The other day I picked up Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. Someone recommended it to me some time ago, but it left my mind until I saw it on the shelf at the drugstore. In need of something to read, I happily snapped it up. I'll read just about anything someone I trust recommends to me.
My Beloved was perplexed by the purchase. You see, I knew it was the story of a man who visits his old professor, but I didn't realize the old professor was dying. The visits the two old friends enjoyed during those last, tortured few months of the old man's life are lovingly recalled in the book.
So yes, it's a book about death and I didn't know it. Stupid me.
But I know my fair share about death. I'm not afraid of a little book. After all, the last book I finished was Little Earthquakes, which chronicles the stories of four new mothers, one of whom loses her baby to SIDS. Hell, an old man dying is nothing compared to that.
So the other night I defiantly opened up to the first page and started reading.
To my surprise and sheer delight it's a wonderful, peaceful and very thought provoking book. Yes, it's desperately sad to read about the slow, painful physical decline of a once vibrant man, but learning how Morrie copes with the disease that is slowly killing him is truly inspiring. There's no other way to put it.
One thing that stands out in my mind is his "detachment" theory. When asked how he deals with the fear of dying - the process, I mean - he says he practices detachment. That is, he allows himself to fully and completely feel the pain and fear - he immerses himself in it and becomes familiar with it. Once he knows it, inside and out, he knows it can no longer scare him - it loses its power and hold over him. It has become, in some strange way, like a familiar old friend.
So, as the theory goes, when he feels that familiar feeling of horror creeping up his spine, he can recognize it for what it is - his old friend fear - and detach himself from it.
Self preservation 101.
He claims detachment can be successful for anything you're struggling with - any of life's tragedies, fears and sorrows.
I'm afraid of the notion of remaining coolly detached from my sorrow, but if I left myself feel it - deeply and profoundly - perhaps it's safe. It's very different than ignoring your pain and trying desperately to block it out and pretend it doesn't exist (which, I've discovered, doesn't work at all.
Diving head-first into the pool of sorrow is terrifying, but I think Morrie has a point. It's always going to be there, so why not confront it head-on and take away some of its power.
I don't know if I can do it right now, but I'm keeping it in mind. If it worked for Morrie, who suffered unbearably as ALS slowly robbed him of every normal bodily function you and I enjoy without thought, surely it can work for me.
But thanks anyway Morrie. And God bless.