The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Author: Mitch Albom
Page Count: 196
By Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath
(UMCom) -- Have you ever pondered about heaven? Most of humanity has. From the moment we hear about heaven as a child until the day we die - - we ponder. Unlike a vacation, no one comes back to hand out souvenirs or gives you a three hour slideshow. So, as a result, we are left not knowing exactly what heaven is like, and everyone has their own notion of what it might be. We piece together an understanding from our ideas and influences. Mine looks something like when Hollywood meets the Book of Revelation. Recently, I found myself pondering this question again. However this time, I was inspired by an entirely new medium … a sports columnist.
Mitch Albom, known for his Detroit Free Press column, ESPN commentary and of course, his best-selling book Tuesdays with Morrie, now brings us his fictional ideas of the afterlife in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The story centers on a man named Eddie whose character
was inspired by Albom’s real uncle Eddie. While we may not specifically have an uncle Eddie of our own, we have all met the wise old, hardworking, middle-class, family man whom Eddie embodies.
|Albom alludes that while life and the afterlife are separated from each other physically, they are eternally bound emotionally. Our lives are not individual stories, but merely part of one big story. |
The story opens by explaining the day Eddie died, but the rest of the story explains why he lived. Thirteen birthdays and five encounters in heaven are woven together to reveal Eddie's “holistic existence.” Essentially, the birthdays show how he lived, and the encounters explained why he lived. Albom alludes that while life and the afterlife are separated from each other physically, they are eternally bound emotionally. Our lives are not individual stories, but merely part of one big story. We are all in community with each other whether we realize it or not. And, if I might add, regardless if we like it or not.
Basically, Eddie’s problems aren’t much different than our own. We are all searching for answers to the questions: Why are we here?; What difference will my life make?; and of course, Why do bad things happen to good people?” Albom’s book attempts to answer these questions through explanations from the five people we will meet in heaven. Surprisingly, these five people may not be those who we desire to meet in heaven. In fact, some of the people Eddie never really met on earth. By his first encounter, Eddie realizes that just because you have not met someone, or remembered them, does not mean your effect on another is not life changing.
While in heaven, Eddie never actually meets God. And yet, with every encounter he comes face-to-face with God through the power of forgiveness. It is God’s power of forgiveness that
actually alters Eddie’s life perspective, and reveals to him the true understanding of life. We read about forgiveness through the Scriptures, and we hear about it at church. During communion we are invited to speak our confession, be forgiven and forgive others. Yet, many of us do not fully implement forgiveness in our lives.
|We read about forgiveness through the Scriptures, and we hear about it at church. During communion we are invited to speak our confession, be forgiven and forgive others. Yet, many of us do not fully implement forgiveness in our lives. |
How many times do we walk out the door after an argument without apologizing? We feel horrible about it later and sometimes we apologize, but sometimes we are unable. How many times has our carelessness affected another? Or, how many times have we heard an apology and not granted forgiveness? All these unforgiven actions are burdens that Eddie carried around, and most of us do too. Could it be the life questions we struggle with are actually the answers Christ gave us long ago? It is in heaven Eddie figures this out.
In The Five People, Eddie was given a second chance to forgive and be forgiven. For Eddie, the second phase of life consisted of living with all the passion and love he had on earth, but without the burdens of guilt, shame and ignorance. Eddie’s encounters in heaven prove that peace comes from the one who forgives.
I found it hard to read this book without wondering who I might meet in heaven. I also began looking at the world and heaven more holistically, realizing “you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind” (p. 48). Five People is not just a story about Eddie, it is a story about us.
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The Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath is both a young adult and an associate minister at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Tucson, Ariz.
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