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.
Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.
Who is the first person you meet in Heaven in the book by Mitch Albom? What does this person have to do with main character Eddie’s life?
Eddie’s death is unexpected, and before his death, he doesn’t give much consideration to the idea of the first person you meet in heaven—or the second, for that matter. But Eddie is about to find out all about the first person you meet in Heaven on his remarkable journey.
The First Person You Meet in Heaven
Eddie is surprised to find out that the first person you meet in Heaven is someone he doesn’t know. To his greater shock, the first person is a man with blue skin.
“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.
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 asks how the Blue Man died. Slightly surprised, he smiles and says that Eddie killed him.
Eddie’s Seventh Birthday
For his seventh birthday, Eddie gets a brand new baseball. He and Joe play catch along Ruby Pier. Pretending to be a professional baseball player, he launches the ball toward his brother. But Joe ducks and the ball goes rolling across the boardwalk and behind the freak show tent.
Eddie and Joe enter the tent to retrieve the baseball. Joe gets scared and runs away crying. Eddie bravely gets the ball and goes toward the arcade after his brother.
Eddie tries to tell the Blue Man that there’s no way he could have caused his death. So the Blue Man tells his side of the story.
The Blue Man’s real name is Joseph Corvelzchik. He and his family immigrated from a small village in Poland and came to work in America. At the age of ten, he was put to work in a sweatshop. One day, Joseph accidentally spilled a bag of buttons in front of the foreman. Furious, the foreman screamed at him until he was so nervous he wet his pants. His father never looked at him the same after that.
The shame turned Joseph into a very nervous young man. He went to a chemist to try and find something to calm him. Joseph began taking a lot of silver nitrate, not knowing it was a poison that would turn his skin a strange shade of blue. Eventually, he was fired from his job and outcast because of his skin condition.
Joseph had no choice but to join a traveling carnival as the Blue Man in a sideshow act. Eventually, he was given the job in the freak show at Ruby Pier. While at Ruby Pier, he found stability. He was able to give up the traveling lifestyle. He made friends to play cards with. Some days, he was even able to walk the beach without being stared at.
The Blue Man explains to Eddie that Ruby Pier amusement park is not Eddie’s heaven. It’s Joseph’s heaven. Eddie learns that the first person you meet in Heaven is not always who you expect.
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. It turns out that for Eddie, the first person you meet in Heaven comes with a difficult story.
Eddie’s Eighth Birthday
Eddie is sitting on the edge of the couch, pouting and complaining because he has to get dressed up and go somewhere on his birthday instead of getting to play. His father yells at him to be quiet, and Eddie obeys.
Later, at the cemetery, Eddie notices that all the people from Ruby Pier, who normally dress in funny outfits, are wearing black. Eddie knows that he is supposed to be sad about something, but he is secretly counting down the moments until he can go back to his birthday celebrations.
Eddie’s First Lesson
Eddie is scared and defensive. He promises the Blue Man that he had no idea what he had done. He is afraid that he will have to pay for his sin. He wonders if the first person you meet in Heaven is meant to show you the wrongs you’ve committed.
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. As the Blue Man goes to leave, his skin turns a lovely shade of caramel, the most beautiful skin Eddie has ever seen.
Eddie tries to call to the Blue Man, to ask him to stay, but he is suddenly carried into the air. He flies away from the cemetery and past Ruby Pier.
3 P.M., Sunday
The crowd at Ruby Pier stands silently and helplessly around the wreckage of Freddy’s Free Fall. From the back of the group, Dominguez busts through. He sees Eddie’s body and breaks down. Carnival music plays over the loudspeakers as the ambulances arrive and the police tape off the scene. The park is empty by sunset.
Eddie’s Seventeenth Birthday
Up in his bedroom, Eddie can smell the special birthday dinner his mom is cooking for him. He’s reading a comic book when she calls him to come downstairs and join the family.
When he gets to the kitchen, Joe announces that Eddie met a girl the night before at Ruby Pier. Eddie is embarrassed, but Joe doesn’t stop. He continues to say that Eddie wants to marry this girl. Eddie punches Joe on the arm, and the two fight until their father breaks it up.
Later, after dinner, Eddie’s mother turns on the radio to news of war. Because it’s Eddie’s birthday, she chooses to turn the dial until there’s music. She asks Eddie to dance with her like he danced with the girl he met. Soon, Eddie, Joe, and their mother are all dancing around the living room and laughing together.
You may wonder about the first person you meet in Heaven. Like in the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the afterlife is a mystery. But even if you don’t know about the first person you meet in heaven, you can consider the themes of the book, like learning to live without regret.
———End of Preview———
Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" at Shortform.
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