Sooner or later, we have to pass through the rite of passage of having a loved one die. How we deal with that loss is often linked to how important that person was to us and how close the relationship. Grieving is a normal state that may involve many different facets and can last a long time. Tears shed at a funeral are often just the beginning of the letting go; of the acceptance that life has ultimately only one physical conclusion.
We’ve talked on this blog about the many aspects of being in the moment and to reflect and rejoice in all that life has to offer. We’ve asked you to ponder all the stuff in our lives from the physical clutter in our closets to our relationships. Now we want to share a remarkable journey by a young man from Murrieta who is honoring his father’s memory in a unique way, by riding his bicycle 10,000 miles to China to deliver his father’s ashes to his hometown in Guangzhou.
We’ve all seen the roadside memorials with flowers or crosses where someone died due to an accident. And on television we too often see reporters interviewing people who are placing votive candles and flowers on a sidewalk where some innocent has been murdered. While memorializing someone is a way to understand what that person meant, it’s also a way to focus on our own mortality and the seeming randomness of life.
There are many ways to have a final farewell and funeral homes are reporting the unique ways people are memorialized, from having a recorded message on the Internet for all eternity to being buried in a favorite car or having theme burials like a rock n roll celebration and departure. And with national tragedies and major events, the memorials are carved into a more permanent and symbolic presence that bring all of us together such as after 9-11 or the Oklahoma City bombing or the Vietnam memorial wall. What it says about us is that we all know our mortal fate but we want to make sure the world takes notice that we mattered, that we were here to share the road on this path and that grieving and memorializing is an important part of living. In many cultures, there are altars to the ancestors placed in a revered spot in the home. For Julian Wong it’s a town in southern China where his father’s remains belong.
We wish Julian a safe and meaningful journey as his trip takes him to parts known and unknown. His perspective on this trip honors his father in many ways, a father who instilled a sense of spiritual reflection and wonder about the world: “The trip is not about destination and although I strive to arrive at my destination of choice, in reality, it is a superficial destination,” he says. “The most important moments will be while traveling. I hope, in solitude and at my own peace, that upon reaching my physical destination I will have reached a much more important mental one.” How do you think you’ll be remembered?
To follow Julian’s journey, go to his travel blog: http://pilgrimsandashes.com/.
(Image from dreamcatchersforabusedchildren.com)