After losing my brother, John, in a car accident in 2004, I began holding onto snippets of memories with him; conversations we held about his love of nature, cycling, camping, etc, and how he drew a spiritual connection from those experiences. And how he’d adamantly urged me to get a bicycle to share his joyful love of the outdoors.
The year he died, I managed to go to a bike shop he’d recommended, and earnestly looked for a quality bike he’d approve of me buying. It was a rather large expense for me at the time, and though I’d finally picked a bicycle and was about to purchase it, I was feeling anxious, wanting it to be the perfect choice, somehow, to honor my brother’s life. I spoke to him in my mind, asking for his guidance. I felt a little silly doing that, but nonetheless, I wanted his approval because this was something he’d loved and I wanted to cherish and protect that.
I went out to my locked car to retrieve my credit card (an act I do to prevent me from impulsive shopping), and I literally bumped head-first into my brother’s best friend, James. I was astonished to see him there, as I hadn’t run into him since John’s memorial months before. Turns out, James was at the shop to check on repairs to a bike that had once belonged to John.
James was happy to give me a second opinion on my sacred bicycle purchase and, in fact, exuberantly cheered me on as having made a really good choice. So I bought my bicycle, as an ode to my brother–with his best friend’s solid consent, and began my rides through Kentucky rolling hills. The following poem is one I composed about my experience riding that bike, together with my brother’s spirit…
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins 2006
Cherishing the slap of the wind against my face,
As I ride my wheels through the bike path,
I feel your spirit next to me, embracing fresh air,
Marveling at gorgeously green leaves, cute, quick bunny rabbits,
Graceful birds in the sky, frothy waves crashing on a quiet beach…
I ride alone, or with a new friend by my side,
But always, you are there with me,
Like the skateboarding youths on the other side,
Or the red-haired boys eating ice cream or
Diving into the sandcastle walls on the shore…
I feel your energy, pushing my pedals,
Steady to the beat of my own breathing,
There you are, your voice providing silent
Commentary on the exhilaration of the outdoors,
Laughing at the joy of moving fast,
Under the warm sun, to the sound of bird language,
or crumpling leaves underneath—
the thrill of rolling wheels down a steep hill,
the silence of the blue on the water’s waves,
the golden farewell of an inflated beach-ball sun
rolling beyond the horizon of vast ocean.
You are there, in the air, in the floating clouds
Drifting far away above me, and yet, at one with me.
Sometimes, I can feel your big arms around me,
Bear-hugging me from your invisible seat in the universe,
Or hear your cocky laughter in my ears,
When the memory of one of your silly antics
Crosses my mind as I remember our moments
Together in this life—
Before I started riding my bike to be with you again,
To make quality time with your spirit…
‘Cause I know you would love my wheels
and the distance I have pushed myself to go on
for the sake of our bond, my dear brother.
Let’s go ride on…