“That there are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” – Mitch Albom, The 5 People You Meet in Heaven
There are those books you read that seem to stay with you forever. They sit permanently in the back of your mind, forgotten until some small thing, a word, a song, even a smell, recalls them to your thoughts. One such book for me is The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I remember the hype around this book and his other most famous novel, Tuesdays with Morrie. It seemed every one and their mother had read them and were praising Mitch to the sky and back.
I’m not usually a joiner at the time a trend happens, so I didn’t read either until much later. (In fact, I still haven’t read Tuesdays with Morrie, yet.) The reason the love 5 People is because it beautifully hits the range of all the feelings that death and transformation bring. The disbelief, anger and resentment, even the wonder of it all.
Now if you haven’t read it yet, then I hope I’m not giving anything away by saying it’s about a man who dies and goes to Heaven. There he meets 5 people. With me so far? 😉 I won’t tell you much more than that because it is something that has to be experienced firsthand. The way that Mitch introduces each newcomer to the story is clever and sublime. Some of them are easy guesses, most though are not so much. But each person the main character meets has an important lesson to impart in order to help the him continue on his journey.
After I read it the first time, I did have to wonder who I would meet in heaven or in the next life. There are some people I’d dearly love to talk to and some I want to finally get some answers from. When my mother passed away several years ago, I desperately wanted to ask her all the unanswered questions in my life. Why had she made the choices she did? Why couldn’t she have been the mother I wanted or needed? I wanted finally to let her have and scream at her that her selfish, weak choices (in my eyes) ruined so much of my life. I wanted to finally drop the pretense and get really real and frankly really mean.
Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the 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.
I remember clearly the last day I saw her. I cam to visit her in the hospice where she had been taken a few days before. She was sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb her rest. So I went out to the little garden area in the back of the hospice and sat on a bench for a while. There I envisioned all the things I had wanted to say for years. Venting all my anger, frustration and confusion at an entity that was hovering between life and death. I didn’t get the actual, factual answers I craved but I finally found a sense of peace for having spoken my feelings.
Though we want to learn why some things happened as they did, the bigger lesson to be taken from this book is that that we’re truly all connected.
Lives are changed through missing friends, loved ones and even strangers, who are but “family we have yet to come to know”. All lives intersect in a painfully beautiful and unimaginably intricate web of life and energy. What we choose to do with our time in this web is what makes it a glorious adventure.
You don’t have to believe in the traditional heaven to get something profound out of this book. Whatever your beliefs are about the afterlife, one thing I think most people can agree on is that there is much more than we could possibly imagine. I believe Mitch Albom did a fantastic job of imagining his version of heaven. And the final, perhaps best, lesson to take away from this small but mighty novel is that “’Life has to end, she said. ‘Love doesn’t.’”