Life is such an amazing adventure that most folks don’t want it to end. And when it inevitably does, some send their loved ones on a final journey. In recent years, a number of beachcombers have stumbled upon human ashes in bottles. In every case, the person whose ashes are in the bottle was deeply loved by their family, and the family chose this gesture as a way of honoring the person’s love of travel or desire to see the world.
Personally, my favorite version of this memorial is the kind that implores the finder to share a drink with the “person” whose ashes are in the bottle.
If you find human remains in a bottle tomorrow, I guarantee a stiff drink is going to make you feel less nervous.
Plus, maybe having a drink will give you a second to calm down and think about the person that was… Their life, their career, what they felt like when they became a parent, their first kiss, the first time they fell in love and thought it would last forever. We all start out as stardust, twirled into a brief existence by our parents, we love, lose, love, lose, love, and finally perish, and become dust again.
Here are the stories of several people who were cremated and then set adrift for a final adventure. Each is a snapshot of a life–not an obituary, but a glimpse at who the person was.
Gary Robert Dupuis
Take Gary Robert Dupuis. I can’t imagine what his obituary said. But as for this celebration of his life–well, it tells us a lot. Here’s the note, found by Norman MacDonald on Cape Breton, Canada, in April 2016:
What does the bottle tell us?
Gary had children. When he was young, he was a bit wild. But he mellowed out as he got older, and he wanted to see the world. But my favorite detail? “His favourite drink was Tequila, straight up (no groceries).” Good man, Gary!
Like any well-prepared adventurer, Gary began his journey with coin of the realm–$25, in fact. Norman MacDonald said he planned to take Gary out for that drink before setting him adrift again.
Gary Dupuis and Biker Bob might be kindred spirits.
When Biker Bob died tragically while riding his motorcycle, his widow, Maudine Previl, remembered his original request for his remains… According to CBC, Previl said his “original request for his remains was to have his ashes sprinkled on his canoe, then have the canoe set loose on a lake — and then for Pervil to take his rifle and blow a hole in that canoe” to sink it.
You don’t have to be a genius to realize that this makes Biker Bob a certified badass. I mean, this is on par with Hunter S. Thompson’s request to have his ashes blasted out of a cannon at his funeral–which really happened, and it was funded by Johnny Depp.
Instead of the canoe plan, Previl decided to send Biker Bob’s ashes on a seafaring adventure that could lead him around the world.
In November, 2015, Previl threw the message in a bottle into the water at Nanaimo’s Jack Point, “Bob’s favorite hiking spot,” according to Check News, and that was it. For months.
But then, Biker Bob was found for the first time, by Justin Bevis–also in Nanaimo.
In February 2016, Justin took Biker Bob out for a beer, and then sent him back on his way, in accordance with the instructions in the bottle.
Biker Bob’s next stop was China Beach, circled in red here:
He was discovered there by Caleb Harding and his girlfriend Bethany James during a surfing event.
Like Justin Bevis, Caleb Harding wanted to honor Maudine Previl’s wishes and help him onward.
“I would just like his friends or family to know that he is still on his journey,” Caleb said, and “that he’s in good hands until we put him back in the ocean, and I just want them to know…that he’s still traveling, still seeing new things.”
Caleb hoped to get Bob out into the Pacific–but Bob would make one more stop on Vancouver Island before heading off on his biggest journey yet.
Dave Walton (reported as Dave Watson in some outlets) found Biker Bob’s bottle washed ashore on Cloyoquot Island in late February / early March 2016.
Dave decided he would take Bob out for one last ride on his Harley, then set him adrift a mile offshore, in hopes that Bob would finally sail the wild blue yonder of the world’s biggest ocean–the Pacific.
That was in early March, 2016, and that’s the last we heard from Biker Bob. Here’s hoping he made it out to sea. As we sit here today, Bob may be anywhere–in the wide open Pacific, or perhaps he has washed ashore on a desolate island; he could be in the shadow of some far north glacier, or drifting along above whales in the remote reaches of the Pacific…
Wherever he goes, he will always be riding into the sunset with Maudine Previl, the love of his life.
Gordon “Skinny” Smith
It’s funny–people have become obsessed with the idea of a message in a bottle as a way for two lovers to meet. But, in fact, a message in a bottle is often a way for lovers to say Goodbye.
