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The Audiovisual, Part Three

The "Nightline" crew came back for its third and final visit. The whole tenor of the thing was different now. Less like an interview, more like a sad farewell. Ted Koppel had called several times before coming up, and he had asked Morrie, "Do you think you can handle it?"

Morrie wasn't sure he could. "I'm tired all the time now, Ted. And I'm choking a lot. If I can't say something, will you say it for me?"

Koppel said sure. And then the normally stoic anchor added this: "If you don't want to do it, Morrie, it's okay. I'll come up and say good-bye anyhow."

Later, Morrie would grin mischievously and say, "I'm getting to him." And he was. Koppel now referred to Morrie as "a friend." My old professor had even coaxed compassion out of the television business.

For the interview, which took place on a Friday afternoon, Morrie wore the same shirt he'd had on the day before. He changed shirts only every other day at this point, and this was not the other day, so why break routine?

Unlike the previous two Koppel-Schwartz sessions, this one was conducted entirely within Morrie's study, where Morrie had become a prisoner of his chair. Koppel, who kissed my old professor when he first saw him, now had to squeeze in alongside the bookcase in order to be seen in the camera's lens.

Before they started, Koppel asked about the disease's progression. "How bad is it, Morrie?"
Morrie weakly lifted a hand, halfway up his belly. This was as far as he could go.

Koppel had his answer.

The camera rolled, the third and final interview. Koppel asked if Morrie was more afraid now that death was near. Morrie said no; to tell the truth, he was less afraid. He said he was letting go of some of the outside world, not having the newspaper read to him as much, not paying as much attention to mail, instead listening more to music and watching the leaves change color through his window.

There were other people who suffered from ALS, Morrie knew, some of them famous, such as Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist and author of A Brief History of Time. He lived with a hole in his throat, spoke through a computer synthesizer, typed words by batting his eyes as a sensor picked up the movement.

This was admirable, but it was not the way Morrie wanted to live. He told Koppel he knew wh............

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