Last night, November 22, Ted Koppel did his last Nightline show. Thanks to an interview the night before with his time-slot rival Charlie Rose (who I usually watch), I knew to tune into Ted’s last Nightline, and I’m glad I did.
Ted decided to bow out by reprising highlights from his acclaimed interviews with Morrie Schwartz, the wise retired professor who wanted to talk about dying (he had ALS), and who became the subject of Mitch Albom‘s mega-hit book, Tuesdays with Morrie. Despite their popularity, the Albom book and the Nightline interviews contain much wisdom about dying and living with dignity, grace, humor and hope. In a nation where we find rampant discontent, among people enjoying a myriad of blessings, Morrie Schwartz’s refusal to wallow in self-pity as he lost control of his body and neared death, is not merely a good example — it is a recipe for much fuller and happier lives.
At pages 56 – 57 of Tuesdays, Albom explains:
I asked Morrie if he felt sorry for himself.
“Sometimes, in the mornings,” he said. “That’s when I mourn.I feel around my body, I move my fingers and my hands — whatever I can still move — and I mourn what I’ve lost. I mourn the slow, insidious way in which I’m dying. But then I stop mourning.”
Just like that?
“I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear. On you — if it’s Tuesday. Because we’re Tuesday people”
I grinned. Tuesday people.
“Mitch, I don’t allow myself any more self-pity than that. A little each morning, and few tears, and that’s all. “
I thought about all the people I knew who spent many of theirwaking hours feeling sorry for themselves. How useful it would be to put a daily limit on self-pity. Just a few tearful minutes, then on with the day. And if Morrie could do it, with such a horrible disease . . .
“It’s only horrible if you see it that way,” Morrie said. “It’s horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing. But it is also wonderful because of all the time I get to say good-bye.”
He smiled. “Not everyone is so lucky.”
I studied him in his chair, unable to stand, to wash, to pull on his pants. Lucky? Did he really say lucky?
In most aspects of life, attitude is everything. You don’t see things as they are; you see them as you are — and, each of us can choose to be thankful. I hope we will all make that choice this Thanksgiving.
p.s. In case you want a little Koppel vinegar to go with Morrie’s sweetness, I would like to second Ted Koppel’s final words in his final Nightline broadcast: ”You’ve always been very nice to me,” he told viewers last night, ”so give this new anchor team at ‘Nightline’ a fair break. If you don’t, the network will just put another comedy in this time slot, and then you’ll be sorry.
it’s my life’s autumn
but the moon
is a dewdrop world
being born human…
even to these old eyes–