Mitch Albom's 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' () - Rotten Tomatoes
This quote comes from the opening chapter of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, during which the narrator is counting down the remaining. I thought it resonated with profound emotion and insight into the human condition . Humans aren't that complicated, but we sure do have a way. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom: Important Quotes and Analysis.
The character was inspired by my real-life uncle, Edward Beitchman, who was also a World War II veteran, who also died at 83, and also lived a life like that of the fictional character, rarely leaving his home city, and often feeling that he didn't accomplish what he should have. The pictures here are of the "real" Eddie. The text is from an essay I wrote years ago about my uncle Eddie.
For awhile I told stories through music and then I told stories in newspapers and later I told stories in books, the best known being Tuesdays with Morrie, a story about my old teacher who was living to the fullest even as he was dying. But before I started telling stories, I heard them. My family loved to rattle them off, especially the senior members, grandparents and uncles and aunts, usually around a Thanksgiving table, always with plates of food close at hand. These were stories about family, history, war, some might have even been closer to fairy tales.
In fact, I loved it. One I always remembered was told each year by a favorite uncle of mine, a squat, ex cab driver who had served in World War II and was a pretty gritty guy. He talked of a night when he went to the hospital with a raging fever. In the middle of that night, he said, he woke up and saw his dead relatives, waiting for him at the end of his bed.
What did you do? As I got older, I saw him as a tough, devoted but sad old man who never got to see his dreams fulfilled and never really knew how much we loved him. When time came for me to write something after Tuesdays with Morrie, I moved slowly.
I wanted to return to the world of stories, to delve deeper into life and death and the connections between the two - which lead me, inevitably, to the idea of heaven. Eddie then finds himself awake and uninjured and realizes that he feels young and much more energetic.
He also felt calm when he landed. He meets a man known simply as "the Blue Man" who suffered from argyria caused by silver nitrate poisoning and worked at Ruby Pier's sideshow while it was still open, during the days of Eddie's childhood and whose real name is Joseph Corvelzchik. Through their conversation, Eddie finds out that he is dead, has gone to Heaven and has embarked on a journey through five levels of Heaven, at each step meeting another person who has had a significant impact upon his life, or upon whom he has had a significant impact.
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He also finds the reason for his sudden energy, youth, and stamina - in the five stages of Heaven, you will feel exactly the same way you did young, old, healthy, sick, strong, weak as you did when you knew the person you are meeting.
Eddie asks why Joseph, whom he does not know, is his first person, and Joseph informs Eddie that he died when Eddie and his brother threw a baseball which landed in the middle of the road, this caused The Blue Man to have a heart attack and pull over the car and collapse. From this, Eddie learns his first lesson which is that there are no random events in life and all individuals and experiences are connected in some way.
The second person that Eddie meets is his former captain from the army, whom Eddie finds sitting in a tree in a Philippine rainforest. The Captain reminds Eddie of their time together as prisoners of war in a forced labor camp.
Their group escaped after a lengthy period of time and burned the camp during their escape as an act of relieving some of the stress placed upon them during their long stretch in captivity.
Eddie remembers that he had seen a shadow running from one of the huts that he set aflame, although he never identified the figure. The Captain confesses that he was the one who shot Eddie in the leg to prevent Eddie from chasing the shadow into the fire, which would have certainly caused Eddie's death because he promised that "no one gets left behind".
This saved Eddie's life despite leaving him with a lifelong injury and severe limp that Eddie repeatedly blames as the main reasons for his never achieving a life outside of Ruby Pier, a place he had grown to loathe in his old age due to his mother's failing faculties making his father's taken-over job and a life at the pier impossible to escape.
Eddie then learns how the Captain died — something he had never put much thought into before, as the men in his platoon had lost touch with each other after the war, and Eddie was in no condition at the time to fully realize what had happened after his injury.
Five People You Meet In Heaven Important Quotes
As the Captain and his men were making their escape from the prison camp, the men tended Eddie's leg in the back of the truck as the Captain cleared the path ahead.
While he was scouting the road in front of the truck, the Captain stepped on a land mine that would have killed all the men had he not set it off.
Instead, the battlefield became the Captain's final resting place and Eddie learns his second lesson — the importance of sacrifice, both big and small. After this revelation, the Captain shows Eddie the true nature of his Heaven, which is not in fact the battlefield that Eddie remembers.
The war-torn environment around them makes way to the most serene, beautiful nature landscape that Eddie has ever seen. Eddie looks at the Captain to see a man he hardly recognized without the layer of ash and dirt on his face - a young man in a pristine, clean army uniform who explains that for his Heaven he wished to see what the world was like before war, fighting, conflicts, and cruelty.
Eddie watches the Captain walk away after he tosses Eddie his old combat helmet. Inside the helmet, Eddie finds a foreshadowing of things to come: The scene changes and Eddie finds himself outside in a snowdrift, but he notices that the snow is neither cold nor wet.
