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Sharing the Journey from Bereaved to Shining Light Parent
Gifts From Nick

Gifts From Nick

  • Posted
    • Sep
    • 12
    • 2020
by Elizabeth Boisson

Synchronicities that helped shape my life after the loss of my son

By Conrad Leslie


Life with my son Nicolas was like a fairytale. Our home was paradise, and I really believed that we would live happily ever after. Nicolas was our only child, and the center of our universe. Everything my wife and I did, every move we made, had Nick in mind. We are a very close family, and Nick is my best friend. We enjoyed kite surfing, surfing, snowboarding, fishing and diving together. Our family traveled the world building memories, living life, and enjoying our adventures.


Suddenly everything that we held dearly was lost when an ISIS inspired terrorist took away our child along with 85 other innocent souls on July 14, 2016 in Nice, France. Nicolas was 20 years old and a junior at UC Berkeley when he was accepted to attend an innovative study abroad program (European Innovative Academy) held in Nice, France. He was walking with a group of students that night along the Promenade Anglaise in Nice during the Bastille Day celebration. He was having the time of his life, strolling down the promenade and looking up at the fireworks when he was struck down from behind by a large white truck that was used as a weapon of mass destruction by the terrorist.


We heard about the attack on television. It was all over the news. I called Nick’s cell phone, but he did not answer; nevertheless, I felt that he was safe. I was confident that he was fine, perhaps, hiding somewhere until it was safe.


After three days of not hearing from him, we traveled to France to look for him. While sitting in the airplane in Paris on a layover to Nice, we received a call from a government official who told us: “I regret to inform you that your son did not make it”. Those words will always haunt me. What does it mean that he did not make it? We let out a loud scream in the airplane and flight attendants came to comfort us. The dark feeling of finding out that my son, my love, my joy, my future, and my entire reality collapsed upon itself was like if my heart had exploded and been replaced by a massive black hole. How could our son be there at the exact time and place of a terrorist attack? How could this happen to my son? If Nicolas would have been delayed by just one minute on his way to the Bastille Day celebration, he would have been spared. 


We lived in Del Mar, California, a quiet beach community in San Diego County. It was a safe and beautiful place millions of miles away from the news stories of terrorist attacks and other violence. A son of two immigrants, I pushed myself to this community because of the excellent public-school district. We bought our home in Del Mar 23 years ago, and the mortgage back then was frightening. However, it was worth all the sleepless nights and long working hours since I knew that my son would receive a great education.


The public elementary school where he attended, Del Mar Heights School had a 180-degree ocean view, the classes were small with caring teachers and loving parent volunteers were eager to help. The theme of Del Mar Heights school was a Global Village, and it helped Nicolas prepare for the world ahead of him. Nick went on to graduate from Torrey Pines High School in 2014, a well-recognized and award-winning high school. He played lacrosse for the Torrey Pines Falcons, but on his senior year, he became interested in politics and joined the speech and debate team. He had natural skills in debate and soon rose to become the team’s co-captain. Nick was smart and athletic; confident without being arrogant. At 6’3 and 190 lbs., he was tall and strong. He became a certified SCUBA diver at 10 years old, loved to free dive with sharks, and night diving for lobsters. He started kite surfing at the age of 9 and became a certified kite surfing instructor at 17. I rarely worried about him getting hurt in the water, while snowboarding a black diamond run in Mammoth Mountain, or traveling abroad on his own. He spoke three languages and was always very careful and prudent in everything he did. He was somewhat of a perfectionist, he would not give up until his school assignment, soccer moves, or kite surfing tricks were perfected. I would have never imagined in a million years that he would be taken by an ISIS terrorist. Was I pretentious or just naive to think that just because we had a good life and lived in paradise that we were destined to live happily ever after like a fairy tale?


I used to love life and fear death since I always wanted to spend every moment of my life with our son. I did not want the ride to end; I felt blessed. But after our loss, I became fearful of life, and death became a friend to flirt with. It scared me to think about a life without Nicolas, and I knew that eventually my own death would be a ticket to be with Nick. I felt I had nothing to live for. I lost my ambitions, my confidence, and my future. Everything that I had worked for, my career, my business, our home, professional recognition, everything that I had built; suddenly became worthless. My dream to one day pass everything to Nicolas and set him up was over; I no longer had an heir. The fruit of my love with my wife, had been taken from us.


My wife, Paola, and I grieved differently, and things started to spiral out of control. I started drinking, and Paola just faded away into depression and complicated grief. She would just look at me and ask “why, why, why?” The pain of losing my child was already unbearable, and watching Paola suffer made it even that much worst (if that could even be possible). It did not look good for us as a couple.


