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The Third Tuesday We Talk About Regrets

The next Tuesday, I arrived with the normal bags of food-pasta with corn, potato salad, apple cobbler--and something else: a Sony tape recorder.

I want to remember what we talk about, I told Morrie. I want to have your voice so I can listen to it . . . later.

"When I'm dead." Don't say that.

He laughed. "Mitch, I'm going to die. And sooner, not later."

He regarded the new machine. "So big," he said. I felt intrusive, as reporters often do, and I began to think that a tape machine between two people who were supposedly friends was a foreign object, an artificial ear. With all the people clamoring for his time, perhaps I was trying to take too much away from these Tuesdays.

Listen, I said, picking up the recorder. We don't have to use this. If it makes you uncomfortable

He stopped me, wagged a finger, then hooked his glasses off his nose, letting them dangle on the string around his neck. He looked me square in the eye. "Put it down," he said.

I put it down.

"Mitch," he continued, softly now, "you don't understand. I want to tell you about my life. I want to tell you before I can't tell you anymore."

His voice dropped to a whisper. "I want someone to hear my story. Will you?"

I nodded.

We sat quietly for a moment.

"So," he said, "is it turned on?"


Now, the truth is, that tape recorder was more than nostalgia. I was losing Morrie, we were all losing Morrie--his family, his friends, his ex-students, his fellow professors, his pals from the political discussion groups that he loved so much, his former dance partners, all of us. And I suppose tapes, like photographs and videos, are a desperate attempt to steal something from death's suitcase.

But it was also becoming clear to me -through his courage, his humor, his patience, and his openness-that Morrie was looking at life from some very different place than anyone else I knew. A healthier place. A more sensible place. And he was about to die.

If some mystical clarity of thought came when you looked death in the eye, then I knew Morrie wanted to share it. And I wanted to remember it for as long as I could.


The first time I saw Morrie on "Nightline," 1 wondered what regrets he had once he knew his death was imminent. Did he lament lost friends? Would he have done much differently? Selfishly, I wondered if I were in his shoes, would I be consumed with sad thoughts of all that I had missed? Would I regret the secrets I had kept hidden?

When I mentioned this to Morrie, he nodded. "It's what everyone worries about, isn't it? What if today were my last day on earth?" He studied my face, and perhaps he saw an ambivalence about my own choices. I had this vision of me keeling over at my desk one day, halfway through a story, my editors snatching the copy even as the medics carried my body away.

"Mitch?" Morrie said.

I shook my head and said nothing. But Morrie picked up on my hesitation.

"Mitch," he said, "the culture doesn't encourage you to think about such things until you're about to die. We're so wrapped up with egotistical things, career, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks-we're involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going. So we don't get into the habi............

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