Riding Free

Celeste aka “Kat” lived her life going full throttle until suddenly without any warning the big “C” ended her life. Her heartbroken husband, Dan aka “Big Dawg” was devastated and shared story after story of the miles they traveled together on their motorcycles. They were high school sweethearts with a passion for the open road. There were too many photos to assemble into a slideshow, so he called some friends to arrange them on big poster boards. At the viewing, there was a blank poster board on an easel for friends and family to pin up their photos. She touched so many lives in her short time here. Since riding was her life, Dan knew she would want a big motorcycle procession to the mortuary and then to the restaurant for the after party.

Kat’s family found a funeral home nearby to help Big Dawg make the arrangements. Did you know that this is one of the most common ways people select a funeral home by driving by? Hmmm. I feel another blog post coming on about a smarter way to select a funeral or cremation provider. I digress…

Kat’s custom Harley® Street Glide was wheeled into the funeral home for both the viewing and the funeral. Her leathers, helmet, bandanas & sunglasses were displayed on the bike. A life size poster of her last ride to Sturgis was on display next to her bike. All the guests signed it.

A graphic artist in the group designed an embroidered memorial patch for riders to sew on to their leather vests or jackets. These were handed out at a special moment of silence during the service. About a dozen people got memorial tattoos prior to the Life Celebration with her name, dates and the words, “Riding Free”. Big Dawg invited all Kat’s lady biker friends and co-workers to select something from her jewelry to wear to the funeral and keep as a remembrance of her.

There were not enough seats to accommodate the hundreds of people who showed up on this chilly, yet spring-like day in March. Over 300 motorcycles lined up outside with Big Dawg planning to lead the way riding Kat’s Harley® after the service. The smell of leather hung in the air while her favorite rock songs played in the background.   There was a closed coffin with Kat inside although she would be cremated later. Big Dawg wanted her to “be there” for her own funeral. She was part Native American and very spiritual although not religious.

There were not enough seats to accommodate the hundreds of people who showed up on this chilly, yet spring-like day in March. Over 300 motorcycles lined up outside with Big Dawg planning to lead the way riding Kat’s Harley® after the service. The smell of leather hung in the air while her favorite rock songs played in the background.   There was a closed coffin with Kat inside although she would be cremated later. Big Dawg wanted her to “be there” for her own funeral. She was part Native American and very spiritual although not religious.

Riding Free was the theme for this ceremony as everyone saw Kat riding free in the skies with her long, blonde hair blowing in the wind. Her husband asked me to read a touching tribute that he wrote about his beloved soul mate. While the tears flowed, there were also moments of laughter as everyone remembered something about Kat that prompted a smile. Several friends got in line to come to the podium and share their memories. Since time did not allow for everyone to speak there, I announced that the stories would most definitely continue at the restaurant.

To close the service inside the funeral home, I recited this Native American Prayer by Chief Dan George.

May the stars carry
your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your
heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe
away your tears, and
Above all, may silence make you strong.

Everyone gathered outside as Big Dawg rode Kat’s bike out of the funeral home to the front of the line. When I waved Kat’s purple bandana in the air, the bikers simultaneously revved their engines. The ground shook from the loud, rumbling roar and the guests clapped and cheered.  What a marvelous, memorable send-off for a woman who is now and forever Riding Free.


Closing Thoughts

After the service at the funeral home and the one at the restaurant, a biker on crutches came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. He said, “I don’t like funerals, can’t stand ‘em. In fact, I almost didn’t come to this one, broke my leg.” He rolled up his sleeve and showed me his Kat tattoo right next to a portrait tattoo of his daughter who died last year. Wiping tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand, he said, “This is the best damn funeral I’ve ever been to, will you do mine?”

Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to “Think Outside the Coffin®” when planning a Fabulous Farewell.

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Copyright ©2022 Think Outside the Coffin. All Rights Reserved.