Then something changed; we began paying attention to synchronicities; and so, began our magical ride towards the light. We began to recognize and experience strange timely coincidences, perfectly timed synchronicities that we now call “gifts from Nick”. These gifts have helped us change our perspective and understanding of reality and convince us that Nicolas is somewhere safe and surrounded by love. These gifts from Nick have given us the strength to carry on. 


As an engineer, I had never done much soul searching. My plan for life seemed simple: go to college, study hard, get a good job, get married, have a family, and live happily ever after. I was never a spiritual person and had lost interest in my youthful pursuit of the meaning of life soon after I entered into the work force. I certainly did not believe in miracles, mediums, or an afterlife. My reality was based on what I experienced physically, and the world made perfect sense to me.


However, once I started to experience these synchronicities, my eyes were open to the belief that there is something greater; something more that lives and thrives afterlife. I have yet to figure out what is waiting for us on the other side of the veil, and accept that I may never understand until it’s my time to cross over, but I can say that my life has changed for the best since I have been paying attention to my “gifts from Nick”. These gifts are all about love and they arrive in critical times just when we need them the most. We have experienced remarkable synchronicities; too numerous to tell, but I will describe several that I consider extraordinary.


Message from my mother


My mother sent me a message to tell Nick, but I would not begin to comprehend its importance until my son was taken from me. My mother, Conchita Zapata, was a very strong woman. She was from Zaragoza, Spain and migrated to the United States without speaking English when my brother and I were very young. In Spain, my mother was considered a celebrity. She was a champion of champions in her native dance of La Jota de Aragon. She received many awards including an honor from the king of Spain for her work promoting Spain in the Americas. I kept her portrait, honors, and some of her trophies in our reading room.


One day, approximately two years before my son passed, Paola and I were sitting on our couch in our home in San Diego watching television. Paola got up to use the restroom and had to walk by the reading room where I had photos and trophies from my mother. I placed the movie on pause and waited there for her to return. As she returned from the rest room and was heading back to the family room, Paola let out a loud scream as she passed the reading room. It startled me and I asked if she was OK. When she sat back on the couch, she told me that she had a weird experience. She said that as she was walking past our reading room, she felt a presence there. She thought that it was me hiding waiting to surprise her, I have always been a practical joker and used to love to surprise her. She sat down in the couch, and we continued watching the movie. Suddenly, she grabbed my arm, looked up in the ceiling, and told me that she had just heard a voice in her head, a message. This was the first and the only time that my wife had experienced something like this. She told me that she received a message in her head that said, “tell Nicolas that there is more life afterlife”.


I looked at her as if she was strange. What she said was so odd and random in the middle of the funny movie we were watching. I looked at her and laughed it off. I remember telling her that she was weird. We looked at each other and we both laughed. We continued watching the movie; however, 2-3 minutes into the movie the telephone rang. It was a police officer calling from a hospital. The officer said that my mother had been admitted to a hospital and had just passed. We were not prepared for this news. We sat in the couch speechless.


Several weeks after my mother’s memorial service, we remembered the message that she had sent us while or after she transitioned: “tell Nicolas that there is more life afterlife”. We had a dilemma. Should we tell Nicolas? He was in college and doing well. We did not want to freak him out. However, the message was so intense, and it was directed to him. We decided to tell Nicolas. Nicolas at the time did not believe in an afterlife. He believed that out-of-body experiences described during near-death situations are results of the drug DMT being secreted by the brain and causing hallucinations. He believed that this life was it, and since he was so good at debating, I could never convince him that perhaps there could be more. I am so glad that we decided to give Nick the message.


He soon after began to meditate and gain interest in spirituality. He also started reading books on the weirdness of physics. He was intrigued by the quantum phenomenon of “superposition”, the state where one subatomic particle can exist at more than one place simultaneous; “quantum entanglement”, the description of how two entangled particles can communicate with each other instantaneously regardless of the distance apart; and the Einstein’s dilution of time, how time ticks differently between individuals based on speed you are going or proximity to a strong gravitational force. I believe that the message for Nicolas was sent by my mother as she was transitioning to the afterlife. She was preparing Nicolas and us for what was to come. I believe that the message helped prepare Nicolas for his last two years on earth and certainly opened our minds to the possibility of afterlife communication.


