Tag Archives: ALS

Guest Writer Kathy B October 6, 2014




As I mentioned in an earlier post, my cousin Kathy is also a writer and has written her own share of articles, stories, and poetry. Recently, she read  a certain book, Tuesdays with Morrie written by Mitch Albom. She also saw  the movie and was compelled to write about it. This had originally been a classroom assignment but she felt so affected and inspired by what she read and subsequently wrote, that she desired to share it with someone. She chose to share it here on my blog. It is her hope that the true story of Morrie would reach and inspire others. Kathy is a gentle and sensitive person and with every writing project she completes she leaves the stamp of her heart in it.  So here is the third installment of Kathy B’s review and the insight she gained in reading Tuesdays

Tuesdays with Morrie Part 3

Embracing Change

On the next Tuesday, Morrie informed Mitch that he had lost the war; someone had to assist him to clean his bottom. In a way, this was difficult to accept because it meant totally giving in to the ALS. But, he accepted with grace, even asking his caregiver if she comfortable enough to do it. The time had come when he was nearly completely dependent on the help of others. However, he looked for and found a reason to enjoy that as well. The experience was like being a child again. He just cherished the loving kindness of a human touch. Aging also came up that day. Mitch asked him if he would like to be young again. He answered that it was impossible not to be a bit jealous of young people. His youth had passed, however, and it was time to embrace the age he was now, seventy-eight. If he had remained the same age, he would not have grown as a person. Without a shred of vanity, he had great self- esteem, good feelings and satisfaction with himself and with his life without thinking too highly of himself. (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010). The point was simple. Mitch was a regular part of his caregiving team now, every Tuesday. In order to loosen the congestion that clogged his lungs and chest, he had to have his back pounded, sometimes, in the middle of conversations (Albom, 1997).

The Good-byes

Janine came along with Mitch a few weeks before he died. Mitch’s wife was a professional singer. She never sang for anyone privately before; Mitch was amazed that she sang for Morrie. Suddenly, he heard her sweet voice coming from the other room. Mitch was thrilled; the two people he loved most were finally meeting and talking together! A few days later, the Nightline crew came for the last time. Ted Koppel considered himself to be Morrie’s friend as well by now. Even the rather serious Ted Koppel became emotional this time. It was clear that it was the end. Ted asked him if he was afraid of death. In fact, he said that he was less afraid of it now as it came closer. As his physical limitations grew, he became more thoughtful and introspective. At the end of the interview, he admitted that he was trying to bargain with God. It was not about getting more time as one usually does; he wanted to be an angel (Albom, 1997).

This was quite a remarkable request of God because he had been an agnostic, not sure what or who to believe in before this experience.  One of Morrie’s great quotes was this one:  “My disease,” Morrie once said, lying in the chair in his West Newton, Mass., study, “is the most horrible and wonderful death. Horrible because, well, look at me” — he cast his eyes down on his ragged, shrunken body — “but wonderful because of all the time it gives me to say to good-bye. And to figure out where I’m going next.” “And where is that?” he was asked. He grinned like an elf.  “I’ll let you know” (Albom, 1995). On one of their last Tuesdays together, Mitch and Morrie talked about forgiveness.  First, one must forgive oneself before he can forgive other people. Norman was a friend of Morrie’s for years. Because of hurt feelings, they never had the chance to speak again because he died of cancer three years before.  Morrie also spoke of his father, the wasted years he spent being angry and resentful at him because he was not allowed to grieve his mother openly, and for being a distant father. Again, Mitch had the tables turned on him. Morrie began to encourage Mitch to reach out to his brother. Mitch promised him that he would soon.

The last Tuesday came – the time for good-bye. Charlotte came to hug Mitch. As he did, the long row of medications, the drugs he had taken for so long, caught his eye. When he turned the corner, he saw the hospice nurse. (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  She was part of the twenty-four team, waiting for the end to handle the end of life issues that come up to make it easier for the family. In broken, breathless sentences, Morrie told Mitch that he loved him and gestured for him to hold his hand. He was in bed. It was obvious that Morrie was very tired. Mitch gave him a kiss and brushed his face against his own face. For an instant, he saw pleasure on Morrie’s face. Yes, Mitch was finally letting go and showing his emotion; tears were running down his face.  His old professor had told him that he would make Mitch cry one day. He had finally succeeded. Morrie died on Saturday, November 4, 1995. Ironically, as if Morrie had planned it, the funeral was held on Tuesday; after all, they were Tuesday people (Albom, 1997).

