On December 27 2019, Facebook user Frank Joseph Miliano shared a moving status update about an incidental find that day while working as a commercial fisherman in Maine.
Miliano uploaded a photograph of a weatherbeaten identification card, and an explanation of why finding it was so emotional for him:
Miliano tagged several others, and wrote:
So today while dragging for sea urchins the strangest thing happened. We usually pick one spot and drag until we reach our quota, today we decided to scout around and try different places. As we’re working on our last tray I dragged up my brother’s Health Care card. We lost my brother 11 years ago in the same body of water I fish. Words can’t even describe the feelings and emotions when we emptied the drag and found this. 11 years it sat on the bottom of the ocean floor, miles away from where my brothers body was found. The chances of this is comparable to winning the lottary it was meant for me to drag in that spot today . His signature is still visible. If this ain’t a sign i dont know what is. I love and miss you Alex. Watch over us all. In the pictures the green circle is where his body was found and the red one is where we dragged his card up 11 years later.
According to the post, Miliano had spent the day fishing in various spots in an attempt to achieve a quota of catches. While examining his final catch of the day, he located an item he was not expecting to see — his late brother’s healthcare card.
In one of three images, a worn plastic card displayed a number with the name “Alexander P. Doyle,” and a birthdate of April 27 1980. Miliano stated that his brother had died eleven years previously “in the same body of water” in which he fished, adding that Doyle’s signature was still visible and the odds of such a find were comparable to winning the lottery.
In addition, Miliano included images of two marked maps — one with a green circle on the location in which Doyle’s body was recovered, and a red circle farther away marking the location in which he recovered the card.
Miliano updated the post after it went viral, thanking Facebook users for their kind reactions and adding additional information about his brother. In the update, Miliano said the claim was not a hoax:
(I have had a lot of people thinking this is a joke or a made up story. I want to clear all that and say it’s most defiantly not fake. I didn’t ask for this nor would I make it up. I’m just as shocked as anyone reading this. I’m not asking for people to believe me. This was intended to be shared with my brothers and sisters I never intended it to go viral but it did. For the ones who don’t believe me that’s fine but please keep the rude comments to yourself. As for why it is a nova Scotia card, he was raised in Canada and came to visit. The night he came to visit is the night he died. His body was found 3 days later in the water.)
Another person, Kyle Newell, shared a separate post about the incident, writing:
This was crazy one in a bazillion chance i was going through the catch and throwing the trash to the side as we always do then i come across this and for some reason i decided to give it to my brotha Frank Joseph Miliano i went back to the table to sort and he yelled bro thats my brother Alex’s i got chills through my body i was in shock as was my brother frank i love you bro im glad i found it[.]
A day after the post, Miliano published two separate updates, again thanking Facebook users for sharing his story. In the first, he lamented “hate mail” that he said he had received from people calling the story fake, and added that he believed his brother had arranged for him to find the card:
“I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming love, support and concerns for myself and my crew on today’s find. It was definitely something I wasn’t ready for, between what we found and it going viral still shocks me. I’m lost for words! I see a lot of love and a little bit of hate in the comments. People know me know I would never make this up. My family is my everything and it really hurt to read some of the hate mail I received, I never asked for this it just happened. I thank the ones who don’t doubt me. My brother left that for me. I ask one thing and it’s for you to pray for him. For the ones who respect me for what it is…i thank you beyond words!”
“It’s so crazy that my post went viral and has touched so many people’s lives all over the world. Friday was just another day at work for us and took a crazy turn once we dragged up my brothers card. I’m still shocked! There are so many comments I can’t even respond to them all. My inbox is flooded with so many emotions and messages, this was inspirational to so many people and it has touched the hearts of many. I’m glad we was able to do that. My Brother Alex sure did it this time and his spirit is felt all around the world. We love you bro! May you forever rest in peace.”
In the second, he said that his brother “sure did it this time and his spirit is felt all around the world,” referring to the global popularity of the story. As of December 30 2019, Miliano’s story had been shared nearly 60,000 times and received thousands of comments.
Apparently, the post was visible enough to prompt scraper site activity. A tentative “obituary” for Doyle appeared not long after the Facebook post, archived here and highlighting the difficulty of fact-checking claims such as these.
We were unable to locate any news stories or actual obituaries about Doyle’s death, but neither did it seem the claim was necessarily fabricated or exaggerated. Whether Miliano’s story was a coincidence or something else was clearly the subject of debate, but the incident was nevertheless moving both to the family and the tens of thousands of Facebook users who shared the post.