We all have different ideas of what the afterlife may be, or if there is an afterlife at all. While our own demise tends to be one of the most mundane facts of life to think about, author Mitch Albom addresses it ever so gracefully in his novel, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.”
The book, dedicated to his uncle, is only an “attempt” at what Heaven may be. His wish though, is that whatever version of Heaven that does exist is one that accepts those, like his Uncle, who felt unimportant here on Earth. In Albom’s version of Heaven, everyone will recognize the interconnected nature of our lives, and that everyone is loved by someone.
“The Five People You Meet in Heaven” begins, as you might have expected, at the end of Eddie’s life. He was an old, somewhat grumpy man that worked as the head of maintenance at a place called Ruby Pier. Eddie hadn’t done much else in his life besides fixing the amusement park rides at Ruby Pier, besides going off to fight in the war as a young man. While he loved Ruby Pier, he often wished he could have made more of himself, and he lived with that regret until the day he died.
On his 83rd birthday, Eddie was killed while trying to rescue a little girl from the impact of a malfunctioning amusement park ride. A gruesome end to an extremely average life, but Eddie’s journey was most certainly not over yet.
Eddie awakens in his afterlife uninjured and energetic and surprisingly calm. The first person he comes across in this new place is named Joseph Corvelzchik, a man with argyria who used to work at the sideshow attraction at Ruby Pier when Eddie was a young boy. Joseph tells Eddie that he has died, and that he will now begin a journey through the five stages of Heaven. At each stage, Eddie gets to meet someone that has had a significant impact on his life, or that he has had a significant impact on theirs.
Along with Joseph, Eddie encounters his former Captain in the army, a diner waitress named Ruby, his late wife Marguerite, and a young Filipina girl named Tala. Through this journey, Eddie realizes how his life has intertwined with each of these individuals, and how even in the most unlikely circumstances, we play a part in the company we keep.
There is a significant lesson to learn from each individual that Eddie meets, and I believe that each lesson is one that every reader can take away and apply in their own lives. For the longest time, I had been looking for a book that would provide some moral or spiritual enlightenment. In the shuffle of this fast paced life, it’s easy to forget the relationships we have established, and ignore the ones we have not. Either way, we have something to learn from everyone.
I would recommend this book over, and over, and over again. It’s a beautiful way of discovering your own self worth, through the eyes of an individual who believed he had none. As a firm believer in the rather cliche mantra, “Everything happens for a reason,” I have found that though Eddie didn’t realize his own impact on the world until after his death, it’s never too late to realize your own impact on the world. Albom’s idea