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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Who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven? What do they have to teach him?
Eddie’s former Captain from his war days is the second person he meets in heaven. The Captain answers the question “who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?” and also helps him see his life and past clearly.
Who Is the Second Person Eddie Meets in Heaven, and Why?
After Eddie’s meeting with the Blue Man, he doesn’t expect to meet anyone else—but he does. Who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?
When Eddie’s feet meet the ground, he finds himself surrounded by rubble and lifeless terrain. The sky is changing colors again, from deep blue to dark gray. He feels his body, stronger than before but less flexible. Then, the sky explodes and hot air whips him in the face. Once again, Eddie starts to run. But this time, he runs like a soldier.
It starts to rain and Eddie hears a booming noise. Instinctively, he dives down and begins to army crawl through the mud until he reaches a rifle stuck into the ground with a helmet on top. This is how they used to mark a grave. Eddie reads the dog tags and is terrified to see his own name. Crouching under a bush, he remembers when he enlisted for the war.
- When Eddie heard that his country was going to war, he immediately signed up. He felt it would make him a man. He had never fired a weapon, so he started practicing the shooting game in the arcade at Ruby Pier. One day, Mickey Shea, the man who had given Eddie his “birthday bumps” not so long ago, came up behind him while he was trying to shoot. Mickey warned him that in war, you can’t think about who you’re aiming at. You’ve just got to keep shooting. When Eddie turned to look at him, Mickey slapped him across the face. Eddie was about to fight back, but he noticed that Mickey was drunk and close to tears. A few days later, Eddie left for war.
When the rain stops, Eddie crawls out from under the bush. Wet and shivering, he looks around and notices that he’s been in this desolate place before—it has haunted him for years. Suddenly, he hears a familiar voice from up in the tree. The voice tells him to come up into the tree. Just like that, Eddie finds himself high up in the branches, sitting next to a man in army fatigues. The man looks at him with red eyes, and Eddie knows at once it is the Captain he knew from the war. The question “who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?” has been answered.
The Captain was older than the other men in Eddie’s troop. He was relatively well-liked because he promised never to leave a man behind. Now under the Captain’s gaze, Eddie has to resist asking if he had killed him, too.
The Captain asks Eddie if he kept in touch with the guys they fought with in the war. Eddie admits that although they always promised to come see Ruby Pier, none of them ever did. The next question the Captain asks Eddie is if he can still juggle.
Eddie’s Memories of War
Who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven? Why is Eddie’s second person the captain? During the war, Eddie had to learn many lessons: how to march, how to pray quickly, how to spit, how to take a prisoner. But, he never learned how to be a prisoner himself. That is, until one night when he felt a cold rifle on the back of his neck.
Eddie was taken with the Captain and three other men: Smitty, Morton, and Rabozzo. They were marched to a bamboo hut and forced to stay there for months, sleeping on the ground and nearly starving. Each day they were tormented by their guards, whom they called Crazy One, Crazy Two, Crazy Three, and Crazy Four.
Eddie and the others were forced to mine coal under terrible conditions. Eventually, Rabozzo fell ill. One day, in the mine, he collapsed. Crazy Two shot him in the head right there in front of the others. From then on, Eddie stopped praying and stopped waiting. He and the Captain talked about escaping any time they were alone. Then, one day, Eddie saw their opportunity.
Crazy Three was on guard duty in the barracks and was passing the time by trying to juggle large rocks. Growing up at Ruby Pier, Eddie knew that he could amaze the guards with his juggling. Innocently, he asked for the rocks. When Eddie began to juggle, all four guards came in to watch. They were mesmerized. That’s why they couldn’t react in time when Eddie started hurling the rocks into their faces.
Eddie, Smitty, Morton, and the Captain fought the four guards to the death. They ran to freedom, stopping only to burn down the barracks they were leaving behind.
The choice to burn down the barracks was an easy one to make. The freed soldiers were furious and wanted revenge. Eddie watched with pleasure as Smitty and Morton began the demolition, then took off to destroy the last hut. He thought about everything they had endured as he set it on fire.
As the hut went up in flames, Eddie heard engines above him. He felt relieved realizing there was a chance at rescue. Just then, he saw a small shadow moving behind the window of the burning hut. He called out, afraid there was a child trapped in the fire.
Morton called out to Eddie that it was time to move. Eddie remained, calling out to the shadow he had seen. Morton, knowing that time was limited, attempted to pull Eddie away. But Eddie fought back. He pushed Morton to the ground and continued staggering toward the barn frantically. He was convinced that everything he saw was an innocent person burning. He felt overwhelmed with everything he had been through and witnessed in the war so far. He continued toward the barn, even though his clothes started to catch fire. Still, he called out to the shadow.
