My father-in-law, Christiano Oiticica

Paulo Coelho

Shortly before he died, my father-in-law gathered the family together and announced:

“I know that death is just a passage, and I want to be able to make this passage without any sadness. To put your minds at rest, I shall send you a sign that it was worthwhile helping others in this life.” He asked to be cremated and for his ashes to be thrown into the ocean at Arpoador beach in Ipanema while a tape played his favorite pieces of music.

He died two days later. A friend arranged for his cremation in Sí£o Paulo and when we returned to Rio we all went to Arpoador beach with the radio, the tapes and the package with the little urn containing his ashes. Standing facing the sea, we discovered that the lid of the urn was closed with screw-nails. We tried to open it, but to no avail.

There was nobody around, just a beggar, who came up to us and asked: “What do you want?”

My brother-in-law answered: “A screwdriver, because my father’s ashes are inside this box.”

“He must have been a very good man, because I just found this lying over there,” said the beggar, holding out a screwdriver.

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  1. MRIDUL says:

    Hi Jessica,
    i read and felt the pain but u kno the best part is u r already out of it as u have already forgiven these persons who hurt u very much in the past.As for luv u dont hav to luv them but once u forgave them u got free from that negative part and it is gud 4 u.
    i hope that sometimes in future u will understand that luv hate is same thing the difference is the way we see & feel it i wish u the best in life and hope that nobody will ever hurt u in future take care and be happy

  2. Lucrecia says:

    these are wonderfull stories – or experiences. how is this possible, a beggar with a screw driver just when you need one, how is it possible you need a screw driver at a funeral. it is wonderful, it is miracle.

  3. wanice says:

    How wonderful to read all of these beautiful stories about beloved grandparents. I am a grandmother. A very joyful grandmother. So thankful to be blessed with these precious grandchildren. You have all spoken of your love for your grandparents and how they are still with you. And that I know will be the experience of my own grandchildren…for I have given them my whole heart…and it is an eternal gift that keeps giving from one generation to another. I would like to say to all those who wrote of their beloved grandparents and what they meant to your life…know that not only did they bless and enrich your life, but you also gave them eternal treasure in your undying love. You see, there is really no such thing as death…and they, as well as you, can continiue to enjoy each others love and presence…forever. And when you share your love stories with your own children, the gift continues…

  4. Evaa says:

    Nice sharing. (:
    Life really is wonderful because of these kind of things happening.

  5. caro says:

    Hello everybody,
    By reading all those beautiful I just felt like sharing my own story…hoping it won’t bother…
    I do believe strongly in signs and I feel like sometimes life just makes it so obvious that even if I am in a bad period where I’ve lost a little faith, it reminds me I should not.
    Long story short… I was extremely close to my grand mother, she was like my Mum since I was 4 yro. She passed more than 2 years ago already now…I was 22 and it has been really hard. I still miss her a lot… I can say I can feel her presence some days, just like she was right behind me, her hand on my shoulder, like to protect me. I just feel so protected in those moments, like nothing can touch me or hurt me.
    This year I am living abroad in North America so hours are different compare to where I am from (France)…but how weird is that…
    At the end of March, I was driving at night, at 4 in the morning because I was working overnight. While I was in my car I dont know why but I suddenly realized the date has changed because we were already the morning and though it was the anniversary date of her death. I looked at that minute to the clock which was showing 3 55 am. But in France, where she died, it corresponded to 9 55 am, the exact hour she “legally officially” died. I felt very disturbed on the moment but I am convinced she just sent me a sign that night, to show me she was still by my side, wherever I could be in the world.
    So that’s my short own story… To end I would just like to thank her for everything. She is part of me and I love her so much, forever…even if I miss her, I am just proud everyday to have had the chance to be her “special” grand daughter for all those years. What she left me, the impact she have had on my life is the treasure of my life.

  6. […] Yes, I believe in presence of our loved ones and how their memory affects us all our lives. I even published a story about the death of my father-in-law and the “sign” we all received from his presence. You can read it here. […]

  7. That is beautiful!

    My father, Robert, I know he is well wherever he is, he also had the same request, except to be thrown in the ocean…

    He wanted to be cremated and wanted Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my Way’ to be played. Of course his wishes were fulfilled.

    I miss him so much!


