‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ a memoir on living and dying, remains popular 25 years later

Do you know the title of the best-selling memoir of all time? Did you answer “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom? If you did then you are either very well informed or you noticed the heading on this column and that sort of gave it away, right? Well, it is, and it will probably remain so.

“Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson” came out in 1997. It ruled the best-seller lists for years. The publisher issued a 10th anniversary edition. Then a 20th. The 25th anniversary edition just came out. The book sells and sells. There’s a good reason for that; it’s inspirational and this tiny volume is packed with hard won knowledge.

The book contains the wisdom of Morrie Schwartz, Albom’s old professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. I interviewed Albom almost a quarter century ago when the book first came out. He talked about what a fluke it was that he had written this book at all.

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It started with a chance viewing of the TV news show “Nightline.” Albom told me that he rarely watched it. One night he happened to have the program on and he noticed that Schwartz was appearing as a guest and talking about his illness, ALS. The professor shared how he was facing a death that would be coming fairly soon.

This chance event led Albom to realize that he had to get back in touch with his former sociology professor and that he had better do it fast. This is how the book came about. Albom, a journalist in Detroit, began flying to Boston almost every week to sit down with Morrie to talk but mostly, just to listen.

Their meetings usually occurred on Tuesdays, thus the title. He decided to write a book about it. Proceeds from book sales were directed to paying Morrie’s mounting medical bills, and to his family.

Here are some of Morrie’s timeless pearls of wisdom that he imparted to Albom on those now long ago Tuesdays:

“Don’t cling to things because everything is impermanent.”

“I know you think this is just about dying, but it’s like I keep telling you. When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

“Accept who you are; and revel in it.

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

“As you grow, you learn more. Aging is not just decay…it’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand that you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”

“Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.”

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.