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.)