Throughout the book, we see the love between Morrie and Mitch, the compassion between Morrie and his wife, the compassion between Morrie and his team of nurses, and the compassion as Mitch worries about his brother. There is even compassion between Morrie and Ted Koppel as the two become friends.
Morrie says that marriage is important, but also that since people don’t know themselves, they don’t know who they want to be with. He says that a loved one is important, as they will always be there for you for better or worse, and relates it to how both Morrie and Charlotte worked as a team. Morrie says that most important thing in a marriage is to have respect, be able to compromise, be open, have some common values, and belief in the marriage. He concludes by saying “Love each other or perish.” They then cut to a flashback to when Albom talks about the Book of Job, Morrie ending by joking “God overdid it”. This relates to Morrie as Albom relates this to Morrie’s own pain due to his lack of disease, yet his prevailing faith in life. It is partly Morrie’s bond with his wife and family that gives him to power to prevent the disease from bringing down his spirits.
Relationships are a big theme in the book. The relationship (past and present) between Morrie and Mitch, between Morrie and his caregivers, between Morrie and his family, and between Mitch and his brother all play a big part in the story.
Each Tuesday, Mitch brings with him a bag of food from the grocery store for Morrie to enjoy, as he knows that his professor’s favorite hobby, second to dancing, is eating. Morrie can no longer dance, and soon, he can no longer eat the food that Mitch brings him, either, as his health and strength have deteriorated so much, he can no longer ingest solids. The food that he brings for Morrie serves as a reminder for Mitch of the days he and his professor would eat together in the cafeteria at Brandeis, when he had been young and passionate, and Morrie energetic and in good health. Now, Mitch has been corrupted by commercial wealth, and Morrie by his illness. Although he knows that Morrie can no longer eat solids, Mitch continues to bring food each week because he so fears Morrie’s fast-approaching death. The food Mitch brings him acts as a means by which to cling to Morrie and the fond memories Mitch has of his favorite professor. Mitch also feels that food is the only gift he can give to Morrie, and feels helpless as to how to soothe him any other way.
Morrie constantly reminds Mitch that the culture is part of the reason why people lack any happiness. Mitch himself was involved in such, believing money to be power, working every day of his life. Morrie berates Albom on this, saying that love and family are top priority. He says that the culture makes one believe that “more is good”, when it isn’t, and assumes that they do so to attempt to replace love, which they are unable to do, Morrie himself buying little to nothing since his contraction of ALS yet feeling fulfilled. He says to instead give your own time and respect and to keep an open heart, status getting you nowhere. He also believes that the culture is too focused on physical appearances and youth, reflecting unfulfilled lives, and that aging should be accepted as growth, as well as the fact that death is immenent. Most importantly, he says the culture lacks love. Morrie says this when his behind needed to be wiped, saying that the culture encourages independence by making people always feel threatened, when there is nothing wrong with depending on others, reminding him of the unconditional love shown by parents. He also says this when Albom talks about how marriages and families today never work, people being apprehensive about commitment. When Albom asks why Morrie doesn’t just move to another location, Morrie says that every culture has its own individual issues. Morrie instead opts to reject the cultural value, creating his own sub-culture, believing that physical appearance or dependency is nothing to be ashamed of, and that everyone is the same, and thus we should love each other equally.
Family is held up as being immensely important, even more so than platonic friends. The reader is asked to consider the difference between the way that Morrie’s family functions and the way that Mitch’s family functions. Morrie’s immediate family is very close; his sons and his wife, Charlotte, are around to support him through his illness. Morrie believes deeply in familial responsibility, saying that his family can’t choose not to support him through his illness like a friend could. Because of this, he places a great degree of emphasis on the decisions to marry and have children when Mitch brings up the topic. On the other hand, Mitch’s brother, Peter, moved to Spain and is battling cancer mostly estranged from Mitch and the rest of their family. The text does present a hopeful tone for repairing relationships with family, however. After Morrie’s death, Mitch is finally able to reach out successfully to Peter with a message of love and compassion, and Peter is responsive to that.
Life and Death
The theme of life and death relates to Morrie’s state, and his legacy. Morrie says in his conversations with Albom that being so close to death is what made him live life to the fullest. His closeness to death is what made him appreciate the little life he had, Morrie saying it gave him “a chance to say goodbye to everyone”. Morrie says that a common theme in the culture is that instead of looking to the day we die, we instead ignore it, focusing on menial activities until it approaches. Morries says that a better method would be to live life as if you could die at any time, and to live the moment to it’s fullest, and to ask yourself if you’re prepared for that day. Morrie also says that even when he is dead, he is still partially alive, saying that the love and memories he gives are what will live on. During this time Albom and Morrie also look into ideas on what death means to other cultures. Most go along the basic idea that we are all part of a large source of energy, and that we are all reborn. After Morrie’s death, Albom walks to his grave, hearing Morrie’s voice in his head as if they were having a conversation, before realizing that it was a Tuesday.