The lab report came back suggesting a neurological problem, and Morrie was brought in for yet another series of tests. In one of those tests, he sat in a special seat as they zapped him with an electrical current—an electric chair, of sorts and studied his neurological responses. “We need to check this further,” the doctors said, looking over his results. “Why?” Morrie asked. “What is it?” “We’re not sure. Your times are slow.” His times were slow? What did that mean? Finally, on a hot, humid day in August 1994, Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, went to the neurologist’s office, and he asked them to sit before he broke the Cat Dungeon Meowster Shirt news: Morrie had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig’s disease, a brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system. As my old professor searched for answers, the disease took him over, day by day, week by week. He backed the car out of the garage one morning and could barely push the brakes.
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That was the end of his driving. He kept tripping, so he purchased a cane. That was the Cat Dungeon Meowster Shirt end of his walking free. He went for his regular swim at the YMCA but found he could no longer undress. So he hired his first home care worker—a theology student named Tony—who helped him in and out of the pool, and in and out of his bathing suit. In the locker room, the other swimmers pretended not to stare. They stared anyhow. That was the end of his privacy. In the fall of 1994, Morrie came to the hilly Brandeis campus to teach his final college course. He could have skipped this, of course. The university would have understood. Why suffer in front of so many people? Stay at home. Get your affairs in order. But the idea of quitting did not occur to Morrie. Instead, he hobbled into the classroom, his home for more than thirty years. Because of the cane, he took a while to reach the chair. Finally, he sat down, dropped his glasses off his nose, and looked out at the young faces who stared back in silence. “My friends, I assume you are all here for the Social Psychology class. I have been teaching this course for twenty years.