Friday, July 3, 2009

A Choice Over Death - Thots to Ponder

If given a choice, how would you like to die? A slow death where you need to suffer and count your remaining days, or a quick one without any notice or much suffering? I would have chosen the 2nd one, until I read this book, Tuesdays with Morrie, which was a gift from a good friend.

This book revolve around a true story of an old man (Morrie the professor), his young student (Mitch Abom, the author of the book) and their lessons which took place every Tuesdays. Morrie, who has been diagnosed with ALS, was dying a slow death, but that did not stop him from living his life to the fullest. He was later reunited with his long lost student, Mitch, who promised he’ll keep in touch after his graduation but did not, because, he was caught in the rat race of his career. Well, after meeting his dear professor, he was jolted from his daily routine, which involves none other than multitasking 3 things at a time. Morrie’s illness and death gave Mitch a perspective that directly changed his life. The very success that caused him to neglect the most important things became the means to send Morrie’s message to all who need reminders of what those things were.

That’s how this book came about – when they decided to document their life’s lessons that took place during Morrie's last remaining Tuesdays into a thesis, their last project together. They touched on many aspects of life – relationship, love, forgiveness, money, family, and also how to die. According to Morrie, only by learning how to die, we would be able to learn how to live.

What I like about this book is that it was short and to the point, so I could easily finish at least 1 chapter during my early morning pump. Well, I’m not going to write any review on this book here, as one can easily find it in the world wide web. Just google for Tuesdays with Morrie, and they’ll fill your screens instantly. What I’m going to share here are my thoughts on this subject.

It’s irony that we only talk about this kind of subject – death when someone close to us, is going thru that phase. And it’s often after such incident, that we start to make changes to our life, so that we would have less regrets later. And then, after a short while, the rat race out there would distract us, so we’re back to square one. The cycle then continues, until we hear of someone close to us or someone we know is diagnosed with some terminal disease. So, it’s good to have this book besides us, to always remind us, that we should not wait until death loomed near only we start to appreciate what we’re having now.

No one ever regrets that they didn’t spend extra hours in the office when they are going to die. Or that they haven’t read yesterday’s news yet. Instead, people always say how much they wished they have spent more time with their loved ones, keeping in touch with their friends, enjoy the new scenery and fresh air out there, or reconciled with the hurt of their past before it's too late, to seek forgiveness and to forgive, etc. It’s always when we are about to lose something that we start to cherish it.

I also find an interesting part in the book, where Morrie arranged his farewell party. He had a mock funeral, where he gathered all the people he wanted to say goodbye to, and have them say their last words with him. He said, normally on funerals, people shed tears, say goodbye, but the deceased has already left. He won’t hear it, or see it for himself. Morrie, on the other hand, wanted to do it differently. Since he’s got an early warning that he’s going to die, he might as well do it when he could still appreciate it. Well, that’s the nicest part of knowing when you’re going to die, although the sufferings are unbearable. I have always thought to myself that I wouldn’t want to die such a long death. Besides having to suffer the pain and agony, we would also burden our loved ones because they would need to take care of us until we depart. But in Morrie’s case, life still went on. His children and wife still continued to work as per his wish during the day time, but their time spent together at night, or during the weekends were really meaningful. He had visitors coming to talk to him everyday. This illness had taught Morrie a lot of things too. That he’s not afraid to die, but to prepare himself for that day. He even spent time replying letters telling him of their problems. So, by helping others to solve their problems, he kind of forgot his own miseries, and felt useful. Imagine a dying man could so much, what about us?

When asked what was his greatest fear, he answered that someday, he’d reach a point where he’d need someone to wipe his backside. That's the point where he would lose all sense of control over his own body, and needed to fully depend on others. Well, when that day finally came, he said it's not as bad as it seemed. He’s ready, and he would enjoy the process like a baby. That there’s no need to be embarrass, or felt helpless, because it’s an opportunity for others to serve him, especially when he needed it most.

I think I learned a lot from this book, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, I almost forgot about it when I was overwhelmed with life's everyday’s problems. I put the book aside after I completed reading it 1 month ago. So, this post is to remind me to make use of what I’ve read sometime back. And hopefully, it’ll be a good reminder to you as well. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to post this, which I’ve been putting off until now. Indeed, everything that happens have a reason of its own, and it's up to us to handle it - make it or break it. I hope, from today onwards, we would look at death differently. That death is no longer a taboo subject that should be hushed, but it's something that should be openly discussed. Because, if there's no death, there's no life. People only start living when they realized how short life is. Or when death is knocking on the door.

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