Photo Credit: MitchAlbom.com
We can learn a lot from people who have finished living their lives. Often, the dying are the ones that seem to finally have knowledge on the secret of life, or what really matters. The longer I live, the more I want to know these things. I want to know what people think was the most important part of life, as they approach the end of theirs.
I recently read a book called Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. A lot of you have probably read the book. It was a best seller, and it's been published now for 20 years. I'd heard the title periodically in my life, but never actually sat down to read it. In fact, I wasn't even sure what it was about. One day, I read the synopsis, and decided to order it. I purchased a used book off Amazon for cheap and cracked it open when it came in the mail.
What I didn't realize is how powerfully it would resonate with me. You see, the messages Morrie Schwartz shares, as he succumbs to ALS, are powerful, simple, and so appropriate for the healthy as well as the dying. It's like he has the answers to life, not all the answers, as he hadn't experienced everyone else's lives, but the answers he shared can easily be applied to our lives. Below are some of my favorites from the book.
"Dying," Morrie suddenly said, "is only one thing to be sad over, Mitch. Living unhappily is something else. So many of the people who come to visit me are unhappy."
"Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We're teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it."
"As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there, You live on--in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here....
Death ends a life, not a relationship."
"It's not just other people we need to forgive, Mitch," he finally whispered. "We also need to forgive ourselves."
"Yes. For all the things we didn't do. All the things we should have done. You can't get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened. That doesn't help you when you get to where I am."
"The problem, Mitch, is that we don't believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we are about our own."
"But believe me, when you are dying, you see it is true. We all have the same beginning--birth--and we all have the same end--death. So how different can we be?"
"Still," he said," there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.
"And the biggest one of those values, Mitch?"
..."Your belief in the importance of your marriage."
"Personally," he sighed, his eyes still closed, "I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you're missing a hell of a lot if you don't try it.
... Love each other or perish."
"Mitch, if you're trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down at you anyhow. And if you're trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.
...Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won't be dissatisfied, you won't be envious, you won't be longing for somebody else's things. On the contrary, you'll be overwhelmed with what comes back."
"Whenever people ask me about having children or not having children, I never tell them what to do," Morrie said now, looking at a photo of his oldest son. "I simply say, 'There is no experience like having children.' That's all. There is no substitute for it. You cannot do it with a friend. you cannot do it with a lover. If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children."