Death is a part of life. Grief always follows, but no one ever deals with it the same. When 25-year-old Jon Wish’s mother, Francesca, passed away last year, he resolved to use his grief to fuel something positive.
“I could sit around and feel bad, or I could feel bad but do something,” said Wish. “Grief has a lot of force behind it. There are a lot of emotions, and they carry a lot of power behind it.”
During Francesca’s final months, she and her family found immense support from the staff at Hope Hospice and Palliative Care of Rhode Island. In order to give back, Wish decided to bike from Rhode Island to Oregon to raise money to donate to Hope Hospice. He left Rhode Island on June 3 and arrived in Oregon on Aug. 15.
Last Thursday, Wish spoke at an all-staff meeting for Hope Hospice, explaining his journey. At the end, he was able to present attendees with a check for $15,001.
“This was not only personally rewarding for Jon, it was incredible for our organization,” said Hope Hospice president and CEO Diana Franchitto. “We got to be a catalyst for something great.”
For the first part of Wish’s journey, he rode from Rhode Island to Missouri. He would wake up every day, and figure out where he roughly wanted to end the day and plugged it into his GPS. When he arrived in Missouri, he was able to follow a route provided by the Adventure Cycling Association. This map took him all the way to Oregon.
Each day brought along new challenges, but Wish had a strong base of support to back him up. His grandparents called everyday, and his grandfather kept a map to track Wish’s journey. On his last day of the trip, Wish rode with his dad and aunt to a beach in Oregon. Once there, Wish dipped his bike in the ocean and reflected on his mom, his family, and his journey.
“On that last day, I felt all the emotions,” said Wish.
During the trip, Wish met several other cyclists. Everyone had different stories and reasons for cycling, but some rode with Wish for a good portion of the trip.
When he was riding with his group in Colorado, heading to the Rockies, Wish got “bonked.” A cyclist’s worst nightmare, bonking occurs when you lose a lot of sugar and just do not have any more energy to give.
“You have to keep up the sugar,” says Wish. “I don’t eat a lot of candy, but when I need some quick sugar I love Snickers.”
When telling people about his cross-country trip, Wish finds that the majority of people tend to first ask if other people messed with him.
“People aren’t as bad as the media portrays them to be,” said Wish.
During his trip, Wish found that people were almost always trying to help. Sometimes it would be an offering of food, a place to sleep, or even just a kind conversation, but helping hands were always there.
The technicalities and logistics of this bike trip proved beneficial when translating it over to the other side of his life that Wish was dealing with. Lessons learned about how best to climb a hill transformed into metaphors on dealing with grief.
“When you lose someone that’s close, don’t push the grief away,” said Wish. “I don’t want to move on, but move through.”