On this day in 2012, my dad was hit and killed by a car. He was riding his motorcycle home from the grocery store when a vehicle pulled out in front of him. If you have followed my writing for any length of time, you’ve heard the full story, so I won’t go into detail. You know the impact that this event has had on my life the past eight years.
I am not big on dates, neither was my dad. He was notorious for missing birthdays and holidays. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt when I was a kid. But, as I grew up, I began to see the beauty of living a life devoid of linear living.
Now, as I enter my half-century of life, I realize I don’t feel much older than I did when I was in my 20’s. Sure my body doesn’t always cooperate. However, when I don’t focus on the past, greener grass, or better days ahead, I can really get lost in the present’s beauty.
This past week I completed a 9-day family road trip to California. The last trip with my dad, California, was our destination. We only made it as far as Vegas due to mechanical issues. This week I drove past many of the same places we passed through on our last ride. During this trip, I felt but grateful and sad.
But, today, like it or not, represents the day that my dad was taken from this earth. While it doesn’t hurt more than other days, it can carry its own weight of awareness.
Broken down off of 128 outside of Moab. Faulty Valve Stem!
Today, I had the chance to talk to my dad’s wife, Helena, and my sister, Tami. I’d like to take a moment to share a bit about their stories with you today.
This morning, Helena shared with me how, after 8-years, it was time to let my dad out of the box that holds his ashes. In life, my dad often felt his possessions were boxed. He was always waiting for the day to fully express himself. After his passing, his ashes were shared between Helena, my sister, and me.
Helena has felt that my dad has traded his boxed possessions for himself by keeping his ashes in a box. A genie in a bottle waiting to get out. She chose this year to bury his ashes alongside a rose bush in their backyard.
Her decision seemed logical to me as she has a degree in horticulture. Then she shared a story from early in her relationship with my dad. It was before she became “edumacated” about flora. It turns out, before her training, she managed to kill several of my dad’s rose bushes when she prematurely trimmed them. From these pictures, it looks like she has improved her relationship with roses and found a fantastic way to honor him.
My sister has always had a fondness for feathers. Often equating them with a sign from our dad.
My day ended with a walk, as it often does. My sister texted me with a rather shocking revelation. She asked, “did you realize that dad passed away on 2112?” I didn’t get it at first. He died on 10/21. A few steps further into my walk, I pieced it together. He died on the 21st day of October 2012, 2112!
As a bass player, the musician in me has a long life love of the band RUSH—specifically Geddy Lee, the band’s vocalist, and bass player. The motorcyclist and writer in me were immediately endeared to Neil Peart, the band’s drummer. While he is known as one of, if not the best drummer to ever live. But I fell in love with his voice as an author or motorcycle storyteller.
Neil’s influence completely changed the direction of my life. His writing bonded my dad and me together. It only fits that my dad passed on 2112. I can’t help but think that he alone has been holding onto this irony and wondering when we would catch on.
Early in our riding days together, I gave my dad my copy of Neil’s book Ghost Rider after one of our rides. It’s the tragic story of Neil’s attempt to heal after the death of both his wife and daughter within a year. He rode his motorcycle nearly 80k miles from Canada through South America. That book was a gateway to the future he and I would share for the next several years. When he passed, it was one of the few possessions that I took back.
For non-Rush fans, 2112 was the band’s defiant and defining album. When their record label threatened to drop them if they didn’t produce a radio-friendly hit. The band responded by releasing a twenty-one and a half minute dystopian suite made up of seven songs, filling the album’s entire first side. The album became a turning point for the band. They went on to have massive success and unparalleled career. I never did get my dad to a RUSH show, but he became a fan of Neil’s writing and drumming.
The quote above is from the song Ghost Rider, from the album Vapor Trails. It is my all-time favorite Rush Album. After its release, the band rarely played songs from it live. It was painful for Neil, as it lyrically primarily deals with losing his wife and daughter. I had been a Wandering “Adventure” Hermit long before this song came out. Just another connection that would stay with me over the years.
A sampling from the many times I was lucky enough to see RUSH. I never took many photos, preferring to enjoy the show. The final photo is thanks to my friend Evan. He invited me to the bands R40 opening night in Tulsa, OK. It was the bands final tour and the last time I saw Neil. A week later I headed out to ride the Pacific Northwest Coast. I had hoped to catch the band one more time along the way, but wan’t able to make schedule align.
In January of this year, Neil Peart passed away, days before my dear friend artist Brian Olsen. Their losses hit me incredibly hard. Then the world was crippled by COVID-19. By the time my dad’s death day came this October, I, like the rest of the world, had been put through the wringer.
The tragedies of this year do not make today any less important. But to me, today is a reminder that each day matters. We cannot embrace the good days any more than grieve the bad ones or we risk missing out on all the days in between.
I miss my dad. But I am grateful that our good days and past struggles have brought me where I am today.
To everyone who has lost someone in their life, my heart goes out to you. May you find a way forward that brings you happiness in your future and peace with your past.
Prayer of Hope
Based on Neil Peart’s lyrics from the RUSH song Ghost Rider.
Carry your phantoms through bitter wind and stormy skies, from the desert to the mountain — from the lowest low to the highest high.
May you keep on riding North and West, then circle South and East, finding beauty even when there is no peace.
Though there are shadows behind you, there is no way of knowing what lies on the road ahead. So, you ride on, knowing that nothing can stop you now, or ever!