“…all endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
by Mitch Albom
My rating* – 5
This review contains spoilers.
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer.
In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here? – Book Description courtesy Amazon
This is the kind of book you recommend to people…but NEVER lend your own copy because you won’t get it back. I actually have a copy just for lending. It’s a pretty easy read…you can read it in a weekend. But the themes are deep and I suppose depending on the stage you are at in your life, those themes can get deeper still.
I read this book shortly after my mum died and then again this month for my book club. I already know that this is a book I’ll read again more than once in my lifetime.
“No story sits by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.”
This is one of the major themes of this novel and for me most poignant. There are no random acts in this life. We are all connected in one way or another. Eddie was right where he was supposed to be. Despite him thinking that his life was just a life with no special purpose, therein held his purpose. To lead a regular, maintenance guy’s life and by doing so he achieved an even greater purpose…he was able to ensure that other people got to live theirs to the fullest by keeping the park rides safe.
“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.
…..I am your first person, Edward. When I died, my life was illuminated by five others, and then I came here to wait for you, to stand in your line, to tell you my story, which becomes part of yours. There will be others for you, too. Some you knew, maybe some you didn’t. But they all crossed your path before they died. And they altered it forever.” – Blue Man
There are no ordinary lives. You were put on this earth to achieve a specific purpose and when that is achieved you move on. Forgiveness, love, letting go are all necessary for Eddie to understand why he was on earth and what his time meant.
I especially loved that we start at the end of Eddie’s life. Albom, cleverly moves the story along by marking Eddie’s birthdays. Anyone who know’s me for all of two minutes, knows how much I love birthdays. I believe that, God chose this time in our history to bless this world with your presence, who are you not to acknowledge that? Celebrate away!
Eddie on the other hand…saw his birthdays as simply passing time. Not understanding that each year, brought more wisdom, each moment was significant for him. His life, my life…your life, is a series of beginnings and endings and most times we only see the importance of an event or “lesson” upon reflection. And this book is all about reflection and closure.
Eddie lacked “closure” in his life. He was abused by his dad, who withheld his love with no explanation. He was haunted by his war experience. He grieved for his dead wife and pretty much lived his life in the past, reliving old memories. Eddie was a frustrated old man. His “FIVE” helped him understand what happened so he could finally honor and let go of his past so he could move forward to the next stage of Heaven.
He finally understood that what he did while on earth was needed…the little things all made a huge difference in the lives around him. It all mattered, every trial, misstep, all the tears, hurt, joy, every choice, all added up and made a difference.
After he met his five, Eddie now waits in the line of five for another person…to help that person understand their life on earth because even in the after life we have a duty to help each other out.
No matter how you envision heaven, the after life or the great by and by to be…The Five People You Meet In Heaven will cause you to pause and examine some “profound” moments in your own life and consider their impact and meaning in the grand scheme of things.
*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”