Kelly Connolly
May 15, 2015 AT 02:20 PM EDT

Grey’s Anatomy fans are still recovering from Derek’s shocking (or not-so-shocking) death—but while the episodes that followed abruptly skipped over most of the mourning period, Thursdays season finale offered something that felt a little more like closure. Meredith gave Amelia the last voicemail Derek ever left her, allowing both his sister and the audience to imagine him happy one more time.

I wish you could see this. Weather’s classic Seattle. Oh, the water is so blue. It may be the most perfect ferryboat ride I’ve ever had in my life,” Derek said from a ferry.  “I love you. I love our family … I’ll see you when I get home.” Derek never made it home, but the fact that the episode left him smiling (as opposed to, you know, brain dead) was cathartic for creator Shonda Rhimes.

Rhimes’ “birthday twin” (she and actor Patrick Dempsey share a birthday) tweeted a photo from the Seattle ferry last month. When asked if it was a red herring, Dempsey told EW, “It’s such a big symbol for Derek. Ferry boats are a place of freedom and tranquility.” It looks like he wasn’t just being symbolic.

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