I have two spaces in my day that I can count on getting some “book” time. The car and drying my hair.
Currently I’m listening to “The End of Your Life Book Club” on audio when I’m in my car and reading “Tuesdays with Morrie” when I dry my hair. Coincidentally they both have a similar story line. They are both stories told from the author who has a close relationship with an individual who has become aware of a terminal medical condition and knows the inevitable truth that death is near. Their stories are moving and powerful.
With their stories on my mind day after day it is no wonder that I have started asking myself questions like: What would I do differently if I knew death was near? What would I want to teach my kids before I was no longer able to be with them? What would be the most important things I’d want them to know? What would become important and what would become unimportant? What priorities would change?
Often when we these moments come we say “Life is fragile”, which is true. I think we should never underestimate and take for granted our life and the reality that it can be taken so quickly and unexpectedly. But Life is also Meaningful. And the focus on the one over the other makes a difference.
At one point Morrie told Mitch Albom that he, Morrie, was lucky. This stunned Mitch. There Morrie was sitting in a wheel chair as the ruthless ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) slowly deteriorated his body. And Morrie was fully aware of the process his body was going through. He knew how he would die. How the disease would finally overtake his ability to breath causing him to suffocate. And he said that he was the lucky one.
“Mitch,” he said, “the culture doesn’t encourage you to think about such tings until you’re about to die. We’re so wrapped up with egotistical things, career, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks–we’re involved in trillions of little act just to keep going. So we don’t get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? I something missing? You need someone to probe you in that direction. It won’t just happen automatically.”
So maybe Morrie was lucky. He had an experience that had “probed” him in that direction. In the direction of looking at life differently and seeing is as something meaningful not just fragile.
He felt lucky because his full awareness that he was going to die freed him from all the powerful distractions of day to day life that can make it challenging to hold onto what matters most.
But from the sounds of it, the Morrie that I’m acquainted with from reading the book, that’s how he always lived. And that is even more impressive.