Ruby tells Eddie that his father wasn’t as bad as he seemed. Ruby brings Eddie to a scene from the past. On a storming night, Mickey Shea is drunk and sobbing in the kitchen, and Eddie’s mother tends to him. Mickey follows Eddie’s mother into her bedroom, pushes her against a wall, and tries to touch her against her will. Eddie’s father comes home, sees this, and Mickey runs out. After violently grabbing his crying wife and jerking her around, Eddie’s father runs after Mickey and into the storm. He finds Mickey at the ocean, and the two men fall into the tide fighting. The water catches Mickey, and Eddie’s father decides to rescue him. He pulls Mickey to safety. Exhausted and half-conscious, the two men lay on the stormy shore for hours before they can return.
Though Ruby wants to show Eddie’s father in a redeeming light, his persistent cruelty is still evident—his wife is nearly raped, and his first reaction is to blame her and subject her to further violence. While his anger may be meant to signify his love and devotion for his wife, his reaction betrays otherwise. Likewise, Eddie’s father’s anger at Mickey doesn’t stem from concern for his wife, but rather is a reaction to what he sees as an affront to his authority and possession over his family. Further, Mickey’s actions attempt to undermine his masculinity, as defined by his sole claim to sexual relations with his wife.
Ruby explains that Eddie’s father died from the pneumonia he caught on the beach the night he saved Mickey Shea. Eddie is shocked to learn about Mickey’s attempt to rape his mother, and angrily says he would have let Mickey die after what he did. Ruby reminds Eddie that Mickey had done many kind things for Eddie’s family over the years, such as getting his father his job at Ruby Pier, and giving the family money when Eddie was born and they were struggling. Ruby tells Eddie that his father was loyal to Mickey, and understood his alcoholism and ensuing failures in decision-making. She tells him that Mickey had lost his job that day, and was acting out of a sense of loneliness and pain. Ruby says Eddie’s father’s death was in sacrifice for a friend, which is a worthy reason to die.
Ruby wants to show Eddie that everyone is capable of falling short, and everyone deserves forgiveness. Pain causes people to hurt others, as Mickey’s loneliness (supposedly) inspired his actions. The only characters portrayed with this complex combination of good and evil are male, however—Eddie’s mother is shown only as the victim of violence. Further, there is no talk of Eddie’s mother’s feelings toward Mickey—it is as if the offence were only against Eddie’s father. This further emphasizes Albom’s portrayal of males as multi-faceted in moral dilemmas, and females as naturally forgiving.
Ruby reminds Eddie of how weak his father was in the hospital, and how he was unable to speak. She tells Eddie that his father didn’t die in his sleep, as the nurses had said, but that he had died the night before while leaning out over the open window. Close to death, he regretted all of his mistakes and the pain he had caused those he loved. Though they were nowhere near, he called out the names of his wife, his sons, and Mickey. Then he died.
In the novel, death is necessary because it gives one perspective and makes one’s life clearer—and this clarity then clears the path to redemption. Connections to others are all that remain at the end of Eddie’s father’s life, and this realization leads to his regret. Redemption is not granted by others, but found through sorrow, regret, and attempts to make things right.
Ruby tells Eddie she cares about him and his father because Eddie’s father was sharing a hospital room with her husband, Emile. When Ruby learned that Eddie’s father worked and had fallen ill at Ruby Pier, she felt as if she were responsible for the accident herself. She took a great interest in Eddie’s father, and felt a strong connection to his family. The diner, Ruby explains, is from a time in her life when she was happy and life was safe and simple. Now, in heaven, she can keep all the souls of those who were hurt at Ruby Pier safe and warm, far from the ocean.
Ruby’s choice to unite the souls of those hurt at the Pier demonstrates the connections forged by shared suffering. Ruby sees their pain as the consequence of unforeseeable causes and effects. She also associates the ocean with the danger of material ambition. Ruby’s choice to make heaven a place to care for the damaged fits into the narrative of women as tasked with nurturing and fixing others.
Reflecting on the new details about his father’s death, Eddie reminds Ruby again of how abusive his father was to him. Ruby tells Eddie she knows, but that Eddie’s anger is only hurting himself. She tells Eddie he needs to forgive his father. Eddie tells her that his life was wasted at Ruby Pier because of his father, but Ruby tells him that isn’t true, and that he will have to find out the real reason when he meets his next two people in heaven. Then Ruby walks away, and disappears.
While it is implied that Eddie’s father’s actions were redemptive, Ruby never directly states that Eddie’s father deserved forgiveness. Indeed, the reminders of Eddie’s father’s violence only serve to reassert the gravity of his wrongs. Yet Ruby’s final message is that anger is destructive, whereas forgiveness is the only path to true peace.
Left alone now, Eddie walks up to the diner window, and again watches his father sitting inside. Eddie’s father still can’t hear him, but Eddie speaks to him anyway. Eddie asks his father why he abused him so much, and tells him how much it hurt him. Then he tells his father his full life story. Eddie is now very emotional. He tells his father that it doesn’t matter, because now he is choosing to drop his anger. Then he says, “It’s fixed,”—the same phrase Eddie used to tell his father when he was young, every time he put together some broken piece of equipment his father had given him. Eddie then sees Ruby, now young and pretty, watching him from a distance. Then she disappears again into a sky the color of jade.
As he did throughout his youth, Eddie again “fixes” the broken thing his father has left him. The broken thing may be seen as Eddie’s relationship with his father, or as Eddie’s own damaged spirit. Throughout his childhood, Eddie sought responses from his father, and even in heaven, Eddie still doesn’t fully know why his father hurt him so. But in this scene, his father’s silence forces him to stop searching for answers. What heaven (or the implied God) thinks Eddie needs aren’t answers, but the ability to forgive even when he doesn’t have all the answers.