Biker Bob’s message in a bottle was a love story, and so is the story of Gordon “Skinny” Smith.
Beverly Smith was naturally distraught when Gordon died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage at 57–just when their “golden years” were coming round the bend. As Beverly recalled, “He loved the ocean,” and she “wanted to let him travel a little and let him sail away.”
So, Beverly put Gordon’s ashes into a bottle including a brief note and money. She set the bottle adrift at Big Pine Cay, in the Florida Keys. Gordon drifted north to Islamdora, where he was discovered by a man named Ross. Ross added his own note to the bottle, urging whoever finds it next to let it keep drifting:
Ross sent the bottle back out to sea. It was swept southwest back toward Big Pine Cay. Next, it was found in July 2013 by Judi Glunz Sydney, co-owner of Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort in Key Colony Beach, FL.
Judi honored Beverly’s wishes and Ross’s request by sending Gordon back out to sea in a brand new bottle with a new note and an extra dollar bill.
Brian Lynn loved to travel–so much so that he traversed the world with his wife in retirement. His greatest love, though, was Egypt, and the pyramids.
When he passed away, his daughter, Nicci Welsh, wanted to honor his love of travel. So, she sent him on one last adventure in July 2014.
I would like you to meet my Father Brian Lynn.
On July 4th 2013 sadly my father passed away, he was a very happy chap that loved to surround himself with family, happiness, joy and most of all he loved to travel. On July 26th 2014 I decided to send my dad on his final adventure. A message in a bottle containing a letter, a penny for good luck and a small tub containing dads ashes…
She put his ashes into a bottle along with the note, a photo of Brian, and a penny for good luck. Then, she released the bottle into the sea.
Almost a year later, Junina Van der Hagen found Brian’s bottle washed ashore in Norway. Van der Hagen later released the bottle back to sea once again, and we await news of Brian’s next stop.
I only learned of Stacey’s Mom randomly via the imgur user realpisawork. I don’t think this story ever made the news.
Realpisawork was out fishing one day in Virginia when he noticed a Gatorade bottle with something inside. He was very surprised by what he found!
He wasn’t sure what to do, and he had to go to work. So…he hung onto the bottle throughout the day. Later, he wrote to Stacey explaining he had found her mom and set her adrift again. Stacey was delighted to her that her mother’s journey would continue.
John Lea, Celebrity Postman
When retired UK postman John Lea passed away, his son Kevin took it upon himself to make one last delivery for his dad. Actually, the delivery was his dad.
He told the Daily Mail, “I thought that it would be nice for dad to go on one last big adventure, and hopefully it is continuing…His ashes were in a camera film container and I wrote a descripion of dad and what he had done during his life…He has a wonderfully jolly man and it’s great to think that he is still putting smiles on people’s faces.”
The bottle was found washed ashore in Holland, and made the news.
But then, the bottle was found washed ashore in Holland again! This time it made the national news, and John turned into a bit of a celebrity. “I think he would have really liked that,” Kevin said of his father’s unexpected fame.
A simple note was included:
Today my family is laying me to rest in a place that I love: the ocean. So this starts my journey. If you find this message in a bottle please go to my Facebook page, post a pic of yourself and where you found me and send me back on my journey.
“Ash,” the Anonymous
When a group of British Columbia canoeists were out practicing for an upcoming race, they floated right past a message in a bottle containing someone’s ashes. Before they even realized what was in it, they picked it up.
The canoeists told CBC, “It says something along the lines of, ‘If you find this, please throw it back in the ocean. My last wish was to see the world.’ And on the other side is a photo of a man and it says ‘Celebration of Life.'”
It’s fascinating to me that so many have used messages in bottles to send the ashes of their loved ones on final seafaring adventures. Nothing else could accomplish quite the same thing, could it? So there it is, once again–the strange, almost magical power of messages in bottles. Connecting the living, the dead, and everyone in between. At their best, messages in bottles are always a celebration of life, sent out of joy, discovered with delight.
Here’s to Gary Dupuis, Biker Bob, Gordon “Skinny” Smith, Brian Lynn, Stacey’s Mom, John Lea the Postman, Mel Stanley, and “Ash” the Anonymous. Long may they drift through the wild blue ocean.