The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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


Chapter 9 - The Third Lesson:

Eddie learns his third lesson from his tortured relationship with his father. Eddie bitterly recalls that the last words his father spoke to him were uttered in a drunken rage, but Ruby points out that his father's pressure did get him off the couch because after their confrontation, Eddie got a job driving a cab. Ruby tells Eddie that she is going to show him how his father died. She takes Eddie back to the kitchen of his parents' place, where a drunk Mickey Shea assaults Eddie's mother. Eddie’s father comes home just in time, grabs a hammer, and chases Mickey into the street, pursuing him all the way to the pier. Eddie's father then watches as Mickey jumps desperately into the cold ocean waters and jumps in after him. Fighting against the thrashing waves, Eddie's father manages to pull his drunken friend to the shore. Exhausted and drenched, Eddie’s father lies on beach for several hours before gathering the strength to walk home. Ruby underlines the fact that Eddie's father died because he was trying to save a friend. 

Eddie cannot understand why his father rescued Mickey after the way his old friend assaulted Eddie's mother. Ruby explains that emotional events are rarely cut-and-dry. Before this incident, Mickey had always been kind to Eddie’s family. He arranged for Eddie's father to get a job and loaned him money when he and Eddie's mother had nothing. Although reprehensible, Mickey’s aggression towards Eddie's mother was an act of desperation. Ruby explains that Mickey had recently gotten fired from work because of his drinking; his world was crashing down around him and he lost control of his faculties. Eddie’s father knew about his friend's shortcomings and considered letting him drown, but he saved him out of his inherent loyalty. Ruby also tells Eddie that before his father died, he was calling for his wife and both his sons. She explains that Emile, her dying husband, occupied the other bed in the hospital room where Eddie's father was staying - which is why she knows the circumstances of Eddie's father's death.

Instead of one of Eddie’s birthdays, the narrative shifts to “ Thursday, 11 A.M.”  Mr. Bullock, the owner of Ruby Pier, covers Eddie's funeral costs with the last paycheck that Eddie will never cash. Dominguez is asked to say something at Eddie’s funeral. Not comfortable with public speaking, Dominguez can only say for certain that Eddie “really loved his wife” (145).

Chapter 10 - The Fourth Person Eddie Meets in Heaven:

Eddie finds himself in a round building with many doors. Behind each door is a wedding reception from from a different culture; Each reception is full of merriment and festivity. Finally, Eddie spots a youthful Italian bridesmaid in a countryside wedding who simply radiates joy. The young woman is none other than Marguerite, his beloved wife and the fourth person he will meet in Heaven.

It is now Eddie’s thirty-eighth birthday, and Eddie is sitting with his brother Joe in the maintenance shop at Ruby Pier. Although Eddie has been promoted to head of maintenance, Joe is a successful salesman making three times his brother's salary. Marguerite, who works selling tickets at Ruby Pier, arrives and leads the two brothers outside. They see a group of children surrounding a cake with thirty-eight candles stuck in it. The children sing 'Happy Birthday' to Eddie, who is is touched but also a little sad. He and Marguerite both want a child of their own but have been unable to conceive; Marguerite now wants Eddie to consider adoption. Eddie has commented that they are "too old" to be parents now but as he sits among the children on his 38th birthday, Eddie agrees to start the adoption process. 

Eddie remembers his and Marguerite’s own wedding, which took place on Christmas Eve in a Chinese restaurant called Sammy Hong’s. Although the wedding festivities were simple and streamlined, their union was filled with contentment and love. After Marguerite’s death, Eddie “let the days go stale. He put his heart to sleep” (156). Reunited in Heaven, Eddie and Marguerite reminisce about that day, joking about the accordion player and the mediocre Chinese food. Marguerite tells Eddie that she has already met her five people in Heaven and now understands how much Eddie loved her. Eddie then drops to his knees and, breaking down for the first time since his death, admits how much deeply he has missed her. Marguerite reveals to Eddie that wedding receptions are her version of Heaven because weddings symbolize love and possibilities.

It is now Eddie's thirty-ninth birthday and he is celebrating with Noel at the racetrack, even though he knows Marguerite does not approve of gambling. He feels guilty, thinking about how he is supposed to be responsible now that he and Marguerite are saving money to adopt a child. It turns out that Eddie wins a sizable sum of money and, in his excitement, decides to call Marguerite despite Noel's warnings. Noel's hunch proves to be correct and Marguerite sternly instructs Eddie to come home. After he hangs up the phone, Eddie bets all of his winnings on a losing horse. Meanwhile, Marguerite feels guilty about getting angry at Eddie on his birthday and drives to the track. Some teenagers, drunk and bored, happen to be tossing whiskey bottles off the overpass and one of them hits Marguerite’s car. She is in a serious accident.

