Every so often I tell this story, an amazing true story that happened to my family on St. Patrick’s Day in 2005, the day we buried my father at sea, at his favorite fishing hole. I’m just going to copy and paste it here from the first time I wrote it in 2005. My nephew is now grown up so I changed his name for his protection.
Our family is of Irish descent, my dad was about as Irish as they come and every year as we were growing up he would throw a big party on St. Patrick’s Day. So when he died one of his requests was that we spread his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean off of the island he lived on for half the year in Florida (he followed the fish each season) on St. Patrick’s Day and have an Irish Wake. Every year on the anniversary I retell this story, it’s a story of hope, and it really happened to us and I want to share it with you…
Today marks the 4 year anniversary since we spread my dad’s ashes in the Florida Keys as per his wishes. My father died suddenly at their house in Florida May 3, 2004. I like to mark this anniversary with this story each year: (Originally written March 23, 2005)Last Thursday, on St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrated my father’s life by spreading his ashes about 2 miles off the Florida Keys (he had died unexpectedly the year before in an accident at this house). It was a beautiful ceremony. We had a St. Patrick’s Day memorial party with his friends, no grandchildren, in the afternoon at the house on the water as dad had requested.
In the evening (about 9PM) the family (including the under 15 set who were not at the house during the day) gathered on the patio to enjoy mom’s key lime pie and other desserts by CANDLELIGHT. My nephew Peter (not his real name) was the only grandchild to join us on the patio as the other kids ate inside watching TV. Peter is a little over 2.5 years old (he had only met my dad about a handful of times as his family lived in another state) He wasn’t a big talker yet, but he could usually put a word or two together, and knows sign language for the important words like Eat, Food and Drink. (This was one of the last pictures I took of dad at their house in NJ with my mom and nephew Peter)
Peter had never been to my parents house in Florida, and this particular night was the first time he was even at the house at all as we all rented houses on a different parts of the island and had dinner at one another’s house the previous nights. As we sat around the table on the patio, talked about the next day’s plans. PETER suddenly stood up from sitting on the ground and points into the darkness towards the water where my dad’s boat use to be docked (the boat was not there, as mom sold it right after dad died,) and states “POP-POP, boat.” He says this a few times. He goes on to say Pop-pop, minnow. “Pop-pop, home” “Pop-pop hello.” “No bait to fish”.
A very emotional Mom then asked me to go get a photo of dad and give it to Peter’s dad. His dad, pointed to the photo and says to Peter, “Who is this? Peter said Pop-pop.” Peter where is pop-pop? And then Peter pointed towards where the stern (back) of the boat would be, and where my dad spent many hours tinkering.
As time went on, things got quiet and Peter went back to being quiet and staring into the darkness, my sister Tracy said to me that it was like the movie the Sixth-Sense, I leaned over to her and said “Can Peter see dead people?”. (I don’t think Peter heard me, but his mother came over and tapped me on the head and looked at me with a disapproving look.)
THEN Peter jumps up and happily states, as he was raising his arms in the air like he was going to do a cheer, “NO ONE is DEAD,” “NO ONE is DEAD,” “No Sad, No one Dead,” Don’t be scared, No one dead, Pop-pop is Home.” After about a minute or two he stopped and began playing patty cake with Pop-pop? Then he played hide and go seek, even stating BOO a few times. Then he walked to the far (and less lit) side of the patio, about 25 feet from where we were all sitting, to where the empty hammock was. He then started pushing the hammock with TWO HANDS gleefully squealing “WHEEEEEE WHEEEEE ISNT THIS FUN….” Finally running back to where we were sitting stunned, Peter stated one last time “NO ONE DEAD, DON’T BE SAD” “Pop-pop HOME”
At this point Peter went on to play a game of stepping on someones toes, and then someone trying to step on his toes. This was a sight to see as he was clearly communicating and playing with someone (Pop-Pop?) as he was squealing in laughter and looking up. After a bit, as we were all sniffling and in a bit of shock, Peter’s frazzled dad said it was late, and time to go, at that point the usually mild manner boy just burst out crying and actually threw himself on the ground backwards (not violently though). As his dad picked him up, Peter turned 180 degrees towards the water, where the stern of the boat would have been, where my dad spent so many hours, and said bye pop-pop, bye as he blew Pop-pop a kiss good-bye
We all know how blessed we are to have had this amazing experience. And for months following this incident, Peter would occasionally see Pop-pop and announce it to his mom. Eventually they stopped; once in awhile when I see Peter I ask him if he has seen Pop-pop, and his response is a perplexed look, he has no idea what I am talking about, but we had that moment. My fear of death and dying was put to rest after this, I wish I could say it was my faith that created this change, but it was this moment.
My Mike wasn’t on this trip with me, and being Jewish/Agnostic he was skeptical of my story, until he asked each my sisters separately and our stories were nearly identical. He’s still agnostic, but believes that we saw Peter chat with dad on St. Patrick’s Day 2005