I originally read "The Five People you Meet In Heaven", a spiritual fiction book, three or four years ago. Last week I was returning a rented movie and "shelf shopping" (my term for actually entering a store with no intention of buying, and not just looking in the window) when I saw that there was also a movie based on the book. The movie was made in 2004, yet I had never heard about it. I decided to not only rent the movie, but I also read the book again as I still had it on my book shelf.
The book was much as I remembered it, and every time you do something twice you seem to learn more the second time that you do it. This is a story about Eddie, an elderly carnival maintenance man who dies in an accident at an amusement park called Ruby Pier, where he works. He is killed trying to save a little girl from being crushed by a falling cart from one of the rides. He then finds himself in heaven and he begins a journey, meeting five people from his life on earth. This is not a journey as we would imagine it, like a holiday vacation. It is more like a transference from one spiritual place to another, with flashbacks of Eddie's life replayed along the way.
The five people that Eddie meets had all played a role in his life, although that role isn't clearly understood by Eddie. Some of the people he didn't even know and only one could answer the question he really wanted an answer to - did he save the little girl from being crushed before he died? He also feels that his life was worthless, and that he was trapped in a dead end job by circumstances beyond his control. Each person he meets is also dead, and they have been waiting for Eddie to come along so they can teach him that his life wasn't worthless. All five people had also died from some sort of connection with Eddie, and this becomes apparent to him as their lives are explained.
The last person Eddie meets is a small Philippine girl, whom Eddie had inadvertently killed while serving in the best spiritual movies Forces overseas. It is this girl who "rescued" him before he died and had brought him safely to heaven. She also tells him whether or not he succeeded in saving the little girl, and shows him that his "dead end job" as a maintenance worker was responsible for keeping countless children safe. Eddie sees all of these children in heaven, and their children and their children's children. He finally realizes that his life wasn't worthless and that although each of us may think that what we do doesn't matter, it does affect someone else, somewhere eventually. He is also taught that we are all connected to each other through our own stories.
The second time reading this book, and now watching the movie, reinforces my belief that everything happens for a reason. Eddie meets the blue man and his army captain, and both of these men had died so he could live. He meets his wife, and although they weren't able to have children, the children Eddie saved everyday more than made up for that. The former owner of Ruby Pier also told Eddie an important story concerning his father, which allowed Eddie to finally forgive him for all the things he had done to Eddie. Finally, the young Philippine girl shows Eddie that even she can forgive him. She leads him to his heaven, where he will wait to meet someone still on earth who has yet to die, and he can then pass on the valuable lessons he learned in heaven.
From reading the book and watching the movie, I think people can stop and consider what they do in this life, before we get to heaven to find out. Some of the seemingly insignificant things that we do can make a profound difference in the lives of others. I feel that if we learn this lesson while we are still here, the world will be a much happier place to be. Take a moment each day to pause and consider how your actions (or lack of action) could affect another. Are you polite and courteous to strangers? Do you throw that small piece of trash on the ground, thinking no one will notice? If you are not giving 100% at your job, do you settle for "that's good enough"? Do you smile when you are with those closest to you and tell them that you love them?