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 WARL1320 in Attleboro from 8 am to 10 am 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. 

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, he says.
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,” he says.

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 ones 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 ones.”

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 from them.

After listening to Kane’s passionate stories, it only reinforced my belief that “death is nothing at all,” Kane’s concluding words.

For more information about 41 Signs of Hope, go to Or call 401- 965-0467.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at [email protected],

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