Mitch arrives at Morrie's house with his bags of food and a tape recorder. He tells Morrie that he wants to have Morrie’s voice recorded so he can listen to it later. Morrie adds that later is when he's dead, and Mitch denies that, making Morrie laugh. When Morrie comments on the size of the tape recorder, Mitch begins to feel overly intrusive and moves to put the recorder away. Morrie stops Mitch, tells him to put the recorder down, and says that he wants to tell Mitch his story before he can't tell it anymore.
Mitch has finally accepted that Morrie is indeed going to die, despite not wanting to talk about it outright. A tape recorder, a tool that Mitch uses in his job as a reporter, is now being used in a positive way rather than associated with the negativity of media. Morrie's intensity highlights his desire to teach and share, despite his initial apprehension about the tape recorder.
The narrative pauses and Mitch addresses the reader directly, saying that the tape recorder is more than nostalgia. Everyone—Morrie's family, former students, fellow professors—is losing Morrie, and tapes "are a desperate attempt to steal something from death's suitcase." But Mitch is realizing that Morrie lives life very differently from anyone else, and Morrie's time is short. Mitch says that he knows Morrie wants to share whatever clarity death brings.
While Mitch has always found Morrie to be an exceptional teacher, Morrie's impending death brings some clarity about the true value of what he has to teach. Mitch shows an understanding both for Morrie's desire to teach and the need for that type of teaching in the world.
Returning to their conversation, Mitch says that the first time he saw Morrie on Nightline, he wondered what Morrie regretted once he found out he was dying. Mitch turns the question back to himself, wondering what he'd regret if he were in Morrie's shoes. Morrie responds, affirming that the question of “what if it were my last day on earth” is a common one. Mitch imagines himself dying at his desk at work while his editors grab the half-finished story he's working on and medics carry him away.
Mitch, again, is willing to critically consider the depth of his involvement in his work culture, and can admit the absurdity of it.
Morrie picks up on Mitch's hesitation while Mitch has his vision of dying at work, and then offers that the culture at large doesn't encourage people to consider questions like that until death is imminent. He says that everyone is so wrapped up in the daily tasks of living, nobody steps back and asks themselves if they're fulfilled. Morrie finishes, saying that everyone needs someone to push them to consider those things. Mitch takes this to mean that we all need teachers, and his own teacher is Morrie.
With his realization that Morrie is Mitch's teacher for these subjects, Mitch sets himself up to accept the lessons. This also underscores an important aspect of the teacher/student relationship: that in order for a teacher to truly teach, the student has to be ready and willing to accept the lesson.
On the plane ride home, Mitch resolves to be the best student he can be. On a legal pad, he makes a list of questions and issues he feels everyone grapples with. He states that despite the fact that America is overflowing with different self-help methods, there are no clear answers. Morrie, however, seems to have a sense of clarity about what is important in life. Mitch's list includes death, fear, aging, greed, marriage, family, society, forgiveness, and a meaningful life.
Finally, we see Mitch make the change from a reluctant student to an active and engaged student.Mitch is clear about what he wants to learn, and also begins to step into the role of teacher as he notes that these feelings are universal. This begins to foreshadow the idea of the book itself.
At the beginning of Mitch's senior year at Brandeis, he's only a few credits short of a Sociology degree, and Morrie suggests he try for an honors thesis. He takes Morrie up on his suggestion, and writes a 112-page thesis on ritualistic football culture in America. Mitch shares that he's unaware that his thesis is training for his future career; he agrees to the thesis only because it means he takes an extra class with Morrie.
Morrie's suggestion and encouragement here with Mitch mirrors the encouragement Morrie received from his stepmother, Eva, which we'll see in the chapter “The Professor.” This reinforces both Morrie as a teacher and the familial relationship between Mitch and Morrie.
In Morrie's office at the end of Mitch's senior year, Morrie congratulates Mitch on completing his thesis. As Morrie flips through the thesis, he remarks to Mitch that he should return for grad school given the quality of his work. Mitch snickers, but finds the idea appealing. Part of Mitch is scared of leaving school while part of him wants desperately to leave.
Mitch is again experiencing the tension of opposites. He's looking forward to the future but also wants to freeze time by staying in school. This outlook stands in contrast to what Mitch becomes after his uncle dies, when he's purposefully moving extremely fast.