The God Squad: Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

The belief that death is not the end of us and that our souls live on in Heaven or Hell, or some purgatory in between, is a huge leap of faith, but it is not the last leap.

The next leap is believing that the dead not only live on beyond the grave, but they can also contact us from Heaven. (Contacting us from Hell is a question for another day.)

I believe that the dead can indeed contact us, but not because of some abstract belief. I believe the dead can contact us because of the chicken salad sandwich at the Celebrity Diner.

Since May 22 was the anniversary of Father Tom’s birth, our friends at Sri Chimnoy center joined others in putting flowers on his grave. So, in his beloved memory, I would like to tell again the story I have told before (about six years ago) of how Father Tom sent me a message from Heaven.

If you can think of a non-spooky interpretation of this story, PLEASE, let me know. As far as I am concerned, this story constitutes absolute proof that Heaven is real.

Before Tommy died on Feb. 16, 2016, and when he was still lucid, I asked him to send me a sign from Heaven that he was OK. This sign would settle a long-standing debate between us about whether or not it was possible to talk to dead people. I believed in life after death for the soul but I did not believe that the internet connection up there was working.

Anyway, Tommy agreed and asked me what kind of sign I wanted. I told him that I would not tell him what kind of sign I wanted. I said, “I am not going to tell you what kind of sign to send. If I tell you to send me a red bird, I would assume that every red bird I saw was the sign. I wanted just three things from the sign. It had to be unambiguous, and it had to be clearly from him, and it could not come from a psychic.

Then Tommy died.

For two years there was nothing. No signs, no red birds, no nothing!

Then on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) in 2018 I was having lunch with our dear friend Michael Pascucci at the Celebrity Diner on Jericho Turnpike on Long Island. After a lunch of their iconic chicken salad, Michael asked the friends at the table to leave us, and when we were alone he said, “This morning I was shaving when suddenly the ghost of Tom Hartman appeared in my bathroom and said to me in a calm and happy voice, ‘So, today you are going to have lunch with my best friend. I want you to tell Marc that Sol thinks he is in charge of Heaven and that Heaven is the most beautiful place you have ever seen.’”

Michael said that this apparition obviously shook him up and he was glad he did not cut himself with his razor. Then Michael looked at me and asked me, “Who is Sol?”


I almost lost my chicken salad.

I said to Michael, “Sol is the name of my dead father.”

Michael had never met my father. I never spoke about my father, Sol Gellman, to Michael. Michael did not know my father’s name, but Tommy did. The ghost of Tom Hartman was the only way Michael Pascucci could have known my father’s name.

Furthermore, the story was a perfect and funny way to describe my dad. My father always acted like he was in charge of things even when he was in charge of nothing. Describing dad that way was precisely Tommy’s sense of humor.

There was no way Michael could have known any of this. There is no rational way to explain any of this. It was clearly a sign from Tommy, and it was a sign vastly more perfect than a red bird.

I don’t care about the biblical prohibitions this sign violated (and there are many). What I do care about is that my dad is in charge of Heaven. What I do care about is that Tommy is OK and that my best friend still has my number.

On other days I may know more or I may know differently, but today that is all I know and it is enough for me today.

Happy birthday, Tommy!

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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