Falcon Experience


Nick had many friends and they held vigils for him in Nice, San Diego, and Berkeley. The vigil held for at UC Berkeley, was held the steps of Sproul Plaza, the birthplace of the freedom of speech movement of 1964. We were unable to attend the vigil at Berkeley since we were still in France, but some of our friends from San Diego attended. One of our friends told us that during the vigil, a falcon made a close flight over the heads of the crowd that had gathered to remember Nick. Our friend considered the flight of the falcon over the crowds at Sproul Plaza a synchronicity since the falcon was the mascot of Nick’s high school, Torrey Pines; and it’s not every day that you see a falcon flying over the campus.


However, the flight of the falcon on the day of his vigil did not resonate with us. We were in such a dark place that we did not pay much attention. We could not make the connection between a falcon flying at UC Berkeley and the murder of our son. Little did we know how much things would change for us when we experienced firsthand one of our first synchronicities.


I received a call from Torrey Pines High School Foundation about a scholarship they wanted to set up to honor Nicolas. They asked me to provide them with photos of Nick in ‘falcon” colors. I reluctantly went upstairs and turned on my computer. It was extremely painful for me searching through hundreds of photos, many of those that I had not seen in years. I didn’t want to look anymore, but I pushed myself since I knew that I would be honoring Nicolas. I had to find the strength. 


Looking for photographs of Nick in falcon colors felt to me as if I was diving for pearls in a dirty septic tank looking for that one pearl that belonged to my son. I knew it had to be done and I knew that regardless how painful, that it would be worth it. I was holding my breath, but I could not stop crying out loud as I clicked through hundreds of photographs of the past. Paola heard me crying, and she came upstairs to check on me. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I was looking for photos of Nick in falcon colors. “Falcon colors”, she repeated and immediately started to cry with me.


Suddenly as we were both hysterically crying in front of the computer, a falcon landed on my fence approximately 50 feet from us. The falcon just stood there looking at us cry. We stopped crying immediately and remained still; our eyes locked on each other for approximately 5 minutes. A strange feeling of peace and tranquility came over us. It was as if we understood that Nick was OK. The falcon eventually flew away and left us in wonder trying to make sense of what had just happened. It was a surreal experience. We later learned that a falcon is considered by some ancient cultures as a messenger, a symbol of overcoming obstacles, and a connection with the spirt world.


Sky Light / Sky Bright


Paola and I were sitting on the couch with a friend who is a spiritual healer, Beverly. She was trying to help us make sense of what had happened. Paola would just stare at her and repeatedly ask, “why, why, why?”. The day was also dark. It was a gray and overcast summer coastal foggy day common in San Diego beaches during the summer. There was a large 24” x 36” inch photograph Nicolas in our living room that his friends had mounted on a foam board for a paddle out memorial in Del Mar. As our friend Beverly spoke to Paola, I could hear her talk but was not attentively listening. My mind was focused on the photograph of Nicolas.


All sorts of random thoughts and memories were rushing through my head. The photograph in front of us was one of my favorites. I took that photo of Nicolas during one of his visits from college. We went kitesurfing together at our local beach in Torrey Pines. I came out of the water first and took photos of him as he was walking out of the water holding his kiteboard in one hand and flying his kite with the other. It was a beautiful photo, but since the sun was behind Nicolas, the photograph was over exposed, and I could barely see the features of Nick’s face. This was excruciating for me since this photo forever memorialized the last day that we went kitesurfing together, and Nick had such a big beautiful smile on his face.


As I stared at the photo, all that I could think about is how much I wanted to see Nick’s beautiful smile again. I heard the conversation in the background between Paola and our friend getting more intense. Paola wanted to know where Nick was, and our friend told her that “Nick is in the light”. This did not go well with Paola. I could tell that she was upset and getting agitated. Paola said to our friend, “what do you mean that Nick is in the light. Is he a light like a lamp just hanging there in the sky for eternity? What kind of an existence is that? Where is he”, Paola frantically asked. Our friend calmly repeated “Nick is in the light”.


Seconds after she said that Nick was in the light, the sun broke thought the clouds and shined a bright beam of light directly into my living room through sky lights in our ceiling. The beam of light shined right on the photograph of Nicolas and created a bright frame of light around his face. The light was so intense that it whited out everything in the photo but Nick’s face. Even the horizon and other features in the photograph were whited out by the intense white light. All that could be seen was Nicks face, his wonderful big smile, and the light. I grabbed my phone and was able to take a photograph before the light went away.


We all sat there in the living room speechless, soaking in what had just happened. The photograph had to be in the perfect position in my living room near the skylights for this to happen. The clouds had to part so that the sunlight could make it through my skylights to brighten Nick’s face. The timing for this was also perfect. All three of us were in the couch looking at the photo when it happened while Paola asked our friend, “what do you mean that Nick is in the light”. Words cannot describe what we felt; it was amazing and so is the photograph. 


