The Sand Dollar

(with Mike Hainsey)

Michael and Brenda Hainsey were grieving the loss of their son Chris.  They knew he was with God, but prayed for a connection.  What's the likelihood that a rare and fragile sand dollar would survive crashing ocean waves, and be discovered in answer to a prayer? This sets the stage for the fourth and latest story-song installment  by, leading up to release of the compiled 12 track CD, Stories of Faith: 12 Songs Inspired by You!

Michael, wife Brenda and son Chris spent much time on the beach.  They understood the symbolism of a sand dollar, which is often called the "Holy Ghost Shell," because of its religious symbolism and markings. The outline etched into the top resembles an Easter Lily, the center is the star of Bethlehem, the five oval holes the wounds Christ suffered on the cross. The opposite side resembles the Poinsettia of Christmas. If broken open, the little pieces inside resemble white doves. 

Mike Hainsey writes:

In October 2005 our son, Chris, a gifted musician, left this world to be with our Lord, his 5 ½ year battle with brain cancer over. In the time since his death Brenda and I struggled with this terrible loss. Dealing with his death is far more difficult than dealing with his disease because there is no hope to see him again on this earth.

We know the logic–that Chris is with God, perfect once again and free from all earthly ills. But the emotion of missing him is often overpowering. Like most parents who lost a child we would often pray for a sign or signal that once again connects us with our son. We hoped for some sort of reassurance that all would be ok. In our case, we had been to the ocean dozens of times with Chris, either visiting family or just to walk Sanibel Island looking for shells. So Brenda asked for God to send us a sign in the form of a sand dollar. She wanted to find one on the beach.

I grew up on the east coast of Florida, and the surf is too rough to find shells that are intact, especially ones as fragile as a sand dollar. In all my years there I had never seen one intact.

One morning, exactly 6 months after his death, we found ourselves on the beach in Florida. I went for a walk just before sunrise, hoping for a prayerful time to help get me through this "anniversary". The tide was out, and the beach was littered with pieces of seashells broken by the surf. It was a beautiful morning, and I was on a quiet, deserted section. At that point I stopped, turned toward the rising sun, and said a prayer. In this prayer I told God that I knew we were not worthy, but knew that all things are possible in Him. So I asked him to make Brenda's prayer for a sign come true.

I finished my prayer and turned to continue my walk. I took about ten steps when directly in front of me was, you guessed it, a fully intact sand dollar. At first I just stood there. Then I slowly bent down and gently picked it up, tears swelling inside me. How was this possible? You know the answer.

Now, some will read this with skepticism and conclude that this was merely a coincidence, that two grieving parents want to make it more than it is. That's fine. But Brenda and I believe it is a prayer answered. I can tell you stories from other grieving parents with similar "coincidences". We quit believing in coincidences years ago.

I first began assembling this story on Easter Monday, 2008.  While on the phone with Mike finding out more details of the story, my partner Tim O’Neill called me (Tim O’Neill of The O’Neill Brothers—who is scoring the selected stories).  He shared that in the week prior he was thinking of adding another instrument for the fourth song.  “Something” or “Someone” moved him to choose tenor sax, prior to learning that tenor sax was Chris’ instrument of choice!  Moments later Mike sent me an email noting that that day, the first day after Easter, was the anniversary of discovering the Sand Dollar! There are no coincidences.

Please give yourself a very moving experience-go now and view the 6 minute video tribute to Chris' faith-filled life, The Sand Dollar in K2H Theater (view with free registration).  At the end you'll hear a beautifully haunting segment of "Amazing Grace"- which is from Chris' senior year recital.  Also, be one of the first to hear LIVE from Paddy O'Neill's Irish Pub – a nationally syndicated Christian radio program from  The April program features The Sand Dollar, and last month's, A Boy, A Duck and A Prayer, submitted by Patti Armstrong.  Submit your inspiring story now. Right now we're looking for inspiring stories about mothers for Mother's Day.

Greg Schlueter


Greg Schlueter is an award-winning Catholic film producer, writer, speaker and movement leader. He is President / CEO of Mass Impact (Image Trinity), which is committed to personal, family and parish transformation: “Not another program, a way of life in Jesus Christ.” ( Greg lives with his wife and six children in Toledo, Ohio.

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