Suddenly, Eddie felt an intense pain rip through his leg. Screaming, he fell to the ground. He closed his eyes and prepared himself for death. But when he opened his eyes again, he was in a transport vehicle with Morty, Smitty, and the Captain. He couldn’t feel his knee.
Sometime after that, Eddie awoke in a medical unit with a bullet still partially lodged in his leg. Two surgeries weren’t enough to fix the damage to his nerves, tendons, and bones. He was told that he would always have a limp, one that would only get worse with age. After that, Eddie was different, more withdrawn. The war was in him, just like the bullet, and he would never be the same.
The Captain’s Confession
Now that Eddie knows the answer to “who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?” he’s left wondering why it’s the Captain. Back up in the tree’s branches, the Captain asks Eddie what he knows of the Captain’s past. Eddie shrugs, so the Captain explains that he is from a military family. The Captain had been preparing to join the service his whole life. But he was never prepared for the pressure of having so many soldiers look to him for answers and for safety. He knew he couldn’t promise to keep everyone alive. Instead, he promised never to leave any man behind.
Eddie nods and agrees that he looked to the Captain for guidance in the war. He tells him that the Captain’s promise always meant a lot to him.
The Captain looks straight at Eddie and tells him that he was the one who shot Eddie in the leg all those years ago.
Eddie, looking down at his bad leg, is immediately filled with a kind of rage he hasn’t felt in years—the kind of rage that makes you want to hurt someone. He tackles the Captain and they fall out of the tree and into the mud. Eddie doesn’t stop. He continues to yell at the Captain, punching him in the chest and asking him why. The Captain doesn’t fight back. Finally, he is able to put his arm up to Eddie’s chest and explain: He took Eddie’s leg to save his life.
The Captain says that he knew Eddie would never have left that burning building, and that he couldn’t let him stay there to die. Then, he tells Eddie that he is glad that the others were able to get him to safety, even though they weren’t able to fix his leg like he thought they would be.
Eddie is confused. Why did the Captain say that “the others” got him to safety? He remembers that the Captain never made it back from the war, but he always assumed that he had fallen in a later combat. The Captain looks off to the distance, and when Eddie turns to look, their surroundings have changed. This is what he sees:
- On the night of their escape from captivity, the Captain was driving the transport with an unconscious Eddie in the back. Smitty and Morton were helping care for his burned and wounded leg. Soon, they arrived at a gate. The Captain hopped out to look for danger on the road ahead. Just as he signaled that the road was clear, a land mine exploded under his foot. The Captain was launched into the air and torn into a hundred pieces.
Eddie’s Second Lesson
Eddie is overcome. He says that he had no idea about the terrible circumstances of the Captain’s death. He asks the Captain if he’s been waiting for Eddie here, in the place of his death, this whole time. But the Captain counters by saying that Eddie doesn’t understand what time really is.
The Captain tells Eddie to think about Adam and Eve. The first time Adam ever went to sleep, he thought it was the end of his existence. But he woke up the next day with a whole new day before him, and the memory of the day before. The Captain smiles and says that’s what heaven is for: To understand all your yesterdays. ?Who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?” is only a part of the question. The other question is why.
The Captain tells Eddie that he’s been waiting for him all this time because he has a lesson that Eddie needs to hear. He says that sacrifice is a part of life that we are meant to be proud of. The Captain wants Eddie to understand that he didn’t die for nothing. Because he stepped on that land mine, everyone else in the transport was able to go on living. When Eddie sacrificed his leg, it made him angry and full of regret. But the Captain tells Eddie that he gained something in that moment, too. He just doesn’t know it yet.
The Captain holds out his hand and asks Eddie to forgive him for shooting his leg. Eddie realizes that all the anger he’s been holding onto is nothing compared to the sacrifice that the Captain made. He takes the Captain’s hand and grips it firmly.
As soon as the Captain has Eddie’s forgiveness, the old tree above them begins to grow new leaves. The barren ground that Eddie remembers from the war turns into a beautiful landscape of grass and the sky turns blue. The Captain has seen it this way the whole time he’s been in heaven because his idea of heaven is a world without war.
Knowing that the Captain will be leaving soon, Eddie can’t help but ask if he was able to save the little girl on the pier. The Captain is sympathetic, but can’t tell Eddie what he longs to know. Instead, he throws Eddie his helmet. When Eddie looks down, there’s a photo of Marguerite inside. And when he looks up, the Captain is gone.
Now you know the answer to the question “who is the second person Eddie meets in Heaven?” The Captain is a figure from Eddie’s past who helps him continue to the next step.
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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