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Morrie Schwartz became an inspiration to millions of people because of his willingness to talk openly about the intimate aspects of facing his own imminent death through interviews with one of his former students and on Ted Koppels’ Nightline on ABC TV. In 1994, at the age of 77, Morrie learned he had ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease: incurable, disabling, fatal. People with degenerative or terminal illness often withdraw from others. Morrie, however, chose to live as fully as possible in the time he had left.

Among his final acts, was finishing the book that I listened to someone read on CD—an unforgettable guide to caring for the mind and spirit when the body grows frail. He began writing his thoughts on a legal pad, but had to dictate them to others as he lost the uses of his muscles in the latter stages of his illness. Listening to the book actually was uplifting for me. Not that Morrie necessarily said anything profound or new. What was inspiring was that Morrie could maintain the type of attitude that he did as he wasted away and neared death. I’m not sure I could face the same thing with such courage.

By the way Morrie grew up as an Orthodox Jew, became an agnostic as an adult, but became a spiritual seeker 10 years prior to the diagnosis of his illness. His faith grew stronger during his battle with ALS up until his death.

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