Chapter 7 - The Second Lesson
Eddie and the Captain are standing at the Captain’s burial spot. There is no funeral, there is no coffin; “...only [the Captain's] shattered skeleton and the muddy earth” (91). The Captain tells Eddie not to feel guilty because death is not the end, it is merely the beginning. He goes on to say that sacrifice is an essential part of life and "nobody ever dies for nothing." The Captain also points out that even though he died, he was able to keep his promise: nobody was left behind. Although Eddie lost some use of his leg, he also survived the war and was therefore able to touch the lives of others. As for the Captain, the landmine was simply the end of one path. Eddie forgives the Captain for his leg injury and with that, the Captain walks away. Their meeting is now over; the Captain had been waiting for Eddie and now both of them can move on. The landscape becomes green and lush again, as it looked before war destroyed it. At this point, Eddie still does not know if he saved the little girl at the amusement park. In the present day at Ruby Pier, Dominguez and his co-worker feel Eddie’s absence. The park has been shut down because of the tragedy.
Chapter 8 - The Third Person Eddie Meets in Heaven
Back in Heaven, Eddie notices a grand mountain range surrounding a black lake. Eddie sees a light in the distance and follows it through the snow. He eventually arrives at an old-fashioned diner with an “Eat” sign above it. When Eddie peers into the diner, he sees people from all different eras in history talking and eating but paying no attention to the figure outside the window. Finally, Eddie spots a familiar man sitting in the corner booth - his father.
This time, it is Eddie’s twenty-fourth birthday. He has returned from war and is recovering at the V.A. hospital. His family and Marguerite surround him and sing; his mother has brought a cake. Eddie is thankful but only feels the pain of his wounded leg and his father’s silent indifference. Albom comments, “all parents damage their children….. it cannot be helped” (104). His observation leads the narrative into Eddie's childhood, where the reader learns that Eddie’s father was a violent alcoholic who regularly projected his insecurities onto his two sons. Both Joe and Eddie endured their father’s beatings to deflect the abuse from their mother. There were times when Eddie's father showed him moments of appreciation - like when Eddie protected his brother from bullies. For the most part, though, Eddie longed for his father's approval - even shadowing his duties at Ruby Pier - but to no avail.
In the V.A. hospital, Eddie barely speaks to his father. The darkness of combat has left Eddie introverted and emotionally damaged. For months afterwards, Eddie barely leaves his parents' home. One night, Eddie’s father comes home, drunk again, and admonishes Eddie for not getting a job. Eddie’s father then tries to strike him. However, Eddie he is now a hardened soldier; He dodges his father’s blow and grabs the old man's arm in mid-swing. Eddie's father refuses to forgive his son for defending himself. Eddie’s mother pleads with Eddie’s father to let his anger go, but Eddie's father simply insists, “That boy raised a hand to me” (110). Eddie's father remains silent while his older son gets a job as a cab driver and when he moves into his own apartment. He does not say a word when Eddie and Marguerite get married.
In Heaven, Eddie is still absorbing the shock of seeing his father in the diner when he meets an old woman: his third encounter. She is dressed in period clothing that indicates she must have been wealthy. She gently tells Eddie that his father cannot hear him and takes Eddie away from the diner. Eddie says that he can never forgive his father, but the old woman offers him an important lesson, saying, "You have peace when you make it with yourself" (113). The old lady eventually reveals herself to be Ruby, after whom Ruby Pier was named. Ruby fills Eddie in on some of the details of her life, including how her beloved husband, Emile, bought the park and named it after her.
It is Eddie’s thirty-third birthday and he wakes up in the middle of the night with one of his post-traumatic nightmares. He is married to Marguerite now, and she has baked him a cake and bought some taffy as a reminder of their first date on Ruby Pier. The celebration is interrupted when the couple learns that something terrible has happened to Eddie’s father.
In Heaven, Eddie finally recognizes Ruby from her picture in the Ruby Pier marketing materials. Her image had once adorned the entrance to Ruby Pier but was destroyed, along with the rest of the park, in a Fourth of July fire. The fire cost Ruby and Emile their fortune. Eddie now knows that Ruby is somehow connected to his father's death. The narrative returns to Eddie’s thirty-third birthday; Eddie's mother tells him that his father contracted pneumonia after coming home smelling like booze and the ocean.
