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by Herb Weiss, contributing writer
(Note: February 20, 2020 marks the 17-year anniversary of the Station Nightclub fire. This article, reviewing Dave Kane’s book, “41 Signs of Hope,” was initially published in the Pawtucket Times on December 20, 2014.)
The tragic, untimely death of a child will bring emotional pain and suffering to the parents. But, amazingly through horrific experiences like this slowly comes a greater appreciation, understanding and love of life.
Sixty-five-year-old Dave Kane and his wife,
Joanne, know this so well. The fourth largest Nightclub fire in the nation’s
history, killing their son Nicky O’Neill, would propel the semi-retired radio
talk show host (he’s on the air at WARA 1320 in Attleboro
from 9 am to 12 noon on Saturdays), comedian, performance artist and
author, with his wife on a journey of personal healing that would lead to their
bringing comfort to others who grieve for lost loved ones.
Kane’s eighteen-year-old son, Nicky O’Neill,
was the youngest victim of the Station nightclub fire in which 100 people lost
their lives over a decade ago, over 230 people were injured. After this tragic
event, Kane became a very visible proponent of fire safety and the enforcement
of strict laws to ensure safety in public buildings. Three years later, he
would publish his first book, 41 Signs of Hope. In this book, Kane shares
personal stories of synchronistic, and at times, seemingly spirit
communication, around the number 41, which Kane and his family contend are
contact from the spirit of his deceased young son, Nicky.
The Number 41
Kane views the number 41 as an “incredible
sign” from his deceased son that he still exists. Throughout the young man’s life,
he always liked this number, he says, noting the Nicky noticed that number
everywhere and he would let those around him know it.
“When he passed away Nicky was 18 years-old
and 23 days, that totals 41,” notes Kane, a Johnston resident, who can reel off
dozens of examples of the number 41 showing up around him. A video tape of
Nicky as a baby discovered one year after his death shows him as a baby wearing
a baseball uniform, wearing a base-ball cap embroidered with the number 41.
At that time no one could figure out the
significance. For over a decade that followed Nicky’s death, the number
continued to appear. Although Kane and his family initially viewed the
sightings as coincidences, they now see it as a sign of spirit contact. The
book, 41 Signs of Hope, followed by an hour and fifty-minute documentary
released in 2005 (just called 41), by Rhode Island filmmakers, Christian de
Rezendes and Christian O’Neill, is jam-packed with examples of the sightings of
this number 41.
The First Contact
Detailed in Kane’s book, 41 Signs of Hope,
shares how medium Cindy Gilman gave him a message from Nicky, his son, who had
died at the Station nightclub fire. A day before the deadly fire that occurred
on Feb. 20, 2003, Gilman smelled smoke as she walked through her office. The
medium knew that a tragic event would happen close by and that she could not do
anything to stop it.
The day after the tragic fire, while sitting
in her kitchen drinking tea, a figure of a young man appeared to Gilman, with
long blond hair, a glittery shirt and a leather jacket, begging her to “call
his father.” Startled by this vision she did not know who to call. A moment
later the spirit reappeared showing her his charred body, then transformed back
to his original form.
Gilman knew that the apparition wanted the
East Greenwich medium to give his father a message, that he had “crossed over
and was not in pain.” Picking up her personal phone book, she turned to “K” and
immediately saw the name of a professional acquaintance, Dave Kane (the only
name under that letter).
Kane recalls that she called his beeper. He
returned her call and the medium offered to come on his radio show to identify
the young spirit. The grieving father told her, “we had lost Nicky in a fire,”
with Gilman responding, “Oh, I should have said something.” A very distraught
Kane immediately hung up on her, thinking that he had a medium telling him she
knew something that she really did not know.
Ultimately, he would call Gilman back and she
would describe the spirit vividly to him. It was the splitting image of his
son, he said. He confirmed to Gilman that this was his son, especially
detailing how he had dressed the night he died.
Looking back, losing his son was the most
horrible experience of Kane and his wife had experienced in their life, he
says. The morning after the deadly West Warwick fire, he stood in front of his
bathroom mirror and cried, screaming “Okay big shot, now what do you think.”
Thirty years as a talk show host gave him all the answers to any topic. But he
had no answers to why his son died tragically and so young.
But, the Number 41 would give Kane and his
wife comfort that their son was reaching out, telling them that life does not
end with death. Loved ones who have passed on never leave us, they are still
with us, loving, supporting, guiding and sending us signs each and every day,
Rhode Island medium Gilman’s confirmation of Nicky’s definite proof of life
after death was validated by a reading given to Kane and his wife by Robert
Brown, an internationally acclaimed medium. The medium confirmed where Nicky
had stood before he died and that he helped a young woman during the fire, all
confirmed months later.
Brown pointed at him at the end of the 45-minute
reading and said, “your son wants me to tell you one more thing, the show must
go on.” What Brown and nobody else knew was these words were spoken by Nicky to
his father before he died at the Station nightclub, says Kane.
Just a couple of days before the tragic fire
Kane found out that his son was not getting paid much money to play in opening
act for the headlining band, Jack Russell’s Great White. “You should not sell
God’s talent so short, said Kane jokingly. Nicky just hugged his father and
kissed him, saying “the show must go on.”
Those last words, repeated by British medium,
confirmed the existence of spirit. Each and every day Kane and his family
continue to receive signs from Nicky to continually validate this.
Spreading the Word
For over 30 years Kane educated tens of
thousands of Rhode Islanders on state and national topics on his radio show,
“Kane and Company.” Now he’s traveling a new path in his later years, bringing
the public awareness to more ethereal topics, like life after death.
With several of his own family members being
cared for by Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, Kane wanted “to give back”
and offered to share his 41 Signs of Hope presentation to our bereaved
families, says Deanna Upchurch, Grief Counseling Department Manager at Home and
Hospice Care of Rhode Island. After reviewing his “incredible” presentation, he
was invited to share it to HHCRI’s Loss of Parent, Loss of Spouse and Loss of
Adult child groups.
For over one hour, Kane gives dozens of
examples of how deceased loved ones can send you messages in many forms, to
validate their existence. Nicky shows up at Disney Land, at Chili’s restaurant
even a family Thanksgiving dinner, when Kane was driving his car reminding them
he is still around as the number 41 pops up everywhere.
“It is up to us to acknowledge and know that
they are here. We are so busy grieving and busy we just don’t see our loved ones,”
Those attending HHCRI’s grief counseling
groups, felt comfort in Kane’s stories, notes Upchurch. “Grieving people often
talk about ways they feel their loved ones are still connected with them after
death, says Upchurch. “Whether it’s a faint smell of a loved one’s cigar or the
sight of a cardinal, or butterfly which they feel represents their loved one,
people frequently share their experiences of sharing signs from their loved
Upchurch says that Kane’s presentation
validates the experiences of the grieving. It helps them continue to feel
connected to their loved ones and even keeps them open-minded for future signs
After listening to Kane’s passionate stories,
it only reinforced my belief that “death is nothing at all,” Kane’s concluding
For more information about 41 Signs of Hope, go to: http://www.davekane.net/41-the-book.html
Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health
care and medical issues. To purchase Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging
Boldly, a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go