  8. Ican only say thanks you both for sharin such important and beautiful moments of your lives, one can feel blessed to be sorrounde by angels.

  9. orly says:

    as a matter of fact since a few years ago i realized that in life all is connected, and we just have to open our eyes and learn to listen around us and all of a sudden we’ll see this amazing connection.
    when u tell this amazing story about ur family member I can relate to our hope and when the focus is on some event with so much power of energy ( I am sure that u are vvvery open to that power) things happen, its defenetely not a co incident!!! It happens to me a lot!!! thru meditation. and i really understand that hapenning!

  10. marie-christine says:

    Remembering Dad,
    I remember you Dad when you were young and so enthusiastic about life
    You were always on the go, you worked long hours and still had time to go and help others.
    Every Saturdays during Winter, you drove to all the soccer matches to follow your favourite team Nimes all over France. Mum and I used to go and watch a movie or go to a “Foire Exposition.”
    I remember going to the movies, helping our cousin, we must have watched “Gone with the wind and “Farewell to the Arms” a hundred times.
    Every Saturdays, during the Summer months, we used to go to Les Arenes in Beziers and watch anything that was appearing there. We’ve seen anything under the sun from Holiday On Ice, synchronised swimming to the Harlem Globe Trotters Jacques Brel, Brassens, Barbara, Becaud, etc.
    Hey Dad, you were so switched on with regard to scientific works, world and current affairs, you worked it all out. Thanks for that.
    Music was one of your passion, you loved Stephane Grapelli, Django, the gypsy as well as the “accordion” listening to that special emission on radio on an early Sunday morning.
    You were always cracking a joke, you were so funny and had a way with talking with people – especially with the ladies – got you into trouble a few times too –
    I knew I had you wrapped around my little fingers every time I entered the room – your face lit up – I used to ask you time and time again to recite me the poem in Spanish,(even towards the end you still remembered it )- “Nina, sabes que eres linda” You were so expressive and your Spanish was so good. You were truly gifted. Dad, your stamina was incredible, you were so fit, cycling for hours with your friends. Then I remember how your world started stumbling down… gave up.
    Years passed, I remember getting up early one morning to go to the toilet, I could see the light in the kitchen and I heard you saying how you were going mad and crying and it was then that you decided to let it all go. That haunted me for years.
    I remember coming into the hospital room, having to tell you that your son had died and that he had not gone fishing as you had been told, you were so heartbroken, how you insisted to come to the funeral. You arrived with the ambulance, looking so lost – you were so devasted – and there was nothing I could do to allievate the pain. You left with the ambulance, on your own again. I wondered what you must have been thinking.
    A couple of years later, I came to say good bye to you on my way to the airport, I could hear you moving about in your bed – we did not talk – just looked at each other – and we both knew that I would not see you alive again. It was so so hard to leave.
    Calling the Hospital in the Emergency, for a second time, Dad you waited for me to call. I know that, the Doctor was in the room and said: “Your father just died now.” I felt your spirit.

    I love you so much. Thanks for being such a good Dad.

  11. Stacey says:

    Wonderful story. I’m speechless, but it was 100% heartfelt.

  12. Pepper says:

    What a gift it must have been to have known this man. I think he lives on in both. Thank you for sharing as it gives hope that caring for our world and the people within is worth it, whether we see the results or not.

  13. Liisa says:

    Thank you Paulo and Paula for sharing your magical and beautiful stories.

    Makes me think of my grand mother and the moments in which I’ve felt her presence after she died. Like now. :)

  14. T.K. says:

    What I find intriguing about this is that the ‘beggar’ didn’t ask for anything but only asked if they needed anything. How ironic. I’m glad they didn’t ignore the beggar.

    I know the sign was the screwdriver, but I wonder if too the beggar was a sign to be kind to everyone. You never know who will be able to help you.

    This story has opened my eyes a little bit wider on today. Thanks, Paulo.

  15. Nancy says:

    What your father-in-law said and the opening of the urn was a beautiful connection. To read about it brings a little peace. What I do with this peace is up to me.

  16. Pandora says:

    Congratulations Paula on your Wedding, it sounds like you have also inherited his talent for writing as well, and thank you both for sharing these beautiful memories.

