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Susan Ciancio describes the comforting little signs that demonstrate the care her deceased grandfather has for her.

My story is one of both faith and family, and for me, it proves that our deceased loved ones still look after us and guide us, even when they are no longer physically here. This is vital for us to understand as we mourn those who have gone before us.

When my mother was pregnant with me, my father was serving a tour in Vietnam. My mom lived with his father, Royal (though he went by Roy), and he took care of her. So it was only natural that, when she went into labor, he was there at the hospital with her.

As I grew, and we moved around the country, we saw my grandfather infrequently, but I loved him. When I was nine, my mom sent me to stay with him for a couple weeks one summer. My father was stationed overseas, and I think she needed a break. I had a good time until one night I overheard him on the phone with someone as I lay awake in bed. I thought I heard him talking about me. And I thought I heard him say I was “retarded.” I was crushed. From that point on, our relationship changed. At least, my relationship with him changed.

Fast forward to the summer after I graduated college. We got a call in the middle of the night from his caregiver saying he had died. Naturally, I was sad, and I began to question what I had heard as a child. Did I hear him correctly? Was he even actually talking about me? I guess I’ll never know. I do know that he loved me very much.

One of my most vivid memories of my grandfather is that he loved listening to a group from the 1940s called the Ink Spots. Whenever we were in the car, he would play their music.

When I was pregnant with my first child, she was breach, and I was told I would have to have a c-section. Being a young mom, I was scared at the thought of surgery and worried about my baby. One night, as we ate dinner, we put some music on and Manhattan Transfer’s rendition of “Java Jive” came on. It’s a remake of an Ink Spots song, and I immediately thought of Gramps. It stuck in my head the rest of the night, and when I awoke at 5 AM the next day, in labor, I still had that song in my head. The baby was still breach and I had a c-section, all the while singing that song in my head. I knew Gramps was with me.



After I got home from the hospital, I continued to think about that song and about Gramps. He had been there for me when I was born, and now I felt like he was there when my daughter was born. I felt comforted, and I asked him if he would be there with me when and if I had any other children.

A little over two years later, I found out I was again expecting. I began to talk to Gramps more and more, asking for his intercession and for him to watch out for us. One night, I picked up a book I had been reading and was introduced to a minor character named Roy Royal! I smiled to myself because I knew Gramps was sending me a sign that he was there with me. I went into labor the next morning and had a healthy baby boy.

About three years later, I was again pregnant and began to see Royal signs all over. It was a difficult time, and I felt he sent them to let me know he was there. After I gave birth to another healthy baby boy, I was holding him and looking around the hospital room. The room didn’t have a TV mounted on the wall. Instead, there was a cart on wheels that had a TV and a VCR. I looked at this stand and saw two VHS tapes. One was how to care for your newborn baby. The other was the movie The Royal Tenenbaums. I got teary with joy because I knew he had fulfilled the promise I asked him to make—to be there for each of my children and me. I said a prayer of thanks.

The next year, a good friend, who had suffered a couple miscarriages and a very difficult pregnancy, told me she was expecting and asked me to be the godmother. I was thrilled and immediately asked Gramps to watch over my godchild. I got an email from her one day telling me that she had been to the doctor and that baby was progressing and healthy. She ended the email saying, “Leroy looks good!”

I was astounded! I wrote her back and asked her why she called the baby that. She said they didn’t yet know if the baby was a boy or girl, but that name sort of popped into her head, so she figured she’d go with it for now. I told her she had nothing to worry about, and I explained the story. Several months later, Teresa was born, happy and healthy.

Now, I frequently get “royal” signs, and I feel like our bond has only increased since he passed away. Every time I see his name somewhere, I smile to myself and feel comforted in the fact that he’s watching over me.


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Every time I see his name somewhere, I smile to myself and feel comforted in the fact that he’s watching over me. #catholicmom


We can be assured that this is what our loved ones do when they pass. And we can talk to them anytime we want, asking for their intercession.

With my adult’s mind, I can think of so many explanations for what I thought I heard that night when I was small. I carried the hurt for many years, but that hurt is long gone. Someday, maybe I will ask him. But, then again, I think just being reunited will be enough.



Copyright 2023 Susan Ciancio
Images: Canva