Nicolas where are you


I was resting in bed thinking about Nicolas and crying quietly so that Paola would not hear me. I picked up my phone to look at an amazing photo of Nick, the photo where the sun shined through my skylight at his face revealing a beautiful smile. As I looked at his photo and whimpered, I wondered where Nick could be. I asked out loud in a low whisper since I did not want to wake my wife, “Nicolas, where are you?”. Siri from my iPhone answered, “I am right here” while displaying the photo of Nick in the background. I just laid there, staring at the phone and response.


Suddenly, while I was looking at my phone in amazement, I received a text message from one of Nick’s best friends, Hunter. He said that he felt that Nicolas was “right here” with us and that he left us so that he could be closer to us and be able to help more of the people that he loved. The combined message from Siri and Nick’s friend answered my question. I realized that Nick is right here with me.


Special Postal Delivery


This is another intense synchronicity that has made me think deeply about a greater reality. It was a very difficult day for me. We had recently returned home from France. Friends that had participated in the program with Nick in France, gave us a photo of Nick that they had enlarged and used for a vigil in Nice. In the photo, Nick is standing on the beach at the French Riviera looking so grown up and sure of himself.


As soon as we arrived home, my wife immediately hung the framed photograph of Nick in our family room. However, I could barely stand to look at it without breaking down in tears. Nicolas looked bigger than life and very handsome, but I just wanted more. I wanted the story behind the photo. I could not connect with the photograph since I did not take it. We have thousands of photos of Nicolas, most of them I have taken. I knew where we were in each shot, what we were doing, how much fun we had, and most important I could visit that specific time and place with my imagination by recalling memories. However, this large photograph of Nicolas that we now had hanging in our family room was not like the others. I had no idea what he was doing, no details that I could use to travel back to that time. It was causing me pain and I didn’t like it. I needed and wanted to have more information. I knew how important that photograph was to Paola. However, I just could not stand to look at it since it was causing me so much pain. 


After several days, I finally spoke up and told Paola how I felt about the photograph. I told her that I needed to take the photo off the wall. She resisted but I explained how it was hurting me so much since I needed to know more, I needed to know what was going on. I could not stand to look at the photo any longer without knowing the story behind it. During the argument, we heard a knock on my front door. I opened the door and found a small brown package on the door mat. I looked outside and down the street but did not see the mail man. I opened the package and incredibly enough there was a photo album sent to me by one of Nick’s friends that he met at Nice, France.


The photo album contained pages of photographs that we had never seen before along with captions on each page written by friends that he met in France explaining what they were doing, how much fun they had with Nick, how much they loved him, and how Nick affected every one of them. The timing was incredible, but even more shocking, the cover photo on the photo album was the same as the photo hanging on my wall. The photograph that brought me so much pain, now brings me joy. I got exactly, I mean exactly, what I was asking for. I received the story behind the photo and many other photos with comments that allowed me to experience the adventure that my son, a young 20-year-old man, experienced in France. My wish came true. The photo that I once hated is now a center piece at my home, and my wife looks at the photo album that we received almost every night.


You belong in Hawaii


Nick had a bright future and even a brighter heart. Before he left to Nice, I set him aside to let him know how proud I was of him and his accomplishments. I encouraged him to reach for the stars. I told him that he would not have to worry about his future since I had figured out a way to retire without having to sell our primary residence in Del Mar to fund our retirement. I told him that I planned to give him our home. I was waiting for a you’re the best father ever moment. But instead he looked at me and said, “Dad, you don’t have to worry about me anymore. I am at UC Berkeley, just been accepted in the Haas School of Business, and working on a double major. I have excellent grades, belong to one of the top business consulting clubs in campus, and on one of the best fraternities (Fiji) that is helping me network. I am set really. You and mom should sell the house and move to Hawaii! That’s where you guys belong, and I want you guys to be happy”.


I was somewhat shocked to hear this from him. If my father had offered to give me our childhood home, I would have been overwhelmed with joy. I smiled and asked myself is my son being naive due to his age or is he just very confident of how successful he will become? It did not matter to me since I just knew how much he loved us and wanted us to have a good life during retirement. It was a very touching moment.


