Professor Morrie Schwartz is the protagonist in Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson". Mitch studied sociology at University with Morrie, and spent many hours in conversation with his professor, but after graduation, the two men lost touch.
Following an accidental reconnection, Mitch persuaded Morrie to co-create a book of Morrie's life lessons. They met on fourteen Tuesdays as Morrie's life force drifted away due to Lou Gehrig's disease.
Anne first encountered Morrie Schwartz while her father was in his last year of life. She recommended the book to her father; who immediately bought it and read it cover to cover. Morrie Schwartz's life lessons had a profound impact on Anne's father and inspired him to action during his final months (something we will reveal in later posts.)
Shortly after Morrie learned he had a life ending disease, he attended the funeral of a fellow professor. He listened to the accolades his colleague would never hear and decided he would hold his own "living funeral" so he could hear what people would have to say about him.
At Morrie's living funeral, his closest friends and family laughed and cried together as they celebrated Morrie's life. Morrie was both gratified and humbled by what he heard.
When Anne learned that her father had only days or weeks to live, she asked him if he would like to have a "living funeral" like Morrie Schwartz had. Although he could not speak, her father's face lit up like sunshine as he nodded, "yes".
Anne quickly organized the event to be held in an unused training room at the hospital. More than 100 people attended; family, those who thought of themselves as family, friends and neighbors.
Some people spoke, some sang, others read poetry or prayers, and the church minister used the lessons in Tuesdays With Morrie as the foundation for his sermon. Amidst the laughter and the tears, Anne and her siblings were astonished at how their father showed up for so many others; the kindness, consideration and generosity he had contributed to so many members of the community.
The event went on all afternoon. Energized by all he had seen and heard, Anne's father got up out of his wheelchair, walked to the podium, and thanked everyone earnestly.
Three days later, he was at home. And, he lived another six months. Six months during which he was able travel to see family and friends, and celebrate his fiftieth wedding anniversary at a lovely party in his beloved garden.
Anne believes that the admiration and gratitude expressed during the "living funeral" invigorated her father, and sustained him through those extra months. And, Morrie Schwartz's life lessons inspired him to reach out and heal old wounds.
This is the first of many lessons to come in Thursdays With Anne. The gift of acknowledgement, appreciation and admiration goes a long way to energizing, invigorating and encouraging others to live their best lives.