In Buddhism, there is the belief that each of us has a little bird, always perched on our shoulder. This little bird chirps "Is today the day? Am I ready? Have I been the person I was meant to be? Have I given enough love, have I allowed myself to receive love?Is today the day I die"
This little bird, I imagine mine to be a blue jay, is supposed to be our reminder to live life fully with compassion and meaning, so that any day of our week, our month and our year, could be a day we leave this earth and feel like we've left a positive mark behind.
The lesson isn't to be morbidly obsessed with death; learning to die can teach us how to live.
At least, this was Morrie's opinion.
At the age of 78, he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It is a neurological disorder that slowly shuts off your entire body. It usually starts with your legs and spreads to your upper body, so you are made completely dependent on the people around you as you lose the ability to move. The cruel irony is that although you lose all sensation in your body, you can still feel pain.
Morrie's last months are immortalized in the best selling "Tuesdays with Morrie". I've been reading this memoir and I am being reinvigorated by Morrie's courageous journey into his death and the many insights he had on marriage, love, money and compassion.
My favorite quote; Without love, we are birds with broken wings.
In his last months, Morrie became totally dependent; he had to be assisted in all daily tasks such as washing, eating and going to the bathroom. His body withered away but his spirit remained strong and loving.
Every day, people streamed in and out of his house; Morrie was a teacher for over 30 years and his old students came to talk to him, his friends and family were there for him every step of the way. Strangers wrote to Morrie, pouring their hearts out to him and he wrote back, offering kind words. Even when he couldn't write anymore, he dictated to his friends what to write back.
He gave love until his last breath; whether it was through his words or a smile, he emphasized the importance to love and be compassionate.
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
Morrie said, while his own life slipped away from him.
The past two days, I've been mulling over this old teacher's journey.
It used to seem that my life was suspended in winter, I always needed a lover to feel alive.
These days, the beauty of the sun reflecting on the crisp snow, the freshness of the air and the strength of my dreams and goals fulfill me. The moments spent with my family and friends, and even those spent in isolation, seem...enough.
After all, I have my life ahead of me. I chose to listen to that little bird on my shoulder and live it to the fullest.