Thebook begins with Mitch, the narrator, describing the final class of his old professorMorrie's life. He describes where it was taught – Morrie's study, where Morrie could see his hibiscus plant, on Tuesdays – and what was taught: The Meaning of Life. Mitch lists the occasional physical tasks he was required to perform, such as adjusting Morrie's head or helping him with his glasses, and then a list of lecture topics (love, community, aging, and death, among others). Rather than a graduation, the class ended with a funeral, and instead of a final exam, Mitch was expected to produce a final paper, which is this book and the story to follow. Mitch is the only student of this final class.
By situating the narrative in terms of a final class, the reader is invited to partake in the class with Mitch and become a student of Morrie's. From the beginning, then, the teacher/student relationship is introduced and brought full circle to not just encompass Mitch and Morrie, but the reader as well. By making it very clear that a death is inevitable, and will be a continuing theme, the text sets itself up as a meditation on death.
The story jumps back in time to the spring of 1979, on the day that Mitch graduates from Brandeis University. Mitch describes the heat, the speeches, and the feeling that childhood has ended.
Mitch has just completed his formal education—a major life change, and a marker of growing up and becoming an adult.
When the ceremony is over, Mitch finds his favorite professor,Morrie, and introduces him to his parents. Morrie embarrasses Mitch by telling his parents that Mitch is special and took every class thatMorrie taught. Before leaving the ceremony, Mitch presents Morrie with an initialed leather briefcase, and Morrie hugs Mitch. Mitch marvels at his own height and how much smaller Morrie is, and says the difference makes him feel old and almost like a parent. When Morrie asks Mitch if he'll stay in touch, he immediately agrees, and Morrie cries.