“Itâ€™s kind of like he’s still there, still waving, and it just makes me feel like heâ€™s just still around.”
Randy Pristas was just washing his car in the front yard as usual when a Google Street View car drove by his house one day in September 2012.
“I waved at it, so you better check it one day,” his daughter recalled him telling her back then.
He died in March 2017; some time afterward, Andrea Pristas, a 21-year-old who lives in Turlock, California, decided to see if the image the passing car had captured of her dad was still there. She searched the address â€” and there he was, waving.
“I cried the first time I saw it after he died,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Now, she and dozens of others are sharing Google Maps photos of deceased loved ones in a heartwarming Twitter thread. It began when one Twitter user posted about recently finding an image of her late grandfather sitting outside his farm on the navigation app. That tweet has since gone viral with almost half a million likes.
“My grandpa passed away a few years ago,” @yajairalyb wrote Tuesday. “We didn’t get to say goodbye to him. Yesterday we found out google maps finally drove through his farm and as we were curious going through it, where the road ends, there is my grandpa, just sitting there. ðŸ˜”
The tweet inspired others to look up the addresses of their parents and grandparents to see if the Google Maps cars that drive down streets all over the world had happened to capture their loved ones.
Paula Sullivan, 22, wasn’t expecting to find her dad when she looked up his home in Southampton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. He died in 2016; at some point, a Google Maps camera caught him walking out the front door.
“It was funny because I see there was a tree blocking the front door. So I see his leg, and I’m playing with it, and at that right angle I found him walking,” Sullivan told BuzzFeed News. “It was an emotional moment for me. I really had no hope of finding him.”
Sullivan, who lives in Florida, said her dad died unexpectedly and she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Even though she has lots of pictures of him, seeing the Google Street View image of him for the first time was special.
“You haven’t seen that picture before, so it kind of just catches you off guard,” Sullivan said.
Lauren Schmucker, 24, told BuzzFeed News she first learned about the Google Maps image of her grandparents gardening outside their home in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, after her grandmother died in 2013.
“Itâ€™s very surreal,” Schmucker said. “That exact moment that they just happened to both be out there in a garden is just a very real moment for me.”
“Gardening was something that they did together and something they bonded over,” she said. “That was a huge part of their marriage.”
After seeing other people’s tweets about their loved ones, Schmucker again looked up her grandparents’ address to see if they were still there, calling it a “nice little surprise.”
“It’s definitely cool to see, especially after many years forgetting that that happened,” she said. “I went and looked at it. It made me smile.”
For Andrea Pristas, the online image of her dad washing her car was another way to preserve his memory. She recalled he drove onto the grass that day to help preserve water since California was in a drought at the time.
“Itâ€™s kind of like he’s still there, still waving, and it just makes me feel like heâ€™s just still around,” she said. “That was the thing that he would do a lot. He always liked to keep his cars clean. If I couldn’t find him and he was outside, heâ€™d be washing his car.”
Now, she keeps a screenshot of the image in case Google updates the photo of her dad’s house. She also tells friends and family if they ever miss him to go look up his house for a surprise.
“If you ever lost someone, give it a try,” she said. “You never know what youâ€™re going to find.”