In order to save his father's job at Ruby Pier, Eddie takes over the old man's responsibilities and keeps driving the cab during the day. Eddie's mother suffers from a psychotic break after her husband's death, so Eddie and Marguerite move into an apartment in the same building in order to take care of her. Eddie is bitter because he is now locked into a life at Ruby Pier even though he swore he would never end up there. On Eddie’s thirty-seventh birthday, he meets his friend Noel for breakfast. They discuss a recent tragedy at another amusement park. Eddie thinks about how he works hard to keep Ruby Pier safe.
The Captain delves deeper into the unfairness of life and death. Albom imbues this character's philosophy with Eastern thought and Christian motifs to remind Eddie (and the reader) that bad things happen to good people and there are no universal laws governing the human perception of justice. The Captain died after stepping on the land mine, but the four other soldiers would have also died if the truck had rolled over it. Here, the Captain emphasizes the importance of looking at sacrifice as an aspiration rather than a regret. The Captain forces Eddie to accept the fact that life unfolds in unpredictable ways, but he is not able to tell Eddie about the fate of the girl he tried to save at Ruby Pier. Similarly, the Captain did not know if Eddie was going to live when he stepped on the landmine. However, as the Captain explains, sacrifice does not always result in justice - but that does not make the act any less worthy. By keeping the girl's fate a mystery throughout the novel, Albom shows the reader how much Eddie's life has been worth regardless of whether or not his final sacrifice was successful.
Eddie moves onto the next phase of his journey. At this point, Albom has been hinting at Eddie's troubled relationship with his father, and Eddie's reaction upon seeing his father in the diner only underlines that point. In this section, Eddie discovers that even in death, he still holds onto his unresolved conflicts with his father. Meanwhile, Albom portrays Eddie’s father in the diner as an archetypal 'tortured soul' - he is alone and unaware of anything but his own pain. This image invokes the motif that C.S. Lewis crafts in The Great Divorce. In Lewis’s novel, earthly emotional pain prevents the various characters from gaining entry into Heaven. Like Eddie, Lewis's characters meet people from their lives who have been able to let go of their pain when after accepting the redeemer and 'God'. Lewis writes, “What we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved.…We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly” (Lewis, 110). By showing Eddie's father as a tortured soul, Albom makes a similar point, except in a secular way. The image of Eddie's father in the diner confirms that Eddie is well ahead of his father in his journey into the afterlife. Despite his shortcomings, Eddie helped children and loved his wife during his time on earth; he has much less emotional baggage to unload than his father does.
Eddie’s third connection in Heaven turns out to be the old matriarch and namesake of Ruby Pier. For the third time, Eddie has no idea of Ruby's significance in his life until she tells him. Just like the other two people he has met in Heaven, Ruby's distance from Eddie's own life gives him perspective. She speaks of her own experiences in order to strike a chord with Eddie; she is simply there to help him move on in a subjective and non-judgmental way. This is crucial to Eddie's progress, especially in this scenario, in which Eddie must contend with the years of anger he felt towards his father. Ruby also relates to Eddie in that they both have wished that Ruby Pier had never been built - it signifies pain and loss for both of them even though it only holds happy memories for many others.
By sharing his memories with Ruby, Eddie is forced to re-examine his relationship with his father - the drunken rages, the coldness, the bitterness and the anger. In Eddie's memory, his mother takes on the sacrificial role as peace broker to his father’s rage but with little success. He recalls his father's death with shame and anger; believing that the old man caught pneumonia after passing out drunk on the beach. He even resents his father for dying, because his untimely demise locked Eddie into the life he had been trying to escape. By admitting that he thought the worst about his father, Eddie can lay his emotions bare, which is a crucial step in eventually letting them go.
Eddie spends his 37th Birthday with his best friend, Noel, at Ruby Pier. They read about an accident that happened at another amusement park that resulted in the death of a woman and her son. Eddie displays a deep affection for his job - he is constantly worried about an accident happening at Ruby Pier and can foresee worst-case scenarios resulting from something as simple as a man dropping a cigar on the boardwalk. He is rigorous in keeping Ruby Pier safe at age 37, just as he is at age 83. This flashback shows that Eddie knows Ruby Pier like the back of his hand; even if he always wants to run away from it, it is a part of him - just like his father.