Bestselling Author Mitch Albom Offers Glimpse Into Next Person We Meet in ‘Heaven’
Mitch Albom’s new book, “The Next Person You Meet In Heaven” is a sequel to his 2003 worldwide bestseller “The Five People You Meet In Heaven.” It follows the story of Annie, a little girl who was saved from an accident at an amusement park when she was a child – an accident that took the life of Eddie, a grizzled maintenance man who dies after pushing Annie to safety.
In Albom’s original book, he shows how Eddie meets five people in heaven who explain his life to him, and its untold significance.
In the sequel, Annie, now grown, dies in a tragic accident and embarks on her own heavenly journey, where five people show her that her life’s “mistakes” were not what she thought.
In this excerpt, Annie gets to see her departed mother, Lorraine, one more time, as they share a blessed chance to reconcile old angers.
In the blue river of the afterlife, Lorraine cupped her hands and lifted water up, watching it pour through her fingers.
“This is your heaven?” Annie asked.
“Isn’t it beautiful? I wanted serenity, after all the conflict of my life. Here I enjoy a calm I never knew on earth.”
“And you’ve been waiting for me all this time?”
“What’s time between a mother and her daughter? Never too much, never enough.”
“We fought a lot.”
She took Annie’s left hand and guided it into the water. “But is that all you remember?”
Annie felt her fingers floating and her mind doing the same. In the water’s reflection she saw only loving scenes from her childhood, countless memories, her mother kissing her good night, unwrapping a new toy, plopping whipped cream onto pancakes, putting Annie on her first bicycle, stitching a ripped dress, sharing a tube of lipstick, pushing a button to Annie’s favorite radio station. It was as if someone unlocked a vault and all these fond recollections could be examined at once.
“Why didn’t I feel this before?” she whispered.
“Because we embrace our scars more than our healing,” Lorraine said. “We can recall the exact day we got hurt, but who remembers the day the wound was gone?
“From the moment you woke up in that hospital after the accident, I was different with you, and you were different with me. You were sullen. You were mad. You fought with me constantly. You hated my restrictions. But that wasn’t the real reason for your anger, was it?”
Lorraine reached down and clutched Annie’s fingers.
“Can you break that last secret? Can you say the real reason for your resentment since that day at Ruby Pier?”
Annie choked up.
“Because you were my mother,” she whispered. “And you weren’t there to save me.”
Lorraine closed her eyes. “That’s right. And can you forgive me for that?”
“You don’t need to hear me say it.”
“No, I don’t,” Lorraine answered, softly. “But you do.”
Annie began to cry again, tears of release, blessed release, the expulsion of secrets bottled up for years. She realized the sacrifices Lorraine had made before and after that day at Ruby Pier, ending her marriage, giving up her home, forsaking her friends, her history, her desires, making Annie her only priority. She thought about her mother’s small funeral, and how much of Lorraine’s life had been surrendered to protect Annie’s.
“Yes, yes, I forgive you, Mom. Of course I forgive you. I didn’t know. I love you.”
Lorraine placed her hands together.
“That,” Lorraine said, smiling, “is what I was here to teach you.”
With that, Lorraine lifted off the ground and hovered above Annie, just for a moment. Then, with a final touch of her daughter’s chin, she swelled into the sky, until her face commanded the firmament.
“It’s time to go, angel.”
“You need to make your peace.”
“But we made our peace!”
“There’s someone else you need to meet.”
Before Annie could respond, the river rushed and heavy rains began to fall. Annie was blown sideways, all but blinded by the downpour. She felt a sudden bump on her hip. A large wooden barrel was nudging against her. She tilted its top and pulled herself safely inside. The walls were stained with a brown substance, and there were pillows all around for cushioning. Annie jostled to a sitting position, feeling the river rumbling beneath her.
Then, with a jerk, the barrel surged ahead.
She heard the storm and water crashing against rocks, louder by the second, turning ominous, thunderous. She felt something she had yet to feel in heaven: pure fear.
The barrel shot over a massive waterfall, out into a moment of such thick, violent noise, it was as if God’s own voice were howling. In that rush, with nothing beneath her, Annie experienced the utter abandon of a free fall. She was helpless, beyond all control.
As she pushed against the walls, she looked up through a spray of white water and saw her mother’s face gazing down, whispering a single word.