There are so many different ways in which society and culture shape the death experience. Not every individual is the same in their beliefs therefore everyone’s dying experience is different. In our American culture, today death is something that is typically feared. Michael Leming and George Dickson stated in their textbook titled, Understand Death, Dying and Bereavement, that many Americans, however, are afraid of death, violent other otherwise, and see to deny it (Leming, 1985, p. 59). American’s attitudes towards death have changed throughout the years. That change can be attributed to historical events like the Hiroshima and September 11, 2001. Although some Americans may fear death because they are afraid of dying painfully and unexpected, there are some individuals who give death a positive meaning. Timothy Leary stated a few months before his death that he was looking forward to the most fascinating experience in life, which is dying. He said that dying must be approached the way that life is livedwith curiosity, hope, fascination, courage and the help of your friends (Leming, 1985, p. 64).
I feel like Morrie approached death the same way that Timothy Leary did. On the seventh Tuesday of Morrie and Mitch’s meeting Morrie proclaimed to Mitch that as his disease first progressed he felt a little ashamed of having to depend on other people for help because that’s how the culture tells us we should feel but then he stated forget what culture says. I have ignored the culture much of my life. I am not going to be ashamed. What’s the big deal? (Albom, 1997, p.116). I feel that at this point in the novel Morrie is beginning to embrace death with arms wide open. He is no longer ashamed of having someone wipe his behind or massage his legs. Morrie stated that he began to enjoy his dependency, which is something that he had never done before.
I feel like our society and culture tell us that we should be fighters and not just become victims to the illness but sometimes that is not the way things turn out and people need to become accepting of living with a chronic illness and living out the rest of their days enjoying the time spent with family and friends. 2.) Death is not something that many people accept and are willing to embrace. Being on the last great journey can be one of two things, terrifying or promising. In K??bler-Ross’s Five Stages of Dying the last stage, acceptance, is when the patient accepts death as a sure outcome and the patient is able to say, ‘I have said all the words I have to say and am ready to go’ (Leming, 1985, p.159). I think that being on the last great journey is being able to accept that you are dying and to live the rest of your life the best you can. I feel like the only way that people are able to talk about dying openly is if they accept it. It was clear throughout the novel that Morrie had accepted his chronic illness so it was easy for him to talk with Mitch about dying and the lessons he had learned throughout life to prepare him for his final days. Being able to openly discuss what he was going through was one way that Morrie served as a bridge. Morrie stated that people saw him as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be, but I’m not yet dead. I’m sort of in-between (Albom, 1997, p. 32-33). Morrie was able to discuss with Mitch his early year struggles such as the death of his mother and his later life experience such as his career and his marriage. Being able to openly reminisce on the past and to discuss the lessons he learned that prepared him to accept his final moments is life is something that not many people are able to do. Another thing that may contribute to some people feeling more prepared for death in knowing what to pack on their last great journey is their religious beliefs. Christians view death as the entrance to eternal life and, therefore, is preferable to physical life (Leming, 1985, p. 126).
I believe that having such strong religious belief helps some people to cope with death therefore it makes it easier for them to talk about it because they feel that they are going to a place where they can have eternal life which is heaven. Morrie however did not identify with one specific religion instead he believed that when you are dying, you see it as everyone having the same beginning”birth”and having the same end”death (Albom, 1997, p. 157). 3.) Talking about dying is not something that I am particularly comfortable with. Because I am so young I cannot imagine myself leaving this world any time soon. I believe this is the case for younger individuals. Although death can be hard for some younger individuals to imagine, the textbook suggests that death is expected for the elderly person and death is seen as appropriate for very elderly persons who have lived their allotted span of life (Leming, 1985, p. 107). Although death is something that an older individual can often expect, there is no way of knowing how exactly someone is going to die. Death often comes on the doctor’s watch and in high-tech surroundings, almost always following years of chronic illness, typically following decisions about additional medical interventions, often made on behalf of patient’s incapable of making decisions for themselves by caregivers who do not always know how to honor those who have lost their most human qualities (Leming, 1985, p. 107). I feel like this is an accurate representation of how most older individuals think about dying especially in unexpected circumstances. Morrie on the other hand knew what he was up against. He mentioned to Mitch once you learn how to die, you learn how to live (Albom, 1997, p. 82).