Hawaii had always been a special place for us as a family, and I had purchased an investment property in Oahu that I planned to keep as a rental until it was paid off. I used to tell Nick about my plan to move there one day. I figured that if we lived in Hawaii, Nick would come to visit us with his future family more often when we got older. Vacation in paradise, free place to stay, and opportunity to see your parents; what a deal. “Don’t worry about me. You guys belong in Hawaii”. These were among the last words that he told me before he left on his trip to France.


Those beautiful words and love for me were eclipsed by the darkness of our loss upon returning from France without him. Weeks passed by, and one night I had a vivid dream of Nicolas wearing native Hawaiian clothes and dancing with a big smile to the rhythm of the islands. In my dream, I tried to hold him but every time I got near to him and extended my arms to hold him, he would smile, disappear and reappear in another part of the room.


I remember waking up suddenly when I failed to put my arms around him, but little that I know that this was just part of a greater message to me. A couple of weeks passed by, and I received a surprise call from my tenant in Hawaii informing me that he was going to move out. The timing of this call was terrible. This was the last thing that I wanted to hear. I had no interest or strength to deal with a vacancy in Hawaii at that moment. The idea of performing maintenance work and finding a new tenant stressed me out. I was in no shape to deal with this stress and worst of all, I did not care. The property had no value to me. I just wanted to stay put in my sorrow.


Then I recalled what Nick has said before he left and knew that this could be an opportunity for us to change our situation and follow his instructions. Things were not looking good for us in San Diego. We had lots of good friends and an incredible support that included an expert (Sara Gillman) who specialized in PTSD and complicated grief; our friend Beverly working to heal our spirit; and lots of friends giving us love. However, I could no longer manage my engineering company that I founded in 1999, and the mortgage, taxes, and other expenses related to our primary residence were taking a financial toll forcing us to live off our savings since I could not work.


Downsizing to an apartment in Hawaii made financial sense to me but more important I believed that the move would do us good. This after all is what Nick told me to do before he traveled to France, and I believed in the gifts that he was sending us. However, my wife was not ready to move anywhere. We lived at our primary residence for 17 years. It was such a happy home.


But now it had been transformed into a mausoleum for Nicolas, and it was not a happy place anymore. We had so many memories. Every part of the house had a story. With the laughter and love now missing, our home was now just a cold structure to me. My wife finally agreed to relocate to Hawaii on a temporary basis.


We decided to rent out our home semi furnished and move to our apartment in Hawaii. I hired a realtor so that he could show our home and find a tenant. However, we never once allowed the realtor to set foot inside our house with or without potential renters. Every time that he called and wanted to show our property, we would not let him in. We could not handle strangers walking inside our house; we just wanted to be left with our pain.


After several months of my realtor trying to show our house without us letting him in, I decided to pull the plug and took the house off the market. I realized that we were just wasting the realtor’s time since we were never going to let him, or any other stranger enter our sacred place that we once called home. I gave up on the idea to move to Hawaii.


Just when we thought that renting our primary residence and moving to Hawaii was not going to happen, my next-door neighbor came to visit us. I told her that I had been trying to rent our home and she agreed to rent it.


I find this series of synchronicities that helped us make the journey to Hawaii incredible. I believe that Nick was sending us messages and pulling some string for us to make everything work out. My neighbor had only one condition, they needed to move into our home by June 1st since they had already given their notice to their landlord. June 1st was the same date that my tenant was moving out of my Hawaii apartment! The transition was seamless.


The Mover


My wife agreed to move to Hawaii, but she was not happy about having to leave our home. She was depressed and really struggled to let go of a place that we used to love so much. But most of all, she was devastated and angry at why this had to happen to us. There was lots of stress and we had lots of arguments. She insisted that we were doomed. She felt that losing an only child is rare and that we had been in a way singled out.


I tried to comfort her and explained we were not alone and that many others before us had lost their only child. She would not accept this. In her mind, the pain and burden were ours and ours alone. We owned it. I argued against this, but deep inside I felt that she was right. It really did feel like the pain was ours and ours alone. Although we tried to focus on being grateful for all that we had and continued to have, the reality of losing our only child was constantly there. It was difficult to see beyond this. We considered ourselves to have been cosmically screwed over in life; being kicked out of the tournament of life. When we lost our only child, we lost our future. 


We hired a moving company to pack and ship some furniture and personal items to Hawaii. We left behind most of our furniture in San Diego, but we could not leave without our couch where our small family sat together in the evenings to watch a movie. Before the movers arrived, my wife and I had another argument about how unbelievable and rare it was to lose an only child.


