The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Summary and Analysis of The Fourth Lesson - The Fifth Person Eddie Meets in Heaven


Chapter 11 - The Fourth Lesson:

The fourth lesson is about the eternal nature of love. Marguerite points out that although her physical presence passed on at the age of forty-seven, her love for Eddie can never expire; In that way, she has always been right beside him. In the aftermath of Eddie’s death, Dominguez and a nameless estate attorney comb through Eddie’s apartment for valuables. Eddie’s sparse, neat, and practical living space reflects the fact that he lived in simple isolation during the latter years of his life. Nothing in his apartment holds any monetary value. The attorney eventually finds the papers he needs and mentally dismisses Eddie as a man who had little to show for his life.

Chapter 12 - The Fifth Person Eddie Meets in Heaven:

Marguerite is gone and Eddie is surrounded by a pure white nothingness. He can only hear the sound of children laughing. As the white gives way to color, the scene comes into clearer focus to reveal hundreds of brown-skinned children playing beside a river, having fun doing what children do. Then, a little girl stands apart from the crowd and beckons Eddie to come closer.

It is Eddie’s 51st birthday, his first since Marguerite’s death. Eddie had wanted to stop celebrating his birthday after Marguerite's accident, but she kept insisting. Now that she is gone, he has no reason to do anything special. After that, the birthdays keep coming, one after the other; Eddie turns sixty, and soon, he is sixty-eight, then seventy-five. When Eddie turns eighty-two, he spends his birthday visiting the graves of his parents, his brother, and finally, Marguerite. 


Albom uses short flashbacks of successive birthdays to invoke the monotony that marks Eddie’s twilight years. After Marguerite's death, Eddie's birthdays pass unnoticed; watching his friends and loved ones die off one by one makes Eddie increasingly aware of his fragile mortality. He becomes isolated as he gets older, as there is nobody with whom he can discuss his feelings of confusion, loss, and regret. The young become masters of the world around him, immersed in self- importance, while Eddie watches from the sidelines. He has gotten off the train that forges into the future; he is waiting for a new journey to begin.

Eddie's outlook becomes decidedly pessimistic after Marguerite dies. Marrying her is the only decision he never feels regretful about. Eddie seems to have wanted something different for every other aspect of his life. Once Marguerite is gone, the color recedes from Eddie's world and his regret consumes him; he dwells on all of the things he did not accomplish as opposed to appreciating the lives he touched and the impact he made. It is clear throughout the novel that Marguerite will somehow figure into Eddie's version of eternity, but first, he must learn to see appreciate the value in the other parts of his life.

Albom designed the architecture of The Five People You Meet in Heaven to build Eddie's character in a sympathetic way. He alludes to the novel's unique structure by starting the novel with a chapter titled "The End" and the words, "It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time" (1). At the beginning, Albom presents Eddie as a lonesome hero. At 83, he is the master of his domain (Ruby Pier), and hardened against the injustices of the world. While he is loyal and generous to the park's patrons and employees, Eddie distances himself from any emotional involvement with them. In the moments before his death, Eddie does not realize the value of his life. This is why he is so eager to find out whether or not the young girl at the park survived. By keeping the truth of the girl's fate a mystery, Albom is able to explain the other facets of Eddie's character and highlight the ways in which he did make a positive impact on the world - before the accident at Ruby Pier. As Eddie and the reader uncover the significant moments in Eddie's 83 years, the girl's survival becomes less and less important. We soon see that the heroic gesture that ended Eddie's life was just one in a string of many - even if the girl did die, it does not diminish Eddie's inherent moral value. 

Similarly, just because the physical manifestation of Eddie's later life is decidedly unimpressive to an outsider, it does not mean that Eddie's life did not have meaning. After surveying Eddie’s possessions, the estate attorney measures Eddie by his lack of monetary wealth. The attorney frowns upon opening Eddie's brown leather box, finding "nothing important. No bank statements. No insurance policies. Just a black bow tie, a Chinese restaurant menu, an old deck of cards, a letter with an army medal, and a faded Polaroid of a man by a birthday cake, surrounded by children" (177). Neither the uppity lawyer or Dominguez can understand the meaning behind the random collection of objects they find in Eddie's apartment. 

However, Albom strategically places this scene at a point in the novel when the reader can identify these items as souvenirs from priceless moments in Eddie's life. Eddie's brother Joe wore the black bow tie to the Blue Man's funeral, the menu is from the restaurant where Eddie and Marguerite got married, Eddie's father used to play the cards, Eddie received the medal for his military service, and the photograph is from the time Marguerite surprised Eddie at work with a cake. These physical symbols allow Albom to underline his point: a man's life is worth more than material goods can measure. Eddie may not have left behind any impressive wealth, but it would not have been worth anything Heaven anyway. These objects represent significant moments that Eddie must reconcile before he can complete his journey into a blissful eternity, but Eddie does not need to take these objects with him to benefit benefit from their value; he will carry each of these lessons in his heart and soul.