The Five People You Meet in Heaven

  • THE AUTHOR MITCH ALBOM

    is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold over 28 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-one territories and in forty-two languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies.

     

    Mitch was born on May 23, 1958 in Passaic, New Jersey, the middle of three children to Rhoda and Ira Albom. The family moved to the Buffalo, N.Y. area briefly before settling in Oaklyn, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia.

     

    In 1995, he married Janine Sabino. That same year he re-encountered Morrie Schwartz, a former college professor who was dying of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His visits with Schwartz would lead to the book Tuesdays with Morrie, which moved Mitch away from sports and began his career as an internationally recognized author.

     

    His first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, is the most successful US hardcover first adult novel ever.

     

    All three of Albom’s best sellers have been turned into successful TV movies.

     

    Oprah Winfrey produced the film version of Tuesdays With Morrie in December 1999, starring Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. The film garnered four Emmy awards, including best TV film, director, actor and supporting actor.

     

    The critically acclaimed Five People You Meet in Heaven aired on ABC in winter, 2004. Directed by Lloyd Kramer, the film was the most watched TV movie of the year, with 19 million viewers.

     

    Most recently, Oprah Winfrey Presents Mitch Albom’s For One More Day aired on ABC in December 2007 and earned Ellen Burstyn a Screen Actors Guild nomination.

     

    THEME:

    Search for Identity

    American Dream or the American Nightmare

     

    GENRE: Fiction

    SETTING: Heaven and Ruby Pier from the 1920's through the 2000's



    MAIN CHARACTER            Eddie

    Eddie is a maintenance man at Ruby Pier, an amusement park near the ocean

    Eddie dies on his 83rd birthday while working at Ruby Pier. He dies trying to save the life of a little girl named “Amy” or “Annie” from a falling carnival ride 

    Eddie was born in an apartment near Ruby Pier. He grew up there. His father was also a maintenance man at Ruby Pier. Except for the years he was away in the Philippines during WWII, Eddie lived and worked at Ruby Pier his entire life. He met his wife at Ruby Pier.

     

    SETTING

    Ruby Pier, “ an amusement park by a great gray ocean”

    1920’s through 2003

     

    DEDICATION

    This book is dedicated to Edward Beitchman, my beloved uncle, who gave me my first concept of heaven. Every year, around the Thanksgiving table, he spoke of a night in the hospital when he awoke to see the souls of his departed loved ones sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for him. I never forgot that story. And I never forgot him.

     

    Everyone has an idea of heaven, as do most religions, and they should all be respected. This version represented here is only a guess, a wish, in some ways, that my uncle, and others like him—people who felt unimportant here on the earth—realize, finally how much they mattered and how they were loved.

     

    HEAVEN

    “People often belitlle the place where they were born. But heaven can be found in the most unlikely corners. And heaven itself has many steps.” (Page 34)

     

    “There are five people you meet in heaven… 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.” (Page 35)

     

    “This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.” ( Page 35)

     THE FIRST PERSON            The Blue Man

    CONNECTION/RELATIONSHIP TO EDDIE

     Worked at Ruby Pier when Eddie was a young boy.

    Died-heart attack trying to avoid hitting Eddie with his car.

    Eddie lived that day, and The Blue Man died.

     SETTING IN HEAVEN

     Ruby Pier

    Eddie’s childhood, early 1930’s.

     WHY THIS SETTINGH IS HEAVEN FOR THE BLUE MAN

     HEAVEN is Ruby Pier, because this is where he found acceptance.

    EDDIE AGE/HOW DOES HE FEEL PHYSICALLY

     Eddie feels like a young child, flexible, he can run, jump and skip.

     LESSON EDDIE IS TAUGHT/QUOTE FROM BOOK

     There are no random acts in life.

    Every person is connected to each other.

    Strangers are the family you do not know yet.

     SIGNIFICANT PASSAGE

     “Fathers can ruin their sons.” (Page 40)

     “I had agreed to join their carnival. And my life as a commodity had begun” (Page 41)

     “There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another that you can separate a breeze from the wind.” (Page 48)

     “It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect.” (Page 48)

     “Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.” (page 49)

     SYMBOLISM OF THE FERRIS WHEEL AND RUBY PIER

    ACCEPTANCE-Ruby Pier was the only place the Blue Man felt accepted for who he was, faults and all. He had a home, a job and friends at Ruby Pier. He could be himself.

     

    THE SECOND PERSON              The Captain

     CONNECTION/RELATIONSHIP TO EDDIE

     The Captain shot Eddie in the knee to save him during WWII. The Captain sacrificed his life to save Eddie and his other men and “Keep them together”.

     SETTING IN HEAVEN

     The Phillipine island where Eddie and the Captain were prisoners

     WHY IS THIS HEAVEN FOR THE CAPTAIN

     The Captain’s idea of Heaven is a world before there was WAR, a world without WAR.

     EDDIE AGE/HOW DOES HE FEEL PHYSICALLY

     Eddie feels like a young man in his twenties.

     Strong and Muscular

     Knee is not injured.

     LESSON EDDIE IS TAUGHT/QUOTE FROM BOOK

     Sacrifices are a part of life.

     When you lose something special, it is passed on to someone else.

     SIGNIFICANT PASSAGES

     “Young men go to war. Sometimes because they have to, sometimes because they want to. Always they feel they are supposed to. This comes from the sad, layered stories of life, which over the centuries have seen courage confused with picking up arms, and cowardice confused with laying them down. (Page 57)

     “Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It is not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother who works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father.” (Page 93)

     “Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.” (Page 94)

     SYMBOLISM OF THE FERRIS WHEEL AND RUBY PIER

    KEEPING A PROMISE-The juggling trick that Eddie learned at Ruby Pier allowed the Captain to save his men and to keep his promise. "the captain always promised he would leave no one behind, no matter what." (Page 64) "In the middle of a big war, you go looking for a small idea to believe in...For me, that little idea was what I told you guys every day. No one gets left behind."( Page 86) The soldiers also promised to meet again after the WWII at Ruby Pier.

