The Five People You meet in Heaven

 by Brad Cotton, M.D.

“Does God know that I am here?” Eddie asks his wife  Marguerite in Heaven, from the book and movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven,  “I spent  part of my life running  from Him, later I figured He didn’t even know I existed.”

Many attenders at our GriefShare group, hosted by the Circleville Church of the Nazarene, have found peace in this beautiful and compassionate work. It is quite likely my favorite film of all. Like Job, grieving folks are not easily comforted by glib scripture quotes or Pollyanna answers.  Job’s  friends, well about the only thing they did right was to sit quietly with Job for seven days in the Jewish custom of  sitting shiva. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar goofed up once they started offering trite formula answers.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven  sits quietly alongside one, the answers  provided in this beautiful film are gentle, deep and compassionate.  An abusive father, war, accidents, illness, death are part of Eddie’s life, a maintenance man at an amusement park who figures his life never amounted to anything. Perhaps I enjoy the film so much as I spent the summer of 1972 working and living at Cedar Point. I used to listen to the waves on the beach late at night, think of all the persons who had been to the park that day. Eddie learns just how much he and everyone, every single person matters from his five people he meets in Heaven. The folks in our GriefShare  group matter, as did the loved ones they lost. “ Life has to end, Eddie” explains Marguerite, “ Love doesn’t.”

The Five People You meet in Heaven  treats every character with the  kind of unlimited  compassion Jesus had for us all.  Ruby’s “Seaside Diner” reminds one of Luke 14: 14-24, the Parable of the Great Banquet. Whereas Jesus welcomed all the “poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” to his eternal Banquet , Ruby maintains the diner where she had waited on so many common  working folk as a young woman. Ruby, Eddie’s third person he meets in Heaven,shares with him, “This was my idea, my heaven. Fights, accidents, fires, I would have none of it! Everyone who suffered…,even for a moment …would be safe forever .”  I should like to work in an emergency department like that. Through Ruby Eddie learns the hidden history of his abusive and distant father, “I didn’t know you, I didn’t know your life, Dad” Eddie weeps as his anger for his father melts with understanding. Many in GriefShare had difficult relationships with their lost loved ones.

If you are hurting from the loss of someone close, please consider attending our GriefShare group. We meet in the Circleville Church of the Nazarene but we are entirely nondenominational, wishing only to share with you our faith, strength and hope, gained from our own experience with loss. GriefShare meets Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. Do join us, we’ll save a chair for you.

Brad Cotton is co-facilitator with Susan Weethee for GriefShare. Brad is Convener for the Circleville Friends (Quakers) and is a full-time emergency physician. Susan attends the Church of Christ in Christian Union and is a paramedic with the Circleville Fire Department.