Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Morrie Schwartz

   The Ice Bucket Challenge took the social media like a tidal wave. It's aim is to increase the awareness of the disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS which cure has not yet been found, and also to acquire donations from people who either would do the challenge or just donate 100 dollars, or do both. This lead me to remember the book I've bought last April 1, 2002. The book is titled Tuesdays With Morrie. I never knew who Morrie was nor who Mitch Albom, the author of the book, was. What ignited me to  buy the book was the promise in its cover, "life's greatest lesson".

     The book is a true to life story of a college professor, Morrie Schwartz, through his journey with ALS. He contracted the disease in his seventies. When his former student of two decades ago, Mitch Albom, then a journalist saw him in an interview with Ted Koppel in his program Nightlife, he found a way to meet with his life mentor. Consequently, they met and agreed to write a book, which they considered as Mitch's final thesis, about Morrie's journey with the disease and the lessons he had to share in his last days. 

     Albom describes the disease as an, "illness of the neurological  system. It starts from the legs and works its way up....It melts your nerves and leaves your body a pile of wax....It makes a man frozen inside his own flesh...It takes no more than five years from the day you contract the disease." In short, when someone contracted this disease, he is dying slowly. However, this disease did not paralyze Morrie Schwartz. He spent his last days strengthening his legacy of love and nurtured relationships. He even had his "living funeral", wherein his close friends and family joined together to say their last words for him as if he were already dead. He asked for this, that he may be able to listen physically what they had to say.

     Morrie's life lessons were very wise. It showed what kind of person he was in his lifetime. I quoted some of them below:

     "Ted, when all this started, I asked myself, 'Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live?' I decided I'm going to live - or at least try to live - the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure. "

     "Dying is only one thing to be sad over, Mitch. Living unhappily is something else. So many of the people who came to visit me were unhappy. Why? Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people 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. Create your own. Most people can't do it. They're more unhappy than me - even in my current condition."

     "Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.... Love wins. Love always wins."

     "So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating that gives you purpose and meaning."

     "I believe in being fully present. That means you should be with the person you're with."

     "Don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long."

     "Be compassionate. And take responsibility for each other."

     "Love each other or die."

     "I mourn my dwindling time, but I cherish the chance it gives me to make things right."

     "That's what we're all looking for. A certain peace with the idea of dying. If we know in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing. Make peace with living..... It's natural to die... Everything that gets born, dies."

     "Here's the payoff. Here is how we are different from these wonderful plants and animals. 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. You live on - in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."

     "Death ends a life, not a relationship."

     When asked what are life's important questions, he had this to say, "As I see it, they have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness. And if I were healthy today, those would still be my issues. They should have been all along."

     "There is no formula to relationships. They have to be negotiated in loving ways, with room for both parties, what they want and what they need, what they can do and what their life is like."

     Those are some of Morrie's beautiful words that have touched me so much and are added to my collection of life's lessons? If you want to really know about his journey with ALS, you may purchase the book. Perhaps, it's still available in bookstores and online stores. As for me it was a best seller when I bought it. And it's worth more than the price.

Get Happy!




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