The movers arrived on time and began to work expeditiously. I was impressed on how fast and efficient they were in wrapping our belongings, packaging, and loading everything in their truck. When it was time to pack our couch, Paola stood by and supervised. She was very protective of that couch that meant so much to us. She did not like the way they were packing and asked them to do a better job. The movers insisted that the couch would be fine, but at the end agreed to wrap it with an extra layer.


There was some tension in the room and watching our life being packed in boxes was making things worst. Paola returned to our bedroom to cry. As Paola laid in the bedroom crying, she had a feeling that compelled her to apologize to the mover and give him an explanation why she had become nervous and upset with him earlier.


I was not there, but later I learned that my wife told the mover in private about Nicolas and the reason why we were moving. The mover was touched and told her not to worry that he would personally assure that our belonging would be safe. He did not say anything else to her, but later at the end of the day when the house was packed, the mover approached me alone and asked to speak with me.


He told me that he owed my wife and I an apology. He explained that he had initially passed judgement on my wife since he thought that she was being over demanding. He thought that she should have been in a good mood since we were moving to Hawaii. Then he told me that my wife explained our situation. He said in tears, “I lost my only child several years ago and I know what you guys are going through”. I was blown away. Paola and I had been arguing how rare it was to lose an only child. However, here we were with this mover, a stranger who was there on our last day at our home, who was going through the same pain.


This synchronicity helped me accept my situation and surrender to the loss, while finding gratitude. We realized how fortunate we were to have options and the opportunity to change our life by moving to Hawaii, something that perhaps my fraternity brother who had worked so hard to pack our house did not have. His struggle was equally if not more difficult than ours, yet he was still living his life. Paola and I were both humbled by this synchronicity.


The sorrow and pain from losing a child has been and will continue to be passed from family to family as it has been since the beginning of human existence. I don’t own this pain; I am only experiencing one small aspect of it. I am proud to belong to a loving fraternity of helping fathers who have lost a child. It’s an amazingly supportive fraternity; yet, it’s a fraternity that no one chooses to join. We have made some incredible progress since we moved to Hawaii. The Aloha spirit, helping others less fortunate than us, and practicing mindful gratitude continues to help us heal.


Lantern Ceremony


Every year on Memorial Day in Hawaii, there is a special ceremony where locals and visitors from all over the world honor their loved ones who have passed by decorating, lighting, and floating lanterns into the ocean at Ala Moana Beach Park. The ceremony starts at sunset, but the lanterns are available for pick up starting a 9 AM. We still suffer from PTSD, and neither my wife nor I do good with large crowds, so we decided to pick up our lantern early in the morning but when we arrived there was already a huge line snaking several times around Ala Moana Beach Park.


I dropped my wife near the event site so she could start to get a place in line. However, when I caught up with her, I realized how long the line was. I was ready to give up and go home. As Paola and I debated leaving, a young man in front of us in line overheard our conversation. He told us that the line was moving fast, and it would not take long before we received our floating lantern kit. Then he continued speaking with us about the meaning of floating the lanterns and honoring loved ones who have crossed over. He told us about his loss, and we shared our story with him. We talked the entire time while in line and it was comforting. I was impressed how a young person like him was so mature and comforting to strangers. He had the wisdom and spirituality of an old soul.


Sure enough, before we knew it, we reached the staging area and received our participant package. We thanked the young man, gave him a hug, and we left our separate ways. Once we received our package we went home. We returned later that day at sunset and launched our lantern into the ocean with approximately 5,000 others.


The sight of thousands of lanterns floating in the tranquil waters of Hawaii with the faint orange glow of the candles was surreal. Two months passed, and it was getting close to Nick’s angel day. We wanted to do something special. We decided that we would place some flowers and some of his ashes on the ocean. I suggested going to Kaena Point. It’s a remote and wild volcanic coastline at the very end of the island with majestic mountains coming together at the ocean. You can’t drive there, you need to hike in. It is not a very popular tourist destination and there was no one on the trail when we started our hike.


Unfortunately, once we arrived, my wife did not feel good about celebrating Nicolas in this place. The wind was gusty, and the waves were aggressively breaking on the rocky volcanic shore. It did not look welcoming and she suggested that we try a tranquil sandy beach instead. I was unsure, since something about Kaena Point attracted me. However, I did not want to upset my wife in this special day where we were both already on the edge.


As we turned around to start our hike back to the car, to our surprise we encountered the same young man that comforted us during the lantern ceremony two months earlier. He was taking a hike at Kaena Point while we were there. There was nobody else on the trail that day. What are the odds of meeting up this person who comforted us a few months back during the lantern ceremony?


