I had a dream last night, a series of dreams actually, where I was a disembodied head hovering over a wheelchair. It was, undoubtedly, the result of reading Me Before You. I guess my mind was processing the quadriplegic experience. That was my unconscious mind. In my conscious mind, the phrase “Love each other or perish” kept popping up, over and over, so much so that I had to look up where the quote came from. The poet W.H. Auden said it. If it weren’t five words, I would have entered that in “Describe Me Before You in three words.” Love each other or perish.
The same theme was in Tuesdays With Morrie. That story was different yet similar. Morrie was an old man struggling with a progressive disease. Will was a young man struggling with a sudden accident. They both had to make huge accommodations in their lives. What they both are, are guides for the rest of us. What I learned from them (well, it greatly reinforced what I knew to be true) is this:
1.) Unexpected things, good and bad, really do happen….and sad things do happen to good people.
2.) Real intimacy (as in great friendships, great love) is the most important experience in your life.
3.) Be grateful for everything good. Every mundane thing. The orthodox Jews say a prayer for everything, including using the bathroom. It’s something like, “Thank you, Lord, for letting my body work.”
4.) Live with no regrets. Both Morrie and Will had interesting and purposeful lives. They worked hard to find work they loved and have experiences they wanted. They were active participants in life, not passive observers. At the end, they never had regrets of wasted time.
5.) Learn from others. Let everyone teach you something, challenge you, inspire you, shake you out of complacency. Even strangers. Even people we don’t particularly like can be a type of teacher, if only to show us how not to behave. Just listen, observe, and learn.
We have the power to bring ourselves and one another joy or misery, companionship or loneliness, right up to the very end. Even though other critical themes come up in this story, like whose life is this any way, who has the right to make decisions for you and tell you what to do, the theme of intimacy is what resonated with me.