    Now I am thinking of my Grandfather, an artist, like my Mother, who had a studio at the bottom of the garden, where he would paint nature and feel peace. I haven’t stared at his eyes for a long time.

    Much love

  17. SIDO66 says:

    A sharing also for you Paula

    I remember myself of my grandmother, a woman filled with kindness:

    The priest of our village, my friend Paul, but also the doctors of establishment came in the bedroom of my grandmother which were hospitalized there: to cheer up itself the morale, said they.!!! They came to speak with her and go back up to(raise) the morale, and went out of her bedroom got fresh ideas room and joyful

    The kindness in its glance and in its life (I had the chance to share a little of my childhood with her, because she lived with us some years before being hospitalized because mom did not any more manage to give all the care) and I also know that she is indeed today = on her face of death, all saw the enormous smile who was congealed on the face (she had asked for her death and was exausée for her biggest enjoyment)

    Grandma, I love you…

    [ paulo , si vous pouvez : corriger mon mauvais anglais afin que Paula goí»te mes mots justes . merci )
    [ Paulo, if you can: correct my bad English so that Paula enjoys my just words. Thank you)

    un partage aussi pour vous Paula

    je me rappelle de ma grand-mère , une femme remplie de bonté … :

    le príªtre de notre village , mon ami Paul , mais aussi les médecins de l’établissement venaient dans la chambre de ma grand-mère qui y étaient hospitalisée : pour se remonter le moral , disaient ils .!!! ils venaient parler avec elle et se remontez le moral , et sortaient de sa chambre ressourcée et joyeux

    la bonté dans son regard et dans sa vie ( j’ai eu la chance de partager un peu de mon enfance avec elle , puisqu’elle a vécu avec nous quelques années avant d’íªtre hospitalisée puisque maman n’arrivait plus í  donner tous les soins …) et je sais aussi qu’elle est bien aujourd’hui = sur son visage de mort , tous ont vu l’énorme sourire qui était figée sur son visage ( elle avait demandé sa mort et a été exausée pour sa plus grande joie )

    Mamy , je t’aime …

  18. Sefer JAN says:

    Before my grandpa died, he asked my ancles to call me to him. When I came, he said: “Sefer, very soon I will go home, I want you to take me to my home.” I was a 10 years old child, I did not understand all that was happening. When he closed his eyes, I understood that he was gone. Unfortunately my uncles did not let me go to cemetary. Sometimes I go to visit my grandpa’s “home” and pray for his soul.

  19. THELMA says:

    Thank you Paulo and Paula Braconnot for sharing your stories. One said from the eye’s of a child and yours Paulo, with the poets ‘pen’. It seems that you have ‘walked’ a part of your journey with a wonderful, wise, loving man. His ‘signs’ have followed you and relieved your pain from his absence.
    Death is the … beginning of a new life, free from the boundaries and .. heaviness of the material body. It is the butterfly’s flight towards the Light.[Ψυχή} We carry with us our pure self.
    p.s. My best wishes for your new married life, dearest Paula.T.

  20. Uff, what a gorgeous reply to such a wonderful entry.
    I do love my grandpa even when he died years ago,( I am 46) I don´t know if I believe or not in a second life ( I wish I could believ in it, , really, but not only thinking of me, but of the others I loved so much…and have gone …
    I can remember him letting me practice the keyboard at his typewriter and talking to me about his paintings, books, poetry, stories, writings…
    One of his eyes was blind ( he got a shot during the war ), but the other was tha kindest Ivé ever met.
    Today, I write, and paint, and I love both things because he let me his love to these kind of things,
    You know?. I understand every word you have written thanking Paulo and praising your grandfather.
    Tears fight to scape so I have to say goodbye…
    ( sorry if my English is poor… I do my best ;) )

    Is this story real?
    Most of the times I don´t believe in “chance”. And if it is a true story, this is one of the times I won´t.