Meeting with this young yet mature man convinced me that we were indeed in the right location to memorialize Nicolas. We released some of Nicolas ashes and they blew riding the offshore breeze into the ocean. Strangely enough, we later learned that ancient Hawaiians considered Kaena Point a sacred place, a sort of a gateway where souls would cross over into the spirit world and meet the souls of their ancestors, a leaping point to the afterlife. 


Star Soul


We had been living in Hawaii for several months and we were still overwhelmed. Our property had been a rental for approximately 20 years and needed lots of work. However, painting and working on the apartment gave us the opportunity to think about something else for at least a few hours a day. As my mind started to quiet down, I started reflecting and having flash backs of things that Nick said to me. One thing really stood out. One day, when he came home from college, I could tell that there was something bothering him. He assured me that he was fine but as a father I could feel something was wrong and I continued insisting.


He then told me something that left me speechless. He said that he sometimes felt the pain of other people. He then went on and said that sometimes he felt like this world was not big enough for him and that he did not belong in this planet. This was very bizarre. Nick had so many friends and was such a popular outgoing and happy person. He was even once featured in his high school newspaper as “one of 3,000” and now in college at the popular Fiji fraternity. I had no idea what to say to him. If he would have told me that he was failing school or partying too much, I would have had a perfect response. But how do you respond to something so profound?


I recall just playing it off as a joke and asking him, are you telling me that you are an alien? hahaha. We changed the subject and never discussed this again. Even though we had moved to Hawaii, a place many people consider heaven, it still often felt that without Nick, it was like living in hell. As I sat in the couch that we brought with us from San Diego, I had a flash thought, almost as if it had been directly broadcasted to my brain. I had this urge to Google what Nicolas had told me that day while we were in the car about feeling other people’s pain and feeling like this world was too small for him. It was a strange thought, since it felt like the idea was not coming from me, yet I felt compelled to turn on the computer and search the internet.


I typed what Nicolas told me to my best recollection, just the way he said it. As I went down the list of search results, I came into a website that spoke about “star souls”. The website explained that star souls were often empaths that could feel the pain of others and sometimes feel like this earth is not their home. I read that star souls come to earth to benefit others by raising awareness, consciousness, and love. I did some further research and what I read about star souls seemed to describe Nicolas. I shared my research with my wife.


It caught our attention, but it was not enough to help us make it through the tough day. We always thought Nick was special, so this star soul business was not overly surprising. We were both having a bad day and we decided to drive to the beach to get some fresh air. We needed to find some spiritual peace and clear our heads. But even though we were at a beautiful beach, it just was not enough for us.


While some people, were taking selfies, playing with their children, and laughing out loud; we just sat on chairs looking blank into the horizon. I remember not being able to understand how everyone around us was having a good time, and yet there we were, at the same time and space having such a different experience. It was as if we were looking at the beach thought a window, not being able to share the good experience. It just didn’t feel right. It was somewhat frustrating watching locals and tourists enjoy the beach and knowing that it used to be us.


As we sat on the beach, my wife started to break down in grief and cry. In order to comfort her, we went for a walk.  As we were walking on the sand, Paola turned and asked me about what I found on the internet. She said, “what did it say, star what?” I turned to her and said that they called it a “Star Soul”. She repeated “Star Soul” and right then and there below our feet partially covered in sand, we found a five-point star approximately four inches in diameter, and one-inch think made of cement. It appeared immediately after we said, “Star Soul”. We have no idea where it came from; it’s not something that you would find in any beach. But we did immediately know that it was another gift from Nick validating that he was there watching over us and doing the heavy lifting. We keep the star in our bedroom as an everlasting reminder of our child, a Star Soul.


Rock of Joy


We traveled very much as a family. My wife preferred family travel over expensive clothing, fancy cars, or luxury items. Building memories was very important to us, and Paola was a pro at organizing trips using credit card awards and other frequent flyer points. You could say that traveling was her passion. She would brighten up every time she would plan a trip. Looking at it now, her joy was more about being together as a family than the actual traveling; nevertheless, I remember her happy when we traveled.


Watching her in deep sorrow was heartbreaking. I thought that I could make her happy with a trip to New Zealand. She had always wanted to visit and the flight from Hawaii were relatively short and not overly expensive. During the first week of our trip, I had a vivid visitation from Nicolas while asleep in a hotel room. Nicolas appeared so solid and real to me. All three of us were together but I was somehow aware that we were not in our physical reality. I could instinctively feel that I was in an astral world where I did not yet belong. I knew that it was temporary and that I would eventually be pulled back into my physical reality.