     

    ­THE THIRD PERSON                    Ruby

     CONNECTION/RELATIONSHIP TO EDDIE

    Eddie and Ruby both wish that Ruby Pier had never been built.

    SETTING IN HEAVEN

    A diner in the mountains with beautiful snow filled with all the people hurt at Ruby Pier.

    WHY THIS IS HEAVEN FOR RUBY

    The diner is where she fell in love with her husband, Emile.

    It is set far away from the ocean where he was injured trying to save Ruby Pier.

    EDDIE AGE/HOW DOES HE FEEL PHYSICALLY

    Eddie feels 37 years old, the age he was when his father died and Ruby was in the hospital room.

    LESSON EDDIE IS TAUGHT

    Let go of your anger.

    Anger hurts you more than the person you are angry at.

    Forgiveness helps you and lets you move on.

    SIGNIFICANT PASSAGE

     “Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.  (Page 141)

     “Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven? … That’s because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it.” (Page 142)

    THE SYBOLISM OF THE FERRIS WHEEL AND RUBY PIER
    FORGIVENESS-The fire at Ruby Pier caused Emil's injury and illness. This made Ruby angry. She learned to forgive, because her anger was poisoning her on the inside.

     

     THE FOURTH PERSON                    Marguerite

     CONNECTION/RELATIONSHIP TO EDDIE

     Eddie’s Wife

    The Love of his Life

     SETTING IN HEAVEN

     Wedding Receptions

     WHY THIS IS HEAVEN FOR MARGUERITE

     Marguerite’s idea of Heaven is Every Wedding where “you can see the possibilities in their eyes” and “their love will break all the records”.

     EDDIE AGE/HOW DOES HE FEEL PHYSICALLY

     Eddie feels like he is "rotting away", about age 50. The age when Marguerite died.

     LESSON EDDIE IS TAUGHT/QUOTE FROM BOOK

     True love never dies

     SIGNIFICANT PASSAGE

     “Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food of tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” (Page 173)

    “Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” (Page 173)

    THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FERRIS WHEEL AND RUBY PIER
    HOME-
    Marguerite at the hospital looks back and sees the Ferris Wheel

    She calls it "Home." (Page 169)

     

    THE FIFTH PERSON             Tala

     CONNECTION/RELATIONSHIP TO EDDIE

     Eddie’s nightmares since the war. Tala died during World War II, in a hut Eddie set on fire, he killed her.

    SETTING IN HEAVEN

     A river filled with children playing in the water.

     WHY THIS IS HEAVEN FOR TALA

     Tala died in a fire. Water is the opposite of fire. Water puts out fire.

     EDDIE AGE/HOW DOES HE FEEL PHYSICALLY

     83 years old, the age he died, uses a cane again.

     LESSON EDDIE IS TAUGHT/QUOTE FROM BOOK

     Tala explained the meaning of Eddie's life. His job was important.

     SIGNIFICANT PASSAGE

     “Children, you keep them safe. You make good for me. Is where you were supposed to be, Eddie Main-ten-nance.” (Page 191)

     THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FERRIS WHEEL AND RUBY PIER

    SAFETY and REDEMPTION-Eddie kept children safe at the pier. He spent his life making up for killing Tala who was hiding in a place she thought was "safe".

    Inspiration: The Real Eddie

    The lead character in "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" is a grizzled war veteran named Eddie, who dies on his 83rd birthday. 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.

      I tell stories. 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. Someone would inevitably say, “Oh, no, not THAT one again,” but we would settle in and listen anyhow. I never minded. In fact, I loved it. Those stories made me feel part of something, gave me stories of my own, as if my elders’ tales, through their telling, could become my tales, too.

    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.

    Of course, we kids asked him breathlessly, “What did you do? What did you do?” And being the salty fellow he was, he shrugged and said, “I told them to get lost. I wasn’t ready for them yet.”

    I filed that story away in my head, but I never forgot it. And I never forgot my uncle, even as he aged into his 70’s and 80’s. 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 didn’t want to do any sequels. No “Wednesdays with Morrie.” No self-help series. 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.

    Somewhere, swimming in my head, was the image my uncle had given me around that table, a handful of people waiting for you when you die. And I began to explore this simple concept: what if heaven was not some lush Garden of Eden, but a place where you had your life explained to you by people who were in it – five people - maybe you knew them, maybe you didn’t, but in some way you were touched by them and changed forever, just as you inevitably touched people while on earth and changed them, too.

    And so, one predawn morning, coffee in hand, I sat down to write my next story, which now, several years later, is presented to you here. It’s a tale of a life on earth. It’s a tale of life beyond it. It’s a fable about love, a warning about war, and a nod of the cap to the real people of this world, the ones who never get their name in lights.

    This story is also a personal tribute to my uncle, whom I only wish could be here to read it.

    By the way, his name was Eddie.

    “YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU”

     Lyrics by Jimmy Monaco

    You made me love you
    I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it
    You made me love you
    and all the time you knew it
    I guess you always knew it.
    You made me happy sometimes, you made me glad
    But there were times, Dear, you made me feel so bad

    You made me sigh for, I didn't want to tell you
    I didn't want to tell you
    I want some love that's true, yes I do, deed I do, you know I do

    Give me, give me, give me what I cry for
    you know you got the brand of kisses that I'd die for
    You know you made me love you

    Performed by Al Jolson, Judy Garland and Patsy Cline