After a devastating loss, sisters find hope on an East Hampton beach

It had been a rough week. Sisters Elaine Drury, Susan Martin and Joyce Tuttle had said goodbye to Joyce’s only daughter. Kristia Piscitelli, 47, of Westbury, L.I., was, the sisters agree, “like a white Queen Latifah.” Tall, funny and street smart, with a New York accent.

Kristia was an account manager for a food distributor. Products she worked with included Newman’s Own dressings and Butterball turkeys. She was so loved on the job that for 2 years her work station was deemed “sacred ground” by her boss. Every photo and note she’d displayed remained untouched, awaiting her return.

At 45, Kristia was diagnosed with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia. While husband Dom took charge of their 2 sons, Kristia underwent chemo and a stem cell transplant at NY’s Sloan-Kettering. Her mom, Joyce, was her caregiver. Though survival rates for CML are good, Kristia’s treatment caused complications, and stays, on and off, at an ACS Hope Lodge.

Riding a bus from the lodge to the hospital for treatment, Kristia became friendly with driver Eugene. They traded jokes and recipes. Eugene became so attached to Kristia that on Christmas day, 2014, he left his family in the Bronx to deliver a bouquet of flowers to Kristia’s hospital room. As weak as Kristia was, Joyce recalls, “When Eugene walked in, she cried.”

Kristia’s funeral, last Oct. 30, packed the family’s church in Westbury. Her whole team of therapists attended as did the jersey-wearing football team of son Michael, 16, and teachers and school principal of son Anthony, 9. After, good friends gathered at Joyce’s home in East Hampton.

When friends and family left, Susan and Elaine stayed for what Susan calls “supportive sister time.” That included helping to clean Joyce’s house, watching movies, and dancing. These gals dance whenever they can, especially to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.” On Nov. 1, despite a cool, blustery wind, the threesome walked to a favorite beach. Joyce had suggested a swim, and they’d gamely donned bathing suits under jeans and jackets.

They walked the empty beach discussing whether they had the nerve to take a dip, joking that they might claim to have done so even if they didn’t. Passing several closed up summer homes, they agreed to a quick dip.

They reached a spot where the sand met beach grass. Susan says, “Choosing a spot is part of a consciousness we humans possess, whether walking a beach or picking a table in a restaurant or the right chaise poolside. We take a moment to find the right rock to sit on, or the right place out of the wind, or the seat in or out of the sun. So on this long stretch of beach, which spot would be our spot?”

As if on cue, they stopped to drop their backpacks and outerwear. They noticed something projecting from the sand. A flat grey stone, about 8” around, was painted with a white heart. Inside the heart: the words “ALL IS WELL.”

Their mouths dropped open, Susan says. Their eyes filled with tears.

They knelt down to better see a second rock, next to the first, but smaller. It was painted with a blue elephant, trunk raised, a tiny red heart on its chest. Around these 2 rocks, several little wood, stone and shell shaped hearts were carefully placed. Elaine drew a larger heart in the sand around this surprising discovery.

Susan says, “We felt respect for whoever had created this altar and for the person or idea that inspired such loving tribute. Kristia was there with us in that message. It was a universal message to US, the living. We’ll be OK. No matter what, ALL IS WELL.

“Had we chosen this spot, or had the spot chosen us? It didn’t matter. The message was clear.”

They stepped aside, stripped, and ran to the water. “We plunged in without hesitation,” Susan says. “The message would never be lost.”

A couple days later, Joyce returned to the spot. “The beach is sandy and windy,” she says. “The tides come in fast. The altar must have been created shortly before we found it. When I went back, it was gone.”

(Cue the “On the Sea” music. How’s this for an incredible Godsign? Thanks, gals, for sharing such a powerful experience. And message.)

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12 thoughts on “After a devastating loss, sisters find hope on an East Hampton beach

  1. Joyce Tuttle

    Suzy: Thank you for the time you spent honoring Kristia and my family. It was wonderful to have this experience with you – to meet you and be part of what you stand for. It has been a wonderful lesson. I continue to be moved each time I read what you have written. The thanks come from the bottom of my heart – you are such a blessing to us all.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thank YOU for sharing this remarkable Godsign. And thanks for your lovely comment. It’s so gratifying to be able to capture such amazing moments for posterity. Thanks for my new mantra: All is well. I loved spending time with all of you. Can I be an honorary sister?

  2. Judy MacLachlan

    What a beautiful, special way to honor Kristia !! Such a fun, spur of the moment way to celebrate your dear sister !! I know she was right there with all of you, laughing & dancing with you!! I was in tears reading what Suzy wrote, beautiful !! It was a true miracle that the things found in the sand were put there by Kris, her way of showing all of you that she was indeed right there sharing in the fun & reassuring you all that she is “Whole” again & happy !!
    God Bless you all for what you did, it certainly was unique !!
    Sending healing prayers to each of you !! I love you !! xoxo.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Judy. So glad you appreciated this beach miracle.

  3. Barbara Kinnier

    Thank you so much for this very beautifully written moving tribute to Kristia and her family. I never met Kristia but knew if she was Joyce’s daughter she had to be a very special person and now I see how much she looked liked her incredible Mom. I just love how God meets us where we are and is always there and faithful even when we cannot understand this side of Heaven! That’s why is called Faith 🙂

  4. Susan martin

    Suzy, you’ve done a most beautiful job telling your readers about Kristia and that All is Well!
    Had not thought about the strong significance of “Beyond the Sea”…on the EH beach and this photo of Kristia on the beach in Maine! God is always caring for us when we watch for the SIGNS!

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