A Tuesday With Mitch

WD: What prompted you to write and publish Tuesdays With Morrie?

Mitch Albom: Well, it was really a labor of love. I had been going to visit with Morrie on my own for several weeks and had begun taping our conversations really for my own sort of personal remembrance. About the third week of that in, I had asked Morrie, just innocently, what was his biggest fear with his disease, and I thought it would be something about the way he was going to d die, and he said, ”Well, I”m afraid of the debt I”m going to leave my family after I die.” And I couldn”t understand what he was referring to because he lived very frugally and I know he owned his house. So, I said, ”What do you mean by the debt”? And he said, ”Well, I”m in so much debt for my medical expenses over the last two years,” and it was then that I found out from dying at home very little of it is covered by your insurance, and he had a limited insurance to begin with and over a protracted disease like ALS for two some odd years, it really adds up. He had this enormous debt built uphe had no income, he had no means of paying off . . .

So, I had the idea that I wanted to raise money for him. I didn”t have it myself and I knew he wouldn”t take it from me as a gift, so the only thing I could think of, as a way to raise money, was to maybe write a book. I didn”t tell him about my idea for that because I didn”t want to raise his hopes on that if I couldn”t find someone who wanted to publish it. So, the following week I said, “Hey, how about if we work on a project together like a book or a paper or something.” And he said, ”Oh yeah, it”ll be like our last thesis together.” He was real enthused from an academic point of view, and I kept working on it trying to put together some kind of proposal. Finally, about three weeks before Morrie died, Doubleday cam through with an offer, and I was able to go to Morrie and say, ”Hey, I found somebody who wants to publish our book.” And he was all excited, he had never had a book publishedwell, he had two books published in the ”50s, both academic kind of booksand he said, ”Oh really, who”s going to publish it,” and I said, Doubleday.” And he said, ”Oh, I”ve heard of them,” and I said, “Yeah, and the good news is we”re going be able to pay off all your medical expenses with it,” and he began to cry.

I really, at that moment, had done everything I wanted to do with the book. Of course I hadn”t written it yet, but that was the whole purpose, and we took all the advance money and paid his bills. That was all it was ever supposed to be. It was just supposed to be this real labor of love to pay his medical bills. They printed 25,000 copies, and we thought, ”Well, if they sell those, we”ll be happy and that”ll be it. I”ll go back to writing sports books and things like that.”

The full interview with Mitch Albom appeared in the September 2001 issue of Writer”s Digest.

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