie's hand. Morrie cries, and Mitch comforts him by stroking his head. He tells Morrie that he will return next Tuesday, as he knows that Morrie is tired, and leaves without ever having turned on the tape recorder. He gives Morrie one last farewell kiss, and finally, he cries.
Morrie had died on Saturday morning, the fourth of November. In the two days prior to his death, he had slipped into a coma. Each of his family members had worked various time shifts to watch over him, though Morrie had waited until they had all gone to the kitchen for coffee to finally pass away. Mitch believes Morrie had died this way purposely, as not to scar any of his family members in the way that he had been scarred by each of his parents' tragic deaths. The funeral gathering is small, though many had wanted to attend. Mitch recalls Morrie's suggestion that he talk to him at his gravesite, which Mitch does during the funeral. To his surprise, it feels almost natural.
Mitch reflects on how he has changed since his final lessons with Morrie. He wishes he could reach back and shake sense into the jaded man he had been before his reunion with his old professor, but finds comfort in Morrie's lesson that he is ever-changing. Shortly after Morrie's death, Mitch is able to contact his brother, Peter, in Europe. The brothers have a long talk in which Mitch explains that he respects Peter's distance, but wants to maintain a relationship with him. He tells Peter that he does not want to lose him, and that he loves him. Only days later, he receives a good-humored fax message from Peter, an indication that their relationship will soon be rekindled.
Mitch reveals that the book itself was largely Morrie's idea, and that he had even invented the title himself. He and Mitch had referred to the book as their "final thesis." Mitch looks through boxes of Morrie's old college material and finds a final paper he had written. Mitch then speaks directly to his readers, probing them to consider the importance of teachers they have had in the past and the long-term influence they have had on the readers' lives.
Throughout Tuesdays With Morrie, Morrie's growing dependency on oxygen has served as an indicator for Mitch to understand how close his professor is to his dying day. Morrie's dependency on the oxygen tank has increased steadily since the nights when he needed it only to regain his normal breathing pattern. Now that Morrie relies on the oxygen tubes in his nose to breathe at all, he knows that Morrie's day to leave him is frighteningly close, and cannot accept that soon, his dear friend will not be there, waiting in his study on Tuesday with a smile and a lesson on life. Mitch's newfound friendship with Morrie has served as the catalyst for many a revelation. He has reassessed his life and his priorities that drive it. Now, it is time fro Mitch to accept that Morrie is dying, and will not be with him on earth for much longer. Mitch's urge to yank the oxygen tube from Morrie's nose is a manifestation of his fear; he is afraid of what he will become without Morrie to guide him, and essentially wants to revert time to a day when Morrie was strong, cogent, and in good health.
But in time, Mitch realizes that to do this is impossible, and that he must accept death as Morrie has, with patience and courage. His realization comes when he hears Morrie speak about the pink hibiscus plant. Since the start of the book, the pink hibiscus plant has served as a symbol of life's fragility. The plant represents both life and death. As Morrie's condition deteriorates, the plant begins to wither and shed its leaves. The health of the hibiscus plant, in essence, keeps the pace with Morrie's physical deterioration, serving as an example of nature's intended life cycle for every life, be it man or hibiscus.
Although Morrie's belief in the afterlife is not absolutely defined, it is strongly implied that he holds some belief in the possibility of reincarnation. Throughout the book, he and Mitch have discussed the beliefs of other cultures in the afterlife, such as the tribe that believe in miniature creatures (the soul) within each larger animal (the body). Morrie has also said that if he could be reincarnated, he would return as a gazelle, as he yearns to once again be limber and fast. The story Morrie tells Mitch on their fourteenth Tuesday together is also indicative of his belief in reincarnation after death. In the allegory, each wave on the ocean does not die, but becomes a small constituent of the larger body of water. Morrie's appreciation of the story can be interpreted to reveal his belief that after his death, he, the one small wave, will somehow return to the human race, the vast ocean, and again contribute to a cycle he has unknowingly repeated many a time, just as the waves on the ocean continuously break on the shore and dissipate, only to return with the white- capped crest that follows.