Tuesdays with Morrie is about death. The last book that I read about death was Philip Roth's Everyman and it left me thoroughly depressed. This book is by Mitch Albon and, for the most part, it left me unmoved. It focuses on a young man (Mitch) who was taken under the wing of his professor (Morrie) as an undergraduate. Mitch absorbed much of Morrie's socialistic, caring, thinking, anti-materialistic philosophy, then launched off into a life of capitalistic, greedy, celebrity led materialism.
Morrie's approaching death through ALS is a public one, Through a TV interview Mitch discovers that his old prof is dying and begins to visit him regularly (on Tuesdays, of course) right up until the end. Morrie is the sort of man who seems to drip pearls of philosophical wisdom as regularly we, of South-West England, drop aitches (the letter 'h') from the beginning of our words. Morrie's philosophy is somewhat homespun: there is much about the appreciation of nature, the importance of love, undying friendships and relationships. You can't criticise it, it's all good stuff, but all the same I found it a little mawkish. What Morrie and I would choose to do on our last healthy day before death would have little in common.
My mother died in the month of April this year, soon after her 93rd birthday. Last week, her bungalow was finally sold. In the intervening months her bits and pieces were distributed amongst the family, trashed, or given to charities. In a way this dismantling of a life by disposing of possessions is more painful that the death itself. It is as if you are delving into some one's inner privacy - and you are. There were no shocking discoveries, nothing like that, it's just... well a little distasteful. I can understand why sometimes rooms are sealed so that the dead person is somehow preserved. But, when all is said and done, my mother has gone. I had my 'Tuesdays' with her and we enjoyed each others company until the last. She was ready to go: her body had deteriorated naturally with age and most days were "bad days" towards the end. She often told me "I never wanted to live to this age". Nevertheless she died with her mental faculties mostly intact and was, until the last few weeks, living with the help of carers in her own home. My sisters and I were with her at the very end and the funeral was as she would have wanted (except that I let the side down; I broke down during my speech summarising her life and had to sit down, ah well).
I have written a novel which is, sort of, based on death though, like many others in the genre, it's really an opportunity to review some one's life. The novel Just Crossing is based on a real life experience. I met this much older man as I was travelling through the channel tunnel to France. He told me that he was on his way to Paris to meet his first love for the last time. He went on to talk about his life and that conversation became the genesis of my novel. You can download it from my bookshop (www.robsbookshop.com) if you wish. I am revising it at the moment. I wrote the story some time ago and it needed a revision - just editorial mainly, the basic story remains as it was: encapsulated in the time at which it was written.
As to death. I'm now aware that mine is no longer an unimaginably distant thing. I deal with this by savouring the remaining years. Akin to most I vaguely imagined that I might live forever, yet know now that I cannot. That's why I travel, keep visiting the pub and continue writing. Therein lies a sort of immortality perhaps.