It can be difficult for individuals and family members to think have there loved one passing away especially if that family member or loved one is making life altering medical decisions. In some cases, individuals do not prepare for death and so when it comes unexpectedly some may feel like they did not accomplish everything they wished to. Morrie stated that sometimes it is hard to think about dying because most of us walk around as if we’re sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, because we’re half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do (Albom, 1997, p. 83). I think in some cases this holds true for some older adults. They may realize that towards the end of life they were so wrapped up in things such as work that they did not take time to step back and enjoy the little things in life. 4.) Throughout the novel Morrie emphasized how money cannot buy someone happiness. Other things such as family, friends, and other life experiences are what contribute to a person’s happiness. One of life’s greatest lessons that I took from reading this novel was when Morrie told Mitch the story of how he was in the mental health facility and one thing that he noticed about most of the individuals who were in the facility was that many of them were well-off, from rich families, so their wealth did not buy them happiness or contentment (Albom, 1997, p.111). Morrie mentioned that this was a lesson that he would never forget. I believe that this statement holds true because there can be people in this world who have all the money in the but are still unhappy. People need to surround themselves with healthy relationships, loving family members and individuals who encourage them to be the best they can be. I know that being a young college student, I was never able to just go out and buy whatever I wanted but I made the most of life during the past four years and I have been happier than ever.
Morrie also mentioned to Mitch how he believed that there was a form of brainwashing going on in our country (Albom, 1997, p. 124). What he meant by this statement was that people are encouraged to think that more money is good but Morrie seemed to believe the opposite. He stated, you can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship (Albom, 1997, p. 125). In all, I believe the most important lesson throughout this book is the fact that people should slow down and appreciate what life has to offer. People should not be so wrapped up in their jobs and trying to make more money. People should be taking time to appreciate their family members and their friends and they need to take time to experience all that life has to offer and I believe that is exactly what Morrie was trying to indicate to Mitch throughout the time that they spent together. 5.) Morrie mentioned to Mitch that he felt lucky although he knew he was dying (Albom, 1997, p. 118). There are a number of different reasons why Morrie could have said that. One reason that I believe the stated that he felt lucky was because even though he was dying he was still able to live his best life surrounded by the ones he loved. Many individuals who experience the dying process in the American Health System may feel a bit helpless. They are no longer human beings but rather patients. Death is also a difficult decision for some. Because of medical and technological advances some doctors are able to keep individuals alive on ventilators even if their heart is not beating. Many doctors are taught to desensitize death and many doctors may see death as a failure (Leming, 1985, p. 225).
These are some reasons why I believe Morrie felt lucky. Morrie was able to die peacefully in his own home surrounded by his loved ones. Not only was he able to die in his own home but also he knew months before his death that he was going to die so he was able to spend his final moments doing things he loved with the people that he loved. Many people do not get this opportunity. When some people are diagnosed with a terminal illness they are not given months to live so their death comes as a shock for those around them. It is known that many Americans today die in an institutional setting such as hospitals, and nursing homes (Leming, 1985, p. 231). 6.) I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. There were a lot of great lessons that Morrie taught Mitch throughout their time together. After finishing the novel is was difficult for me to decide which lesson stood out the most. There was a particular quote that I happened to highlight while reading. Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning (Albom, 1997, p. 127).
This was a powerful statement made by Morrie. I feel like this quote encompasses everything that a person should live by in their life. In today’s time, it is important for us to love the people around us. With so much suffering going on in the world it is important for us to show light during the darkness. When it comes to dedicating yourself to your community, I feel like that is really important to me as a public health major because I am always looking for different ways that I can help others and I hope to make a future career out of caring for others. And lastly, it is extremely important to find something that gives you meaning in life whether it’s a job or a hobby, everyone deserves to feel like they have a place in this world.
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