Mitch Albom on “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” and using death to illuminate life

The best-selling book “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” has touched readers’ lives for 15 years. It tells the story of Eddie, a maintenance worker at an amusement park, who dies after saving a girl named Annie. In heaven, Eddie meets five people from his life who teach him lessons about himself and the world he lived in.

Mitch Albom’s new book, “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven,” is a sequel to the popular story. It follows Annie as an adult and introduces us to the five people she meets in heaven.  One of those people is Eddie. The book sold more than 14 million copies in 38 territories and has been published in 35 languages.  

The book is about how loss and mistakes take on significance and meaning in our lives in a way that we don’t always see.

“I try not to write about death as much as use death to illuminate life and I think once we realize we have limited time, we start to take life a little more preciously,” Albom told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday.

“There’s a moment in the book, Annie has a pipe cleaner animal that’s significant in her life….But at one point, the pipe cleaner is dismantled and someone says to her, ‘Look, this is the heart that you’re born with.’ It makes a single pipe cleaner heart. It’s small, perfect. And then he takes the other four…and puts them together with lines across, he says, ‘This is the heart that you die with.” She says, ‘But it’s all broken.’ He says, that’s right. She says, that’s what ruins it. He says, ‘No, that’s what makes it whole. That’s what life really is.’ The losses we have actually teach us to appreciate, as you said, the days that we have and the people we have with us.”

The character of Eddie and the conceit of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” was inspired by Albom’s uncle who felt like he was a nobody. During a near-death experience he said he saw five of his relatives waiting on the edge of his bed.  

“I think that unfortunately a lot of people in America feel that way. And that’s why I wrote this book for people who kind of think I don’t matter or why does everything I touch go bad? You know, when Annie gets to heaven, she finds out that all these things that she did wrong, there was a consequence to it that turned out to be right. And I think if we just look at it that way that the things we do wrong sometimes offer us opportunities to be better….Then that nothing life that you’re referring isn’t nothing at all.”

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