This past Sunday we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I will always remember that day; everyone will always remember that day. I was 16 and still living in Germany. After just coming home from school, I turned on the TV and saw the live coverage of the two planes crashing into the twin towers against the backdrop of a perfectly blue sky. I remember feeling paralyzed as it was hard to fathom what was happening. My thoughts immediately went to my uncle, who takes the train every day into the WTC station. Later we found out that he had thankfully missed his train that day.
The victims of the attacks left this world in a violent way, but what of their existence past this lifetime? I’ve always wondered what happens once our time on this earth and in this lifetime is over. I’ve always thought it an interesting topic, if only for the reason that none of us will ever really know what happens until it is our time to leave this world.
Depending on your beliefs, you might believe in a judgment day that determines whether you go to heaven of hell or that you will be reborn into a next life based on your behavior in this one. Personally, I do think our souls carry on to something else.
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we follow Eddie after his death as he meets five people who touched and impacted his life in ways that he wasn’t aware of. With each person he meets, he gains an understanding of his life, the meaning of our existence and that we all touch each others lives (yes, even the lives of people who came before us and those we never meet). After he meets his fifth person, it is then his turn to wait to be one of the five people that someone else meets in heaven.
What stood out most to me about this book is the notion that we experience someone else’s version of heaven on this journey and at the end basically create our own. Most importantly, is the effect that we have on each other’s lives based on the decisions we make. But I’m not just talking about having an impact on the people you know. It’s about how interconnected we are as a whole human race. In remembering any loved ones you have lost, concentrate on the memories they leave with you and how they made an impact on this world. An interesting thought to consider is who your five people would be on your journey to your heaven.
Reading people’s stories about September 11, 2001, I noticed a number of stories of people who survived the attacks, were saved by others or spent their time trying to save others in danger. After reading Albom’s For One More Day, I wonder if anyone had a near-death experience (as we would call it). The story is about Charlie Bennetto and the one more “ordinary” day he is able to spend with his mother, who passed eight years years prior to this incident. During this day he learns things about his mother that he never knew and is inspired to put his life back together once he returns to his worldly reality.
How would you react if you go to spend one more day with a person you loved who has passed? What do you think they would say to you and show you?