A Nova Scotia family made an emotional discovery this week when they found a message in a bottle that contained memories and notes from the family of Jamie Quattrocchi, who was swept away at Peggys Cove in April.
Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jennifer Beaver and her husband took their two daughters, aged 5 and 8, for an unplanned trip to Queensland Beach on the South Shore. As they walked the shoreline, Beaver said her youngest girl ran ahead to some litter in the sand.
Beaver recalls her daughter saying, "I think it's a message in a bottle."
"We brought it back over to where my husband and other daughter were and decided we should open it up and see what it was," Beaver said.
When they opened it, they found 25 notes written to Quattrocchi, who is from Smiths Falls, Ont., from his family and friends.
The bottle had been thrown into the ocean by Quattrocchi's family on June 4 — what would have been his 26th birthday. The occasion also marked the sixth week since waves pulled him into the ocean at Peggys Cove.
His body has not been found.
Instructions from Jamie's mom
"It was emotional," Beaver said.
"Once we got it open, the notes were pretty personal and it didn't really seem like something we should be reading even though we had come across them. But, there was a package of sunflower seeds with an email address on them that went back to Jamie's mother, Caroline."
Beaver said she wrote Caroline Quattrocchi when she got home, apologizing for having opened the bottle.
In response, Beaver said Quattrocchi told her not to worry, and gave her instructions. Beaver was to write about their experiences and share them on her son's memorial Facebook page; they were to take a few of the sunflower seeds and plant them.
Finally, they were to repackage the contents and cast it back to the ocean for others to find.
2 bottles are better than 1
It was Jamie Quattrocchi's girlfriend of 10 years, Brittany Smith, who had the idea to spend June 4 — his birthday — at Peggys Cove. She was initially going to go with her mother, but invited Caroline along.
Caroline Quattrocchi didn't want to leave her family behind in Smiths Falls on her son's birthday. She said she wanted the day to be more of a celebration than of sadness.
"So I Googled 'Cruise, Halifax, June 4,' and I found a Holland America cruise that left from Montreal, which is a couple of hours from us. Docked in Halifax on June 4," she said.
"What are the odds? What are the odds of finding exactly what I wanted? It's like it was meant to be."
Eight people gathered for Jamie's birthday at Peggys Cove. They tossed two bottles into the water.
"I want this to be a dialogue, I want this to be another way to keep Jamie's memory alive," said Quattrocchi.
Following the currents
Quattrocchi said she was surprised to discover how far the bottle travelled. The distance from Peggys Cove to Queensland Beach is about 18 kilometres.
She said there could be clues into the direction the bottle travelled, not necessarily the distance.
"We threw the bottles near where Jamie went in. Is this a message, is this a clue for the RCMP in the search for Jamie?" Quattrocchi said.
Quattrocchi said she's not sure if the idea is valid, but she's asking anyone else who finds the bottles to keep an eye out for any of the possessions Jamie had on him at the time: a GoPro, waterproof camera, rubber boots and Jeep car keys.
Quattrocchi, now at the family home in Ontario, feels they've done the right thing.
"We know that Jamie, while he might be proud of us, is doing his typical rolling his eyes saying, 'This is over the top,'" she said. "Where you find the inner strength to do these things, I have no idea."
Quattrocchi said the family has plans to manage the donation-based JQ Peggys Cove Safety Initiative. She said the family wants to consult with local emergency preparedness officials to make sure no other family has to experience losing a loved one at Peggys Cove.