The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Tala

What does Tala mean when she says “you make good for me”?

Is Eddie’s life penance for what he did to Tala?

What is the significance of Tala pulling Eddie to heaven after he dies and not one of the other people Eddie met?

For those of you concerned about source attribution, I’m basing some of my discussion questions on those provided by LitLovers, who got their questions from the publisher of TFPYMIH. I sometimes change how they phrase the questions and leave some out, but I’m using them to guide the general direction of the discussion.

7 thoughts on “The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Tala

  1. 1-2. I think Tala’s comment answers the second question, at least from the author’s perspective. Eddie’s sacrificial choices in his life, especially his rescue of the little girl when the ride failed, “makes up” for his destruction of Tala’s home and his indirect murder (for lack of a better term) of Tala.

    3. I find it interesting that Tala, the one whose life was directly affected [and ended] by Eddie, was the one who pulled him into heaven, rather than the other four people, who are shown more to affect Eddie’s life than to be affected by him, if that makes any sense. Also, since Tala was clearly wronged by Eddie’s actions, her pulling him into heaven almost seems like an act of pardon or release.

    From a Christian perspective, we can see that our sins are ultimately against God Himself, even though other people may or may not be affected by our individual actions. Christ has bridged the gap in His offer of salvation, so He is the one who pardons us and “pulls” us into heaven, signifying our pardon and release from sin’s penalty. If you take this a step further, our sins are what caused the necessity of Christ’s death, so we are also indirect murderers like Eddie.

    Personally, I don’t think I’d want a random person to pull me into heaven like that. Seeing Christ and hearing him welcome me, though … that’s what makes all of this stuff down here worth it.

    • Eddie experiences great grief and then relief through his encounter with Tala. It’s like he was always haunted by the memory of the shadow he saw and by his question of whether someone was in there. Now he’s set free from those worries and his washing her scars away symbolizes her forgiveness and his freedom.

      I agree with your point about wanting Christ to welcome me into heaven, rather than some random person (especially one who is going to bring more pain later). I keep thinking of the song “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. / Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; / One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase, /
      So bravely run the race till we see Christ.” There will be complete release and freedom in heaven, not because of restored earthly relationships, but from union with Christ.

      • I do want Christ to welcome me too, but I don’t think Tala is random. She’s part of why he feels he needs forgiveness for the blood on his hands. The men he killed in battle and the captors in the POW camp were “fair” deaths, but he still worries about the blood on his hands. Little did he know that he caused the Blue Man’s death and that he actually burned a child to death. (It’s so sad to realize that he was RIGHT when he thought there was someone inside the burning building. He thought it was a mistake, a bad decision when he ran inside the fire and hurt his leg, but he was actually RIGHT. Tala was in there.) He weeps in total surrender and confession; no excuses. He just says, “I killed you . . . forgive me . . . forgive me, oh, God . . . what have I done?” His anger at others is gone; he just feels grief and responsibility and sorrow for what he has done to others not what others did to him or what life did to him (or what GOD did to him). At first, I thought “oh, God” was a profanity, but I think now that he is asking forgiveness of Tala AND OF GOD. He then washes away her burns, then he immersed in the water like a baptism, is washed of “all the pain and weariness he ever held inside him, every scar, every wound, every bad memory.” I kind of like this in a way. Instead of immediately going from death to knowledge and understanding and acceptance, he has a journey and lessons to learn that help him forgive those who wounded him most deeply (especially his father, even though poignantly he never gets to find out why his dad treated him the way he did) and then seek and find forgiveness for himself. Now he is “ready” for heaven, while he wasn’t ready before. It’s sort of like a kind of purgatory, only a beneficial one, not a fierce, burning one that is for punishment, with the dead person suffering torment to pay for sin. He doesn’t have to pay (of course, as a Christian, I know we don’t have to pay for our sin because Jesus already paid the price.) This is brought up with the Blue Man. Even though he was an innocent child who didn’t mean to hurt the Blue Man, he expects that he will have to pay for causing his death. But he doesn’t. And he doesn’t have to pay for causing Tala’s death either in the afterlife. So these five people aren’t purgatory in the sense of punishing him, exacting from his flesh the suffering that would make up for his sins. No, instead they help prepare him for joy and peace, being accepted home.

        I don’t think I exactly answered the questions posed, but this is already long enough so I’ll stop for now!

      • I appreciate your explanation of why Tala wasn’t randomly chosen to welcome Eddie to heaven.

        Instead of immediately going from death to knowledge and understanding and acceptance, he has a journey and lessons to learn that help him forgive those who wounded him most deeply (especially his father, even though poignantly he never gets to find out why his dad treated him the way he did) and then seek and find forgiveness for himself.

        I like this point. And since he didn’t know about Tala, he couldn’t complete the process of grief and confession and forgiveness until he found out that she had been in the building and that he had killed her.

      • I find it interesting that Eddie didn’t MEAN to kill Tala; when he thought there might be someone in there, he braved the fire to rescue her. He hadn’t meant to cause the Blue Man’s death either. He felt guilt and wanted (and received) forgiveness, but I think the plot just shows how often we inadvertantly hurt one another. Our thoughtless actions or even purposeful choices often have unintended consequences, even to the point of causing another’s death. We get hurt by others, but we also hurt others. Thus we all need compassion, tenderness, and forgiveness in our dealings with others.

  2. Eddie’s life wasn’t wasted and his work, which protected children, and his death, which saved another little girl’s life, “make good” for Tala’s death.

    Albom does seem to be portraying Eddie’s life as a sort of penance for Tala’s death, but like the issue of sacrifice addressed in the discussion of the Captain, I don’t think of this truly penance. Eddie didn’t know he killed Tala, so he wasn’t consciously making penance for his actions.

    Eddie died saving a little girl and was pulled up to heaven by a little girl. I think this brings the story around full circle. And in a sense, the injury Eddie sustained when he went into the fire to rescue Tala caused him to die in some ways, so now in his actual death, he’s receiving freedom and forgiveness from her.

  3. The encounter with Tala proves Eddie was right when he tried to go into the fire to get the person he thought was there and he was not a soldier in shell shock. In the end, he met his destiny the same way he attempted to that day during the war. He was not rational to try to go back into the fire, but he was brave and caring for others.

    As the story moves along, I find there are a few things about Eddie that remind me of my Dad as regards his attention to detail, work ethic and being able to use his hands and tools to keep his corner of the world functioning. I have my Dad’s carpenter rule. He did not have hundreds of tools like we do now a days. He had his tools and took care of them and always knew where they were. Like Eddie, he had great love for his family and also great disappointments. I love that ruler and my husband always returns it to my toolbox.

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