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

            Mitch wrote a tribute article for his newspaper eight days after Morrie died. This section is based on it, He died the way he wanted, at peace and in his sleep. He waited until everyone was in the other room before he left this life. Mitch believed that that was on purpose so that no one had to watch him die. The funeral was small, as both Morrie and Charlotte wanted. The wind was cold and the skies were grey. His grave site was on a grassy slope above a little pond. Mitch flashed back to a conversation they had had in October.

“You know, when I’m gone I hope you’ll come visit me,” he had said.

“Visit you?”

“At my grave. I’ve picked a lovely spot, a good place to sit and ask me questions. I’m not sure how I’ll answer, but I’ll try” (Albom, 1995).

Mitch mentioned in the update to the book that he longer has to visit the grave to hear his voice. He even jokes that the book was Morrie’s revenge for not seeing him in sixteen years. He said that he never forgets a thing now. It is just one of the many ways that Morrie changed him. Morrie has reached millions now. Many millions watched him on Nightline. The book reached millions more, and it continues to touch more students as it is assigned reading in classes like this one. Many others, thanks to Oprah Winfrey, saw the movie of the same name with Jack Lemmon as Morrie. In fact, it was Jack’s last credited role before he died of cancer. As much as I love Jack Lemmon, and his portrayal was outstanding, the eyewitness account was more powerful for me.

 For those interested in reading this true story, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, you can find it at the Amazon.com website and here is the link to it:




Guest Writer: Kathy B October 5th, 2014




Once again, my talented and compassionate cousin, an occasional guest writer on my blog has been at it again. She has been writing articles and essays for school and for other special projects. Due to her talent in writing and in how she wonderfully expresses herself in her work, she had recently won a scholarship.  She also recently wrote a nonfiction article reviewing a particular book and movie she had read and saw. She was very affected by it and has offered to share this on my blog.  She had already written and submitted Part One of her article and here  is a link to it:


Now, she has written the rest of it and would like to share it here. I found the book she is referring to be available at Amazon.com website for those who may be interested in  purchasing it and reading more. The book is titled, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This article is lengthy so I am dividing it into two parts. So, without further delay here is Kathy B. in her own words in part 2:

Tuesdays with Morrie Part 2

As Morrie presented Mitch with a briefcase as a graduation gift, he promised his professor that he would keep in touch with him. Although he never quite forgot Morrie, life got in the way. He tried to pursue his passion for music by performing in a band, but that dream did not manage to pay the bills, and so it died. He returned to school and after a few years of hard work became a well-known sports writer at the Detroit Free Press. Mitch kept up a relationship with Janine in spite of his hectic schedules and frequent absences. He traveled far and wide to get the latest big sports story. For example, he raced off to London to cover Wimbledon for the paper. The O.J. Simpson story was even fair game because it involved a famous former football player. Having money in the bank gave him a sense of security. He did not even slow down long enough to figure out what was really driving him was the death of his uncle. If he was going to die young like him, he was not going to waste a minute of his life (Albom, 1997).

Meanwhile, Morrie continued his generativity, passing on knowledge, wisdom and history to the emerging adults who were lucky enough to take his classes. In 1994, Morrie received a devastating diagnosis from the doctor. He not only had a chronic condition that was permanent, but he had a death sentence (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  A chronic condition is one that lasts more than three months; it often lasts the rest of that person’s life. At most, the doctor said, he had two years left to live. Morrie had decisions to make, but he and his wife Charlotte knew that he would age in place, stay at home. There was no talk of a nursing home (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010). While flipping aimlessly through the channels late one night, Mitch heard a name from his past – Morrie Schwartz. He sat down to listen to Ted Koppel of Nightline. The program focused on hard news and human interest stories (Albom, 1997).

