On Saturday the family and friends of Adrian "YoA!" Hands gathered together for a memorial service and ride to celebrate his life. By the time I first met Adrian in 2009 his ALS had confined him to a wheelchair and he could no longer ride a bike, but that didn't stop him from joining us at Geof's house for a post-Firecracker ride meal. I talked to him about how Geof was trying to convince me to try my first 200K permanent and he not only encouraged me to do it but also thought I should set a goal for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011! Though I did not get the opportunity to get to know Adrian in person I have benefited indirectly from knowing those whose lives he touched- among others Geof, Byron, MikeD, Sridhar, Branson, Jerry, Capt. Ende, and of course Adrian's son Ian.
I met up with Bryan H. and David at Geof's house for a pre-dawn start to ride over across Jordan Lake to meet Jerry at the store on the corner of Lystra Rd. Then the four of us rode to Carrboro to meet Ian and accompany him on his ride to the gathering in Hillsborough. Ian had carefully packed his dad's ashes into a pannier on the back of Adrian's trusty Koga Miyata bike so his last trip "wouldn't be in a stinkin' car!" We were all honored to join him on the journey. We rode to Hillsborough and stopped at Weaver St. Market for a bite to eat and to meet up with more cyclists and friends.
After breakfast we rolled over to the courthouse where family and friends were gathering, looking at bikes and photos of YoA! and generally having a nice time catching up with and meeting one another. Eventually we all made our way down to the Eno River en masse for a touching ceremony to scatter the ashes in the river. It was emotional for everyone in attendance, then on the walk back up from the river Ian proclaimed "Lets go ride bikes!" to get us all back in the proper mindset. Later he told MikeD and Geof it was the "coolest funeral ever!"
We all rolled out from the courthouse on a 37 mile course to Raleigh for the memorial service at the SGI-USA Buddhist center at 3pm. It was a beautiful warm day and everyone was in great spirits, enjoying the company and telling Adrian stories. Before long the front group of riders had missed a turn- I was slightly behind still putting my camera back in the front bag when I heard the folks behind me trying to yell after us. I tried to yell up to the riders in front but they didn't turn around so I hammered a bit and caught up to them to let them know about the missed turn. Branson said no worries, he could navigate us through Durham and back on course and everyone agreed that some bonus miles were nothing if not appropriate on a YoA! tribute ride!
It was a fantastic ride with good weather and great friends, and when we crossed the ATT Branson peeled off to head home and Jerry was waiting to join back up with us. We stopped to eat again at an Indian restaurant before heading on to the memorial service. At the SGI center we had another huge gathering of cyclists, family, and friends. Before the service there was a parade of bicycles led by Gilbert Anderson, then we all went inside for a moving memorial service. For many of us the Buddhist traditions were new, but soon familiar. Grieving is one of those things that transcends language. Everyone had the chance to offer incense and a prayer for Adrian, and folks got up and shared their fond memories before we watched a slideshow of his life and rides. Touching words were said by Adrian's brother, his wife Padmini, his daughter Shanti, and son Ian.
Afterward there was more congregating and chatting out in the parking lot before Geof, Bryan, and I headed back to Geof's place. From everything I've been told of Adrian it was a perfect way to celebrate his life- surrounded by family and friends and smiles and bicycles.