This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Albom. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, how did the Blue Man die? Did it have anything to do with Eddie?
In the book, “How did the blue man die?” is an important question, as it connects the Blue Man and Eddie. As he talks to the Blue Man, Eddie learns the answer to the question “how did the Blue Man die?”, as well as an important lesson.
Eddie’s Death and Journey
Eddie did not get to witness anything after his final breath. He didn’t see the cart shatter or the crowd on the pier. He remembers the little girl’s face as she cried and the feeling of her hands in his. Then what? He wonders if he was able to save her.
Eddie is floating in the sky, which turns from pink to yellow to green to sapphire. He feels calm. Any pain or sadness he had in life has vanished. He wonders where his worry has gone. Now, he is dropping towards a colorful ocean, but he is not afraid.
Eddie wakes up in a teacup. Though his instinct is to reach for his cane, he realizes it isn’t there and he doesn’t need it. His back doesn’t hurt. His knee doesn’t throb. He jumps out of the teacup and lands awkwardly on the ground. Three things strike Eddie as odd:
- He feels great.
- He is completely alone.
- He is still at Ruby Pier. But it’s the Ruby Pier he knew as a young boy, 75 years ago.
Eddie begins to walk around and take in his surroundings. Realizing he feels no pain, he starts to run for the first time in 60 years – the first time since the war. He runs and leaps and tries to fly like a child would. He only stops when he hears a voice.
Looking towards a large theater, Eddie realizes it’s the voice of a barker announcing a freak show. As a kid, Eddie always felt bad for the cast of the freak shows and how they were forced to sit behind bars while people pointed at them. For some reason, he still walks inside.
In the dark hall, he sees a man sitting alone. The man’s skin is blue. Eddie has seen this man before.
The Blue Man says, “Hello, Edward… I have been waiting for you.”
“Don’t be afraid,” says the Blue Man. Although his voice is soothing, Eddie is still confused. He wonders why he is seeing this man that he never even knew.
The Blue Man begins to explain some things. He explains that Eddie feels like a young boy again because he was a child when the two crossed paths. He explains that, at this point, Eddie could have been dead for a minute, or an hour, or a thousand years. And he tells Eddie that he has come to heaven. But how did the Blue Man die?
How Did the Blue Man Die?
In heaven, the Blue Man explains, you will meet five people. Each of these people played an important part in your life, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Meeting these people is meant to help you understand the meaning of your life.
Although Eddie wants to ask the Blue Man questions, he finds he cannot speak. The Blue Man tells him that when you first arrive in heaven, you lose your voice so that you can listen. However, Eddie manages to make out one question—he wants to know, how did the Blue Man die? Slightly surprised, he smiles and says that Eddie killed him.
The Blue Man explains to Eddie that Ruby Pier amusement park is not Eddie’s heaven. It’s Joseph’s heaven.
Every story has different angles. Like the story of Eddie’s seventh birthday. To Eddie, the story had a happy ending. He spent the rest of his birthday in the Ruby Pier arcade, playing with his brother. For the Blue Man, the story ended very differently.
On the day of Eddie’s birthday, the Blue Man had been practicing his driving in a friend’s Ford Model A. All of a sudden, he saw a baseball bouncing across the road, and a young boy chasing after it. The Blue Man slammed on the breaks and swerved out of the way to avoid hitting Eddie. He lost control of the car, and suffered extreme stress. The Blue Man had a heart attack behind the wheel and died alone at Ruby Pier.
The Blue man asks Eddie if he understands. Eddie shivers.
Eddie’s First Lesson
Eddie is scared and defensive. He promises the Blue Man that he had no idea what he had done. Now that he knows the answer to the question “how did the Blue Man die?”, he is afraid that he will have to pay for his sin.
The Blue Man smiles and reassures him that he is only here to learn. He says that all five people that Eddie will come across in heaven have one lesson to teach him: that all lives are connected and nothing is completely random.
The Blue Man lifts his hand and suddenly they are standing in the cemetery where he was buried. Eddie looks around at the funeral he attended as a boy, realizing he had no idea the part he played in it. He wonders if there was a funeral for his own death. He asks the Blue Man if he saved the little girl at the pier. The Blue Man doesn’t answer, so Eddie assumes that his death was a waste.
The Blue man says, “the only time wasted is the time we spend thinking we’re alone.”
The Blue Man takes Eddie into a hug and Eddie is flooded with all of the emotions that the Blue Man felt in his life – the nerves, the loneliness, the embarrassment. The question “how did the Blue Man die?” seems less important now. As the Blue Man goes to leave, his skin turns a lovely shade of caramel, the most beautiful skin Eddie has ever seen.
The answer to the questions “how did the Blue Man die?” is, technically, that Eddie Killed him. But the answer and the lesson it provides is more complicated, and Eddie continues on his journey.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Five People You Meet In Heaven summary:
- Who the Five People Eddie meets in heaven are
- What each person teaches Eddie about the meaning of his own life
- Why Eddie finally feels gratitude and closure at the end of his life