An Explanation of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

This particular segment was about his beloved instructor who was afflicted with ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord little by little. Motor neurons go from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the whole body. The constant erosion of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons quit functioning, the ability of the brain to work and control its muscles becomes impossible. This often leads to total paralysis. The terribly wicked part of the disability is that one’s cognitive, intellectual ability remains as sharp as ever while the body withers and dies (ALS Association, 2010). The words in the book aptly describe it “like hot candle wax that melts the motor neurons.” Mitch found himself on his way to see his old, beloved professor. This one visit turned into fourteen more such life lessons (Albom, 1997). It was the student and teacher’s final class together, the true meaning of the continuity theory (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  Morrie even gave himself a “living funeral.” Surprisingly, it was a fairly joyous time. He also found out that he had a wonderful convoy of family, friends, and direct care staff, formal, paid staff ready and willing to offer help as well as support. Mitch became part of his convoy. However, the paid caregivers grew to have a special place for Morrie in their hearts too (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).

The Request and the Teacher’s Final Lessons

            When Mitch’s newspaper union went on strike, he suddenly had much more free time to spend with his friend. Coincidently, Tuesday had been the day for Morrie’s office hour at the university. This had always been their day together during Mitch’s college years; Morrie proclaimed that they were “Tuesday people.” Mitch began to look forward to these visits so much that left his cell phone in his car. He did not want to miss a moment with Morrie (Albom, 1995). Eventually, Mitch even helped Morrie with is Activities of Daily Life, (ADL)’s such as lifting him into his chair or helping him in the restroom. By the second visit, they started talking about difficult topics, such as depression and feeling sorry for oneself. He told Mitch that he allowed himself only five minutes a day first thing in the morning to rage, cry and realize how much he was losing. After those five minutes, he put that away, and he continued the business of active aging. For example, he read the newspaper every morning, he made phone calls and wrote letters. Tasks like these are called, “Instrumental activities of daily living,” or IADL’s. One of his many philosophies, “if you stay in bed, you’re dead.” As much as possible, he did as many activities as possible on his own. Although he never fooled himself, he knew the day was coming soon when he would even need assistance wiping his own bottom after using the bathroom. (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).

On the third Tuesday, they spoke about the eighth and final stage of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Human Development, Integrity vs. Despair. (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  This means the ability to be happy with overall path one’s life has taken and have few regrets about it. Some people choose to go through life stagnant, caught up in the rather unimportant trappings of life: money, selfish wants and possessions. Morrie felt that in order to achieve the fulfillment that Erikson spoke of, one must learn to live and love well. Regret was an awful waste of precious time. Gratitude was always expressed; the tough times were met with positivity and good humor. Those were his keys to life; he did his best to live each moment to its fullest, making the decision not to wait until the last minutes of his life to explore its true meaning. They discussed our cultural fear of death; we tend, as a society, not face it until we are about to die, Just before the fourth Tuesday, Nightline and Ted Koppel returned for a visit.


At first, Ted said saw little difference until the interview was well under way; his hands were not animated and flying all over the place like they were before. The two spoke of stacks of mail that were received after the first interview; not surprisingly, Morrie really touched people. When Morrie was speaking about a letter that he had recently answered. Suddenly, he started speaking about his own family, especially his mother and father. (Albom, 1997). At eight years old, he could not face his mother’s death. She passed away from cancer. He was not even allowed by his father to mention his mother. A year later, his father remarried, so Morrie became part of a blended family due to his mother’s death and his father’s subsequent remarriage (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  It took Morrie quite some time to get used to her, but she was a loving woman who sang to him. Eventually, he found room in his heart for her. As the end came nearer, family became even more important to him. An oxygen tank went along with him now, his newest piece of equipment. As Morrie often did, he switched the tables on Mitch; the two began to talk about Mitch’s brother who was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Mitch admitted that he was angry at his brother because he would not talk about and share his illness with the family (N. Hooyman & H. Kiyak, 2010).  He hid it away from them, unlike Morrie, closing himself off. Morrie told Mitch that he must feel all of his emotions; otherwise, he will be too afraid to truly love. Morrie explained that totally immersing himself in the experience of having and being totally responsible for his children allowed him to bond and love in the most profound way (Albom, 1997).

Stay tuned for Part 3, the conclusion.

For those that may be interested in purchasing and reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, here is a link to it at Amazon.com: