Rereading Tuesdays with Morrie and reminded of the meaning of life

illustrated essay, behind-the-scenes of my work station, an interview

HopeMail Issue #112 | HopeMail is a newsletter about life lessons from daily living, what I’m up to, what I’m thinking, plus my latest writing and drawing work. If you'd like to subscribe, c'mon in.


Do you reread books? I usually don’t. I usually want to use my time to learn new things, to learn more things. Not, reread what I knew. Oh, and I get a kick out of completing reading yet another book. To add to the books-I’ve-read-list in my mind. 

But last week, I don’t feel like reading any of my books on Kindle, nor the three new books still lying, stacked up neatly on my side table. I don’t want to learn new things. I don’t want to read another tragic story of no hope from someone’s memoir. I wasn’t in the appetite for those stories. 

As I stood in front of my white-coloured bookshelf, I was half-uninterested, half-searching. Looking through the glass door, I scanned across the rows of books and their categories: business, leadership, Christian-living, Calvin & Hobbes!, memoirs, biographies, and other books I probably won’t ever read. My eyes kept going back to this 210 pages book, with an unassuming cover. But with a title that was etched in my heart since the first time I read it, plenty of years ago. Tuesdays with Morrie—an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson, by Mitch Albom

Black and white illustration with pen, the book, Tuesday with Morrie.
I wanted to snap a photo of the book, but since I’m doing an illustrated essay, I did a quick sketch instead. Not a quick as taking a photo, that’s for sure. The sketch is kinda scratchy, but you could tell it’s a book, I guess.

I began rereading those lessons, told in tender and raw moments between Mitch, the author, and Morrie, his college professor, whose life was cruelly drained from him, losing control of one limb, losing control of another body section, one at a time, from the feet up. Yet, his brain remained ever so alert, trapped in a limp shell. When the disease hit his lungs, he might suffocate to death. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a-my-o-TROE-fik LAT-ur-ul skluh-ROE-sis), ALS. A brutal illness of the neurological system. 

They always meet on Tuesdays; Morrie and Mitch. Where Morrie, who decided not to hide and wait aimlessly to die, but to make the best out of his remaining time, asked Mitch to do this “final project” of Morrie’s impending death. 

*“Study me in my slow and patient demise. Watch what happens to me. Learn with me.” Morrie would walk that final bridge between life and death, and narrate the trip.

So, over 14 Tuesdays, the two gentlemen would meet for conversation and companionship; talking about things from love, family, community, to work, forgiveness, and death. Mitch relearned the lessons in life. 

And over three hours, split into a few readings (I want to prolong the reading as much as I could); so have I.

*But everyone knows someone who has died, I said. Why is it so hard to think about dying? “Because,” Morrie continued, “most of us all walk around as if we’re sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, we’re half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do.” And facing death changes all that? “Oh, yes. You strip away all that stuff and you focus on the essentials. When you realise you are doing to die, you see everything much differently. Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.”

When I reached for Tuesday with Morrie from my bookshelf, despite knowing that I know the story, knowing that it’s no longer new to me; having dog-eared it too many times in my last read years ago—I know I was reaching for more than a book to read. I was reaching for something to pull me back from wherever I was scattered, and remind me of the meaning of life. I needed to be grounded in truth and to see what’s important in life again.

Because I got derailed (not the first time, won’t be the last), I wanted what the world was selling to me, telling me what I need to do, what I need to have, to be that someone I wanna be. I let those wants squat in my house, making a mess. I got myself tired from running around them, trying to put them into order. But what I should do is to get a Karcher high-pressure water jet and blast them out. 

*Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning… “There’s a big confusion over what we want versus what we need,” Morrie said. “You need food, you want a chocolate sundae. You have to be honest with yourself. You don’t need the latest sports car, you don’t need the biggest house.”

Often, our world sold us the story that we need to be financially rich; financially free, to look a certain way, to fit in, to fulfil our dreams, to be somebody in our work, to be somebody. In a warp, messed-up way, “be somebody” is often defined as doing something great, visible, something big…something for yourself.

When be somebody can just be a very quiet transaction between two persons. One giving [love and kindness] to the other, the other receiving it, and passing it on to others. 

*“You know what really gives you satisfaction?”

What?

“Offering others what you have to give.” 

I gotta remember—when those warped wants come squatting again, I won’t delay too long before I bring out those Karcher jets and blast them away. 

*Quotes excerpted from the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.


More Morrie quotes

“Be compassionate,” Morrie whispered. “And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.”

“To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.”


Watch | Morrie Schwartz: Lessons on Living, Ted Koppel Nightline Interview

It’s not your usual 2 minutes Youtube video to mindlessly pass time. But, I hope you’ll be able to set aside some time this weekend, and enjoy this interview between Morrie and Ted Koppel from Nightline. Morrie was dying from ALS. This series of interviews was originally aired to about 9 million audiences, who were touched by Morrie’s honesty and wisdom on living.


Behind-the-scenes of my studio, shed, er, office.

Just for fun, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what goes behind this issue of HopeMail.

I can’t have music with words when I’m writing. Most of the time, it’s just silence, no music. 

Except for the neighbour’s kids occasional high-pitched screams, it’s quiet. No phone, no notifications. Where I can hear myself think. 

By the way, the pandemic-lockdown-kids-home-24/7 is both stressful for the parents, and the parents’ neighbours.

For this issue, I want some drawings to go with the essay. So I took some time to illustrate myself reading a book and also the Tuesday with Morrie book. The music comes on when I draw. I felt like some Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, no reason why, just because.

🎧 Listen on Apple Music: Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran

It took: around eight to nine hours to complete this issue—research, writing, editing, illustrating, curating, coffee-drinking.

👋🏻 See ya in two weeks!


Hope you’d enjoyed reading this issue of HopeMail. HopeMail is a newsletter about life lessons from daily living, what I’m up to, what I’m thinking, plus my latest writing and drawing work. Candid, reflective, with a sprinkling of humour. Kinda like those good conversations with friends. It’s published twice a month, on the 1st and 3rd Fridays. A nice way to wind down your week and have a good read over the weekend. C’mon in.