I don’t often get an opportunity to talk to people who have a different perspective when it comes to their faith journey, so when Pam Hoopes emailed me a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued. She had an uncanny experience on the beach at West Chop, and wanted to share it with me and with you.
Pam’s family used to vacation in a house on West Chop back in the ’70s, and she returned to the Island for a few summers in the 1980s, and worked in a shop next to Mansion House, which is now a different shop, Trust, run by Tanya Rustigan. After a 30-year hiatus, she returned four years ago, just one month after her mother passed away. She went into Trust and met Tanya, and the two have been friends ever since.
When they first met, they took a walk to West Chop, and Tanya told Pam that the little beach there was called Marble Beach, because an owner of one of the houses there used to throw marbles out into the ocean and they would wash ashore for his grandchildren to find. Marbles on the beach are a thing at different beaches all over; at some places when someone finds a marble, they throw another one back in to replace it. Pam asked Tanya if she’d ever found one herself, and she said that yes, after hours of searching, she had found one once.
“The next day I walked back to West Chop to this little beach by myself, and I was talking to my mother in spirit — as I said, she had just passed away,” Pam wrote to me. “I then looked down at my feet, and there was a marble right by my shoe. Sitting right there.”
Pam’s family had wonderful memories of staying at the house on West Chop, so much so that she returned much later in her life. To hear the story about Marble Beach, and then right after to find the marble lying at her feet made Pam think that her mother heard what she was saying, and that marble being so clearly there was a sign that indeed her mother was happy she was at West Chop, and had heard her when she was speaking to her in spirit. This was four years ago.
Since then, Pam has visited a spiritualist hamlet in New York State, about a three-hour drive from her home in Pittsburgh, called Lily Dale several times, and finds herself opening up to all the different ways loved ones who have passed can still be around in our lives.
“I love this story for many reasons,” Pam wrote to me. “I have been on a spiritual journey the past few years, learning about signs and messages from our loved ones in spirit. I think our West Chop history from 1973 to 1975 is important. When I visit, I always walk the loop and look at the house we rented. Then my love for the Island brought me back in 1986 and 1987. Meeting Tanya so randomly four years ago and being close ever since was special, and brought me to find the marble.”
Now, I would say I may have lost a few of you by this point in the story, but I think experiences like Pam’s are more common than we think. I know in my own life there have been times when I’ve wondered if that cigarette smell in my car, where no one is allowed to smoke, might be coming from my mom, who died 16 years ago. Or there’s the time I was trying to decide at age 50 if it was a good idea to move to the Island, and I had a very vivid dream of my mother helping me pack. I took that as a positive sign. When I lived in upstate New York, I used to dream all the time of being in a place filled with little houses with gray shingles, right by the water. For years I thought, “Oh, I’m supposed to move to Maine.” Then I saw the fishing shacks in Menemsha, and was struck all at once: “Right, this is where I’m supposed to be. Right here, right where I am.” I’ve had too many instances (some would say coincidences) not to be open to Pam’s story.
And being open is exactly what she’d like folks to know. If you’re open to the idea, you might find signs of your loved ones too.
Since visiting Lily Dale and some of the spiritualists there, Pam has come to believe that our loved ones still walk with us after they’re gone. And it brings her a great deal of peace.
“Pay attention, be open and not closed to the idea. It’s like a little act of love that happens,” she said when we talked on the phone. “Always be aware of the ideas that pop into your mind … you are literally getting information. And take it in, don’t doubt; trust yourself. There are always doubters. Turn the judgment into curiosity. It’s not about an outcome, it’s a process.”
Pam is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice, and she’s in awe about how this little marble changed her life in so many ways. Some people might put it in a drawer and not think anything of it. But for Pam, it has opened her eyes and her intuition to what’s going on around her, and the thoughts she has as well. She says she’s learned there is a continuity of physical and spiritual life, that the two are connected.
I can’t necessarily say Pam is completely wrong, because I’ve had a few experiences myself. We may not go to the same church, synagogue, or mosque, but we still share the idea of being open to whatever messages we might receive. In fact, there have been many times I’ve had something similar to that marble experience. For Island author SQuire Rushnell, they are “God Winks” — they may be something completely different for you. But I’m certain we’re not the only people these coincidences happen to.