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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