Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Stairway to Heaven

THIS IS THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER from Mitch Albom after the released of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ which gave him a good reputation for being an inspirational writer.

We have different concept of heaven. My first concept is derived from my volunteer teacher in Catechism, who provided me the fundamental understanding of God and the life with no end in heaven. With Albom’s book, it gives me a different perspective of heaven when his main character, Eddie died accidentally at the age of 83.

Edward (Eddie) is a war veteran, widower and no children. Prior to the tragic accident, he is a maintenance/repair man in an amusement park, Ruby Pier. He is responsible in overseeing the day-to-day operations of all the rides – making them safe to everyone. One day without any sign or premonition, he was killed while saving an eight year girl from the falling cart of one of the rides. A typical after death experience, Eddie woke up with a surprise that he is feeling differently and unusual things happening before his eyes. While trying to comprehend on what is going on, he is directed to five different people (The Blue Man, the Captain, Ruby, his late wife Marguerite and the young girl, Tala) that three of them were strangers whom he haven’t met during his life on earth.

The brief explanation for each Eddie’s encounter or journey to reach his final ‘home’ called heaven is not giving you the excitement of the book, but rather giving you a quick look of the lesson that Eddie learned from each individual he met. Also, it provides a better perspective of the characters directly or indirectly involved while Eddie is still alive.

The first acquaintance with the Blue Man is really a heart-breaking part of the story. It crashed my heart, knowing the life of the Blue Man as a nervous young boy and became an abnormal freaky person. The lesson learned by Eddie from this meeting: “Eddie realised that no life is a waste. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone”.

The second person is with the Captain. Eddie was able to serve the army and this is the reason why he is limping due to a gunshot which the Captain has important to tell him. The flashback of Eddie’s life as a soldier is quite an inspiration – he learned so many things. Eddie learned a lesson: “He found out that sacrifice is part of life, either little or big. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to”.

The park owner’s wife, Ruby is Eddie’s third unexpected visit. Ruby explained how the amusement park turned to reality which made a significant impact to Eddie’s life, particularly to his father. Eddie did learn from it: “He learned that holding anger is a poison and hatred is a curved blade – the harm we do, we do to ourselves”.

The fourth person that Eddie met is his loving wife. For Eddie, seeing his beloved wife is an emotional situation. Memories flashed over him – the happy moments being together.
What is the lesson learned? “Eddie found his lost love in a different form. He also learned that life has to end while love does not”.

The last unexpected meeting is Tala, the young girl who that Eddie could not understand her significance to his life. Again the last lesson learned: “Eddie took it for granted his popular name, ‘Eddie Maintenance’ and the value of his work in the amusement park – keeping children safe”.

THE STORY is presented in 208 pages which divided it into three main parts: the encounters of Eddie with the five people, the lessons learned from those meetings, and the highlights during his birthday celebrations in the past 83 years. The author gives vivid descriptions of every detail of the meeting – the location, the emotion of every character, and the significance of why Eddie is destined to talk to them. This is a light read but full of wisdom and encouragement which I believe could probably enlighten you up in some way or another and brings a different perspective in your life at the moment.

It is a delightful surprise that the author featured the character of Tala, the young Asian girl who happened to be a Filipino (my nationality); and featuring basic Filipino words such as ‘sundalo’ (soldier), ina (mother), baro (dress), bakya (cloglike shoes), banig (bamboo mat), saya (skirt) and even the name herself, Tala which means ‘star’. Reading these words from the book gives me a big smile and thinking on how Albom managed to use them to highlight the event where it happened. It also brings a comical scene on how the young girl introduced herself by describing her clothes, but suddenly becomes melancholy when she explained to Eddie her fate inside the burning ‘nipa hut’(barn).

It is a powerful story depicting how our life on earth is interconnected with events and people. Surprisingly, I felt that Eddie’s meetings are also my very first encounters with these five strangers and provided me to understand the meaning of life – the human existence. There is so much to learn from this book that Albom did it perfectly to inspire us and value our stay on earth – put meanings to our life!

The author also reminded us how forgiveness as a powerful word that moves every hardened heart to soften. It is a magical expression of love and understanding that takes away all the fears, anger and hatred in our hearts.


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