  21. SIDO66 says:

    Paula, Paulo

    hier je discutais avec maman sur les coí¯ncidences de date naissance / mort ..etc .. dans notre famile ( 8 coí¯ncidences ) et elle m’en a apprise d’autres :

    elle raconte que lorsqu’elle était petite sa tante a annoncé qu’elle allait mourir un 4 septembre : la date de la mort de son propre père

    et cela est arrivé !! : une année , elle est tombée gravement malade et elle ne cessait de demander la date í  la fin de sa vie ; et de lui répondre ” c’est le 1er septembre , le 2 , le 3 …” et elle est morte le 4 septembre comme elle l’avait annoncée

    je ne citerai pas les autres coí¯ncidences mais elles se sont toutes réalisées dans la réalité

    et puis il y a tout ce qu’on ne peut pas dire , car le croierez vous ???

    seulement , il y a des choses offertes í  certains de voir et pas í  d’autres , mais je sais que je ne suis pas seule et cela me suffit et doit vous suffire pour le moment

    juste un peu partager , car í  lourdes il m’a été dit que je faisais preuve de trop d’humilité et qu’il fallait un peu raconter ( affaire í  suivre … )

    Yesterday I discussed with mom the coincidences of date birth / death(dead man) etc. in our famile ( 8 coincidences) and she learnt me the others:

    She tells that when she was small her aunt announced that she was going to die on September 4th: the date of the death of her own father

    And it arrived!!: one year, her seriously fell ill and she did not stop asking for the date at the end of her life; and to answer her ” it is September 1st, 2, 3 ” and she died on September 4th as she had announced it

    I shall not quote the other coincidences but they quite came true in the reality
    And then there is all that we cannot say, because the croierez you???

    Only, there are things offered to some to see and not in the others, but I know that I am not alone and it is enough for me and has to be enough for you for the moment

    Just a little to share, because at Lourdes ( France ) it was said to me that I showed too much humility and that it was a little necessary to tell (affair to be followed)

  22. Pablo says:

    Good after-noon (at least in my geografic area noon has passed..),

    Magic moment. It’s a pitty that people aren’t more sensitive to the moments like this. Perhaps, it was just good luck…screwdriver at that place. Or we could think about the meaning of this…with mind opened.

    Thank you.


  23. Marie-Christine says:

    That’s lovely Paula.

  24. Paula Braconnot says:

    I left this comment in the other entry of this blog : “Your space in my blog – 8th of January”

    The most relevant thing that I have to share is the fact that Paulo has written about his father-in-law – my grand-father – Christiano Oiticica.

    My grandfather is my guardian angel since I was born. I remember when I was little that I would come over to his apartment in Rio and be allowed to his office. I was the only person allowed to enter – not even his wife could come there!

    I was already aware of this “privilege” and remember looking at the chaos of books, papers, pens, clips, magazines covering virtually everything!

    I sat on my grandfather’s lap, in front of his typewriter and look down. I could see my little legs joyfully playing in the air and grandfather’s only leg reaching like an old tree trunk to the ground beneath.

    My grandfather was on a wheelchair because he had to amputate his other leg due to diabetes. He was a cheerful man, but the toll of his disease was gradually clouding his humor.

    Nevertheless – I remember him letting me touch the keyboard of his typewriter and talking to me about books, stories, writing…

    He died when I was seven – my mom called home and said to me to call dad. He wasn’t home, I asked her why she was crying and she replied to me : “grandfather is gone”. I was unable to do anything – not even cry.

    I told myself since that day that I would keep him close to me forever.

    Last week, I got married to a wonderful man and my grandfather was there – in the shape of the wedding rings that he left me for my marriage.

    While typing this now, a small ray of sunshine has just lighten up my left hand and with the eyes of my mind, I can see his name – Oiticica – engraved inside the ring.

    Oiticica – a powerful tree that lives in the northern deserts of Brazil. The only shadow that subsists in this arid land.

    Oiticica – my loved grandfather – my constant oasis in this life.

    Thank you Paulo!

    1. Heart says:

      Dear, dear Paula,

      Congratulations on your marriage, and with rings blessed by your own Oiticica. Long live Paula and her husband… and please they many, many children will get !!


  25. SOPHY says:

    Believing in the unseen is just powerful as we couldn’t imagine… and helps a lot actually, for me. For decisions and a guide to live fully. I have kept in mind what all my dad’s told to me since I was a kid till now… when I could still barely hold his hand.

    I just wanted to say everything about what I feel. That’ll still choose him to be my father… even he had lapses.

    I’m starting to search for the truth and the good things in this life.

    I keep on reading something Mr. Coelho’s writings… he’s one of my inspirations now.