Particular letter came from a schoolteacher in

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particular letter came from a schoolteacher in Pennsylvania who taught a special class of nine children; every child in the class had suffered the death of a parent. “Here’s what I sent her back,” Morrie told Koppel, perching his glasses gingerly on his nose and ears. “‘Dear Barbara … I was very moved by your letter. I feel the work you have done with the children who have lost a parent is very important. I also lost a parent at an early age …’” Suddenly, with the cameras still humming, Morrie adjusted the glasses. He stopped, bit his lip, and began to choke up. Tears fell down his nose. “‘I lost my mother when I was a child … and it was quite a blow to me … I wish I’d had a group like yours where I would have been able to talk about my sorrows. I would have joined your group because … “ His voice cracked. “… because I was so lonely … “ “Morrie,” Koppel said, “that was seventy years ago your mother died. The pain still goes on?” “You bet,” Morrie whispered.
The Professor He was eight years old. A telegram came from the hospital, and since his father, a Russian immigrant, could not read English, Morrie had to break the news, reading his mother’s death notice like a student in front of the class. “We regret to inform you …” he began. On the morning of the funeral, Morrie’s relatives came down the steps of his tenement building on the poor Lower East Side of Manhattan. The men wore dark suits, the women wore veils. The kids in the neighborhood were going off to school, and as they passed, Morrie looked down, ashamed that his classmates would see him this way. One of his aunts, a heavyset woman, grabbed Morrie and began to wail: “What will you do without your mother? What will become of you?” Morrie burst into tears. His classmates ran away. At the cemetery, Morrie watched as they shoveled dirt into his mother’s grave. He tried to recall the tender moments they had shared when she was alive. She had operated a candy store until she got sick, after which she mostly slept or sat by the window, looking frail and weak. Sometimes she would yell out for her son to get her some medicine, and young Morrie, playing stickball in the street, would pretend he did not hear her. In his mind he believed he could make the illness go away by ignoring it. How else can a child confront death? Morrie’s father, whom everyone called Charlie, had come to America to escape the Russian Army. He worked in the fur business, but was constantly out of a job. Uneducated and barely able to speak English, he was terribly poor, and the family was on public assistance much of the time. Their apartment was a dark, cramped, depressing place behind the candy store. They had no luxuries. No car. Sometimes, to make money, Morrie and his younger brother, David, would wash porch steps together for a nickel.

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