Marguerite convalesces in the hospital for six moths and the medical bills drain all of hers and Eddie's savings. Although Marguerite physically recovers, hers and Eddie's marriage relationship is strained over the fact that they will no longer be able to afford adoption. They eventually work through this emotional roadblock and become close again. Three years later, Marguerite develops a brain tumor and dies at the age of forty-seven. Eddie is shattered. In Heaven, Eddie brings Marguerite up to date on everything that has happened since her death. Marguerite also tells Eddie about her life in Heaven. The wedding festivities continue as Eddie and Marguerite keep talking. Eddie laments that he wasted so many years of his life at the Ruby Pier. He also regrets choosing to live his life hiding from God. 


There are no coincidences in the world of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, further emphasizing the overall theme of interconnectedness. Ruby, after whom Ruby Pier was named, happens to be Eddie's third person - not only because of their shared connection to the amusement park but because Ruby happened to be in the hospital room where Eddie's father died. Ruby has an emotional stake in Eddie's life. Even though her narrative unfolded many years before Eddie's, her legacy informed Eddie's roots and identity. She teaches Eddie the lesson of forgiveness by revealing the truth behind Eddie's father's death. "Things are not always what they seem," (137) Ruby preaches as she explains the reasoning behind Mickey Shea's assault on Eddie's mother. She explains that Eddie's father died in an act of loyalty, which is complicated for Eddie to understand considering the murky moral circumstances of Eddie's father's fight with Mickey. However, Ruby's alternative perspective on these events eventually gives Eddie the ability to forgive his father.  

Ruby teaches Eddie about the importance of contextualizing people's actions. Eddie is naturally furious to learn that Mickey Shea tried to assault Eddie's mother, but Ruby urges Eddie not to categorize Mickey as a good man or a bad man. In that moment, Mickey was just desperate and broken, and once he realized how low he had sunk, he wanted to die. Just as Eddie's father was able to put aside Mickey's heinous actions and save his old friend's life, Ruby uges Eddie to do the same. She also tells Eddie that right before Eddie's father died, he called out the names of his sons and his wife - perhaps wondering if they might be able to hear him. Even though this gesture seems minute, it is significant in the grand scheme of the embittered relationship between Eddie and his father. Eddie's father may have been stubborn and damaged, but deep down, his family was important to him. He had a heart; he had values. 

Eddie is able to relate to Ruby and take her lessons seriously because of their shared past; Ruby Pier represents a sense of loss and pain for both of them. These two people know Ruby Pier in a way that nobody else can - it is not just a site where families unite for one fleeting, joyful day. Their shared perspective becomes evident when Ruby describes her husband's motivation to build Ruby Park in the first place: "...[Emile] made a deal with a railroad company, which was looking for a way to increase its riders on the weekend." Eddie is well aware of this fact, thinking about how most people think "amusement parks [are] constructed by elves, built with candy canes. In fact, they were simply business opportunities for railroad companies, who erected them at the final stops of routes, so commuters would have a reason to ride on weekends" (115). The amusement park's hidden functional purpose forms a parallel to Eddie himself. While Ruby Pier was a business venture engineered to protect the health of a railway company (especially after the Great Depression), Eddie's job was crucial to maintaining the innocent fantasy that Ruby Pier was selling. 

In this section, Albom promotes a traditional view of marriage. Eddie's mother stays with his father, even falling apart from guilt when her abusive husband dies trying to protect her honor. Eddie bitterly describes the abuse that marked his childhood, but despite that, his mother upholds the unyielding code of loyalty in her marriage. Modern readers may find Eddie's mother's decision to stay with Eddie's father to be representative of weakness, but Albom's depiction is appropriate to the era that inspired this part of the story. Even though Albom does not assign years to Eddie's life, it is likely that Eddie grew up during the Great Depression because he was in his twenties when he fought in World War II. During that time, society was dependent on the family unit. "Men were socialized to think of themselves as breadwinners; when they lost their jobs or saw their incomes reduced, they felt like failures because they couldn’t take care of their families. Women, on the other hand, saw their roles in the household enhanced as they juggled to make ends meet" (Ware). It was especially difficult at that time for women to find jobs, so a woman like Eddie's mother would not have had many options outside of being a housewife and certainly would not have been able to raise her children on her own. Meanwhile, Eddie's father and Mickey fell victim to the desperation-fueled alcoholism that ran rampant during those uncertain times. 

Meanwhile, Eddie's mother is also a representation of how one person can see through another's weaknesses. Eddie's mother knew that Eddie's father loved his family, despite his frequent bouts of debauched rage. Similarly, Eddie's father knew that beneath his drunken tantrums, Mickey Shea loved the family. After Eddie's father dies, Eddie's mother falls apart - a precursor to Eddie's fourth encounter in which he will learn about loneliness. Later, Eddie will realize that Marguerite knew how much Eddie loved her despite his own lapses in judgement, which will help him come to terms with his own loneliness after her death. At this point in the novel, Eddie has been able to shed a lot of the anger and resentment that built up over his 83 years on earth, but he still struggles to accept that he wasted so much of his life at Ruby Pier. However, before she leaves, Ruby informs him, "Your father is not the reason you never left the pier" (142). This statement forms the transition into the next step in Eddie's journey.