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This isn't technically a book that I read when I was in the properly defined age
group, but looking back at this book it is probably the book that has had the largest
impact on my life, and had it been out when I was younger would have been a book
that I would have read. I read this book after I had finished reading Tuesdays with
Morie by the same author. Now I have read a lot of books in my life and I can't think of
one that has had a more profound affect on me than The Five People you Meet in
Heaven by Mitch Albom.
It is the story of a man named Eddie who for almost his whole life was the
maintenance man at an amusement park called Ruby Pier. The story starts with the end
of Eddie's life on Earth and the beginning of his journey through heaven. The basic
story wasn't what got to me, it was the lessons Eddie learns along the way as he meets
the five people he was to meet in heaven.
Throughout the book we are introduced to people from his past, some he knew
and some were just a glimpse in his life. They all had something that they had to teach
Eddie about life. Each had a different lesson that Eddie needs to understand before he
can move on in heaven.
The first person that Eddie meets was a member of the freak show his name was
Joseph Corvelzchchik, and he was known as the "blue man" and I think that out of all
the people Eddie meets he has the most thought provoking quotes. The blue man died
when Eddie was a young boy. Eddie was playing catch with some friends and had run
into the road in front of the car that the blue man was driving. The blue man managed
to avoid hitting and killing Eddie, but subsequently had a heart attack and died from
the anxiety of the close call.
Upon hearing this Eddie feels awful and asks why the blue man died instead of
Eddie. The blue man assures him that it was okay and that everything happens for a
reason. "There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more
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separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind". This
was the first lesson for Eddie. That everything happens for a reason and that
no life is a waste. "No life is a waste, the only time we waste is the time we spend
thinking that we are alone."
The next person that Eddie meets is his Sargent from the war. He tells Eddie
about how he, the Sargent, died, and how that enabled the rest of the company to
survive. He told Eddie that it had been him who had shot him, in order to save his life.
Eddie had become convinced that he saw someone in a burning building, and to
prevent Eddie from going in there and losing his life, the Sargent shot him in the leg.
The lesson that the Sargent had to teach Eddie was about sacrifice. "Sometimes
when you sacrifice something precious you're not really losing it, you're just passing it
on to someone else." In other words, the Sargent sacrificed Eddie's leg to save his
life, and he also sacrificed his life in order to preserve the lives of his men.
The third person, is one that Eddie never meet. Her name was Ruby and she
was the woman that the pier he had grown up on was named after. Ruby told Eddie of
her life and how the pier came to be. She told Eddie things that he had never known
about his family and especially about his father's death. The lesson that she had to
teach Eddie was about forgiveness. "No one is born with anger," Ruby tells Eddie
this as she is explaining that he needs to let go of his hatred for his father. That for him
to move on he needs to figure out why he felt this way and to finally forgive his father
for the way things were in the past.
After Ruby Eddie finally met the person he had been waiting to meet, his wife
Marguerite. They had met at Ruby pier and were married up until the day she passed
away from cancer. They never had any children, and she was the love of his life. And
fittingly what she had to teach Eddie was about love, and lost love. "Lost love is still
love, Eddie. It takes a different form that's all... but when these senses weaken another
heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You
dance with it. Life has to end, love doesn't"
Th final person in Eddie's heaven was a small Asian girl. She explains to Eddie
that her name is Tala. And that Eddie had killed her. During the war when Eddie was in
the Philippines and they burned down the building and Eddie thought that he had seen
someone in it, it had been Tala. Eddie had been right, he had seen someone in the fire.
She explained to him that her death was not in vain, and that neither was Eddie's. His
whole life Eddie felt that his life was a waste, that he did nothing of any importance.
Tala explained to him that "because of the simple mundane things Eddie had done in
his life" he had made a huge difference in the world. Because of all the time that
he had spent making sure that rides were safe, he saved hundreds of life. That in the
grand scheme of it all Eddie had spent his entire life making up for Tala's death.
The thing that really holds me to this day about this book is all the lessons that
are learned. The idea that everything that happens has meaning, that despite how
large the world seems at times, that it really isn't. That everyone everywhere is
connected and that the small things that we think don't have an effect on anything,
really do have an effect on everything. It's the idea that there are people who touch
our lives, and whose lives we touch that we aren't even aware of. That a butterfly flaps
it's wings and half way around the world a tidal wave starts.
Albom, Mitch. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. New York.
Hyperion Books. 2003.