'Tuesdays with Morrie' author opens up about heaven, faith

By Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 17 2014 04:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2014 01:27 AM

Host Boy Abunda interviews author Mitch Albom on "Bottomline"

MANILA -- For the second time, best-selling author Mitch Albom is writing about the afterlife.

In his latest book, "The First Phone Call from Heaven," Albom writes about a small town where people started receiving calls purportedly from heaven. News about the calls started to spread and people flock to the town to pray.

But Sully, who came from prison, wants to prove that the phone calls are a hoax.

The book was inspired by Albom's mother, who lost the ability to speak after she suffered a stroke.

"I realized how much human voice is so much a part of what we do. We live in a society where everybody has a phone but nobody wants to use it," Albom said in an interview with Boy Abunda on "Bottomline," which aired over the weekend.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if we hear their voice again? No faces, no ghosts, no apparitions, just voices. How would that make you feel? Would that be enough to make you feel that heaven existed?" he asked.

Albom also dealt with spirituality in his 2003 novel, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," which he said was inspired by an uncle who often told him stories when he was young.

He told Abunda that he also got his idea of heaven from his uncle, who told him about his experience during his open-heart surgery.

This uncle, incidentally, fought in the Philippines during World War II, which was why some Filipino characters were incorporated in his novel, including a Filipina girl named Tala who died in the book.

"As he was lying on the table, he came out of his body and hovered over the table and saw all his dead relatives waving at him and waited for him to join them," Albom narrated.

His uncle went back to his body and lived for another 15 years.

"In my mind, that's how heaven is. But I thought, what if they are not your family? What if they are other people?" he mused.

This thought led him to write the book, and why he picked strangers as the five people in heaven.

Albom said it helps to have faith and for people to understand that they are not alone.

"To think that there is something bigger than us, you may not understand it, but you have to accept it," he told Abunda.

He added that he doesn't believe in hell, because he doesn't believe that a benevolent God would bring people to eternal damnation.

'Tuesdays with Morrie'

Albom started his career as a sports journalist. One night, he saw his former professor on television, which prompted him to visit him in the hospital.

What he thought was a one-time hospital visit became a weekly meeting, which he documented in the memoir "Tuesdays with Morrie."

"I saw him suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a very terrible disease that snips the connection between your brain and all your muscles. It basically turns a person into a husk, and then you die," he said of his old professor.

He explained that he decided to visit Morrie because he was curious as to why he seemed so content that he is old and dying.

"I'm 37 and healthy, he's 78 and dying, and yet it seems that he's 10 times happier with his life," he told Abunda.

When he later learned that Morrie was in debt due to his medical bills, Albom decided to look for a publisher for his book so he can help pay for medical bills. He found a publisher three weeks before Morrie died.

Asked what "Tuesdays with Morrie" did to him, Albom said his life changed completely.

"I never wrote a sports book again. I started spending more time with people, as people share their stories with me," he said.

When asked what he would write on his epitaph, he said it would be this: "He told stories and tried through those stories to offer hope."