He notices a diner where he sees his father through a window and begins yelling and pleading for his attention. When his father appears to not be able to see or hear him, a well-dressed woman named Ruby appears and introduces herself to him. He assumes she must have been rich based on the manner of her clothing.
She tells him that she has not always been this way and proceeds to explain to Eddie her story. Ruby tells Eddie that she had once worked as a waitress at the diner and explains that Ruby Pier was named after her by her husband Emile, who built it in tribute to her.
Emile was wounded while fighting a fire that burned much of Ruby Pier and later died from pneumonia. Ruby confesses that she picked the diner because that was where she had met Emile and wanted the diner to be a refuge for anyone who had ever been hurt in any way by Ruby Pier, which she grew to despise as it took so much away from them.
This is the reason that Eddie's father, a harsh and abusive man, became a part of Ruby's Heaven. Ruby teaches Eddie to release his anger and forgive his father for all the trouble and hurt he had caused, only after she showed him the true cause of his father's death different from what he had always believed had happened.
Truly Inspiring Five People You Meet in Heaven Quotes
Mickey Shea, a man who worked on rides at Ruby Pier with Eddie's father, was at Eddie's house drunk and in a terrible emotional state. He pulls out a flask, downs it, and then proceeds to try and force himself onto Eddie's mother.
Eddie's father walks in at this point and manages to stop the drink fueled rape, then chases Mickey all the way to the pier, where Mickey jumps into the freezing water as an attempt to evade him, even though unable to swim. Eddie's father jumps in after Mickey and saves him instead as they had long been friends and he felt he owed him despite his recent drunken behavior towards his wife.
Eddie's father later dies after falling ill due to being in the freezing water when he rescued Mickey. Ruby tells Eddie that he needs to forgive his father and tells him that hatred was a deadly weapon, "We think it attacks the person we hate, but hatred has a curved blade, it also attacks us". Then Eddie moves on to another heaven. Eddie now awakens in a room with several doors. Behind each of the doors, there is a wedding from a different culture and Eddie meets his late wife, Marguerite, in one of the weddings.
They spend an extended period together, moving from one wedding to the next and catching up on all the things they had not been able to share since Marguerite's death. They remember their own wedding, and in the end, Marguerite teaches Eddie that love is never lost in death, it just moves on and takes a different form. He begs her forgiveness for never making more of his life, never leaving his job at the pier, and for not giving her a better life she so richly deserved. However, she answers that she loved the fairground and their life on the pier, and the only thing she regretted was them not being able to have any children.
He replies that all he would've changed is to have had even more time together with her, for it not to have been cut short like it was by her early death. Marguerite's love for weddings comes from the look in all the brides and grooms' eyes right before the ceremony; the shared feeling that their love will without a doubt break all the records.
Marguerite asks Eddie at one point if he believed they had that; he simply replied, "We had an accordion player", to which they both laugh. Eddie and Marguerite's wedding was on the rented top floor of a Chinese restaurant and was very low-budget, but the couple holds nothing but fond memories of the occasion - in Eddie's house, Dominguez finds a case of sentimental objects, including a restaurant menu from their wedding night.
When Eddie awakens to a new scene, his fifth and last, he sees children playing along with a riverbed and a young Filipina girl named Tala waves and comes up to him. They attempt to understand each other, but finally, Tala manages to communicate and reveal that she was the little girl from the hut that Eddie set on fire. And Eddie finally realizes that shadow he had seen all those years ago in the burning hut, and in his nightmares for most of his life afterward, was indeed not imagined - the little girl had been that shadow attempting to flee the flames.
The girl shows Eddie the burns that she suffered when dying from the fire, as her previously clear skin turns to burnt flesh and scars. Eddie is absolutely distraught and breaks down both cursing and asking God "why? The little girl walks into the river and hands him a stone and asks him to "wash" her like the other children in the river are doing to one another. Eddie is puzzled, tells her he doesn't know how, but then slowly attempts to do as she asks. He dips the stone in the water and starts to scrape off the injuries he had inflicted on her; and soon to his surprise, Tala's wounds begin to clear until she is freed of all the scars.
Eddie then asks Tala if she knows if he was able to save the little girl he attempted to save before his death. He tells her he fears that he failed to save her and he remembers feeling the little girl's hands in his just before his death. But Tala tells him he did indeed manage to save her, he had actually pushed her out of the way and then reveals that it was her Tala's hands that Eddie had felt instead as she pulled him safely up to Heaven.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven Quotes
So in reality, Eddie did manage to save the girl at Ruby Pier. Tala teaches Eddie that his life was not for nothing and that its purpose was to protect all the many children at Ruby Pier through his care for the safety of the rides.
In this way, Tala explains, he also managed to atone every day for her unnecessary death. He is shown a vision of all the many people he saved along the years by his maintenance work, and consequently all their children's children down the generations. For he wants everyone to be free of accidents, everyone safe. He is once again told that every life touches another and that everything is connected, it is all one big life.