However, I fought hard and argued that I was going to stay there regardless and that nothing could separate me apart. I was adamant that I would remain there with Nicolas forever. All I wanted was to stay there together in that blissful state that I found myself in. However, rather than being pulled back out of this world as I feared, it was Nicolas who got up and started to leave the room that we were in.


As he was walking out, I frantically asked him if he had anything to tell me. I asked him if he had any instructions for me on what I can do here on earth so that we could be reunited. As he walked past a white door, Nicolas looked back at me with a peaceful smile and gave this message: “Move forward, stay with mom, and find joy”. He did not speak these words, he just looked at me with a smile and I understood. It was like if I had received the message telepathically.


Upon receiving his message, I immediately found myself wide awake in bed. It felt as though someone had yanked me back through a portal. I felt so happy and grateful that I was able to spend some time together in this magical place. I woke up my wife and told her every detail of what I had witnessed and the message that Nicolas gave me: “Move forward, stay with mom, and find joy”.


A couple of days later, we took a hike along the Blue River. We hiked up the river until arriving at the Blue Pools. The Blue Pools are located at the junction of the Blue River and Makarora River on the South Island of New Zealand. The pools get their name from the intense and unique blue color of the water.


When we arrived, we were absorbed by the beauty of nature. The water looked inviting, but it was too cold to take a swim. This was a special location and we decided to place a rose color quartz crystal dedicated to Nicolas in the blue water. As we stood on the water’s edge, I realized that we were surrounded by beauty, yet we were sad that we could not share that magical place with our son.


Paola started to break down. I reminded her of the message from Nicolas: “Move forward, stay with mom, and find joy”. As we stood next to the water, I held her hand and told her that Nick wants us to find joy. I told her that if we believe that he is still with us, we need to listen to what he told me and find joy in life. I kept telling her to believe in Nicolas, and the need to find joy in life.


Strangely enough, seconds after I told my wife that we needed to find joy, she looked down on the ground next to her feet and a small round flat rock caught her attention. The riverbank was full of similar looking flat round river rocks that kind you want to skip on the water, but this one was special in that it was glimmering in the light. She picked the rock up and with surprise there was a natural crystalline formation growing on the surface of the rock clearly resembling the letter “J” surrounded by a circle both made of white colored crystals.


We immediately connected the “J” on the rock for “Joy” and thought about Nicolas' message in my visitation. Nicolas’ message about the need to find joy in life was magically validated within seconds of me telling my wife the importance of finding joy again. We were so buzzing with emotions, that I took a plunge in the icy cold water since I know that Nicolas would have done it. No matter how hard it is, every parent that has lost a child needs to somehow find joy again. 


Wrapping it up


The stories that I have described are true. We have had many other synchronicities, but I included the ones that could be collaborated with other people. One of the most intriguing questions that I have is how the timing of these synchronicities could be so precise and the messages be so appropriate. There is no doubt in my mind that there is something more to reality that we can’t see and don’t understand. I can’t prove that these synchronicities were sent to us by our son, but I like to believe that they are “gifts from Nick”.


Independently of where these signs come from, the important thing to know is that they have given us the strength to keep moving forward, stay together, and strive towards finding joy in life. I know for sure that someone somewhere is doing some heavy lifting for us so that we can make it through. My heart is still broken, and the depth of my sorrow is unimaginable, but my love for Nick continues to grow each day with every gift that he sends us.


If we are indeed spiritual beings inside human bodies with the objective to learn as much as possible from this physical world, I received the opportunity to experience the highest of highs being with Nick, and the darkest of depths living without him. However, I now know without a doubt that I will see him again, we will be reunited, and that there is something larger than us. I don’t know what it is, but I know its compassionate, intelligent, and full of love.


Nick continues to be a part of my life and the synchronicities that I have experience have helped guide me through this difficult journey. I have learned so much during these dark times. I was taught at an early age never give up, not to accept no for an answer, and to always find a solution rather than focus on the problem. These traits helped me become successful in business. However, I have now learned the importance of surrendering to something greater than me, something that I trust yet don’t understand. The gifts from Nick helped me learn about unconditional love, the joy of helping others, put me in a path towards forgiveness, and taught me about gratitude.


I now know that someone is doing some heavy lifting for me, lighting up a dark runway so that my spirt can take off. I will never be the same person that I was, but I like the new person that I am becoming. I have learned not to judge the whole by the small sliver of reality that I experience; at the end, the whole is perfect. Love never dies; and Nicolas and I are entangled for eternity. Conrad Leslie (858) 232-7169 December 3, 2019 

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