The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Endings and Beginnings

As we read through this novel, I’d like to talk about the narrative structure of the book, the meaning of life/our purpose for living, heroism, and heaven. And perhaps a few more things that I think of between now and the end of this discussion.

I invite you to answer the questions in the comment section. Please feel free to discuss each other’s answers or to just read what others have to say. I hope you’ll enjoy this book and the discussion.

To start off, here are a couple of pretty general questions about a main theme of the book.

One of the most well-known quotes from this book is “All ending are beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.” We often hear words to this effect at graduation ceremonies: “Commencement means ‘beginning,’ so don’t think of your graduation as an end but as a beginning.” What other events or points in life do you think are a beginning as well as an end? Why is this concept significant?

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11 thoughts on “The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Endings and Beginnings

  1. 1. What other events are a beginning and an end?

    I would say that a lot of major life events fall into that category: marriage/divorce, moving, new jobs, even changing habits via resolutions (new year’s or otherwise) could be seen as endings/beginnings.

    2. Why is this significant?

    I think a lot of us spend time focusing only on half of that concept – an even is EITHER a beginning OR an ending, and we forget to look at the other half. In 69 days, I will be ending my time here in San Francisco, and I am looking forward to that aspect, but I need to remember that it is also a beginning of something else. And sometimes we are so saddened by the end of an era that we can’t/don’t want to see the good in the end or the possibilities that the future holds.

    Not only that, but if there was an end with no beginning after it, well, that’s just depressing. Sounds like death without Jesus. Sad.

    • Re. point no. 2: I found this to be true about my move from Guam. I spent much more time thinking about the ending rather than the beginning. It was a huge change and a difficult decision, but there are also opportunities and good things about the beginning.

      I like your connection to the idea of eternity with Christ. Ultimately, we can have hope about the new beginnings in our lives because they anticipate new life with Christ. That reminds me of the song “It is not death to die.”

  2. Before I answer your questions, i would like to comment on the dedication and ask if reader companions find Uncle Eddie’s Thanksgiving story believable. Having attended many death events and working with families of the dying, I find the story very believable.
    I find something missing in the story which is, did Eddie ponder coming back to be with the living? Was there a turning point? I am seeing a piece of the story missing, perhaps told at the time, and not picked up by a younger Mitch’s ears.

    Have to attend the grill and will come back to respond to the question.

    • It does seem like something is missing from the story. Uncle Eddie doesn’t say that he was dying and returned to earth as I’ve heard others say, but just that he saw his deceased loved ones.

      Do you believe that people can die and return to earth?

    • It does seem very brief – I guess the point is that Albom remembers being touched by Uncle Eddie’s own powerful connection to his vision or dream or imagination – the ones we loved who died actually gathering together and waiting for us.

      I feel like humans were created with a longing for the eternal in our hearts because we are meant for more than this life. I don’t like the term “respect” (I have no respect for the terrorist’s notion of heaven with his 70 virgins) although I certainly tolerate that others have the right to believe as they wish. I do think heaven will be more about Christ than about us, but I find Albom’s wish at the end of the dedication very moving – that “people who felt unimportant here on earth – realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.” This is certainly Biblical. Jesus knows and loves each one of us. No one is unimportant in His eyes. Everyone should be loved.

  3. “All ending are beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”
    What other events or points in life do you think are a beginning as well as an end? All the ones that Jenni mentioned and more. There are intentional endings because a new beginning is desired. There are also endings forced upon us by life. Endings not chosen.
    One for me was infertility. Very sad for a very long time and yet, from this point of life, no regrets because life has been so abundant. Yet, embedded in the issue was a day beyond my surgery date, when I realized we had to make a decision about adopting because of our age. At that point, I (we) made an intentional decision. This was a decision to end something, the idea of being parents. The intentional ending felt better than the one forced upon us. In recent years, I have learned that if I do not end certain activities and relationships, that beginnings can not happen, and feelings of emptiness invade all the activities.

    Reflecting on endings and beginnings is significant because it is important for each peron to live the life they were meant to live and to the fullest. On the point of the endings thrust upon us, I have found people (including me at times) can get stuck in anger, regrets and bitterness. And I mean for years. I pray to view each day as a new beginning.

    • Well said, Aunt Jane! I appreciate your sharing such a personal example.

      Sometimes we have to end a relationship or participation in certain activities in order to keep growing. It can be painful to end those things, but it’s necessary. And I do think that reflection on the endings/beginnings is important whether the ending was forced or not. Some people stuff things down inside and refuse to deal with major issues, and I think that results in stunted growth.

  4. Returning to the dedication; I would say Eddie had a near death experience. I am not knowing of any actual deaths and return to this life, but I am certain that there are near death experiences for many …a time of living between the worlds.

  5. I’m enjoying the way the story is structured – starting at the END of his life (which is a beginning) and then moving into his after-death experience and then learning about his past through those people he meets but also in between keeping seeing flashes of his life ON HIS BIRTHDAY. Really cool.

    The idea of an end being a beginning reminds me of the end of “The Last Battle” by C. S. Lewis too.

  6. Here’s the Lewis quote:
    “The things that began to happen…were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

  7. I am familiar with C.S. lewis in such works as Four Loves and the problem of Pain, his writing about Joy and the film. If I read his Narnia, etc. , it was so long ago, I have forgotten. I think I might like to do so.

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