WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — When Francesca Wish’s kids describe the coast-to-coast, 4,000 mile bike journey they’re about to take from their hometown of Westerly, you can hear her influence.
This Mother’s Day will be the first that her three children and husband will be without the woman they called “Meemers.”
Her youngest, Jonathan, and her oldest, Ann, can’t take a single pedal on their bikes without their mom watching. Both have her picture smiling up at them from their handlebar storage bags.
“It’s all about mom. She’s everything to me.”
“She was the most important person in my life,” Jonathan said.
Ann realizes she’ll be turning to her mom’s twinkling eyes for inspiration while they’re on the road.
“I’ll look down into her eyes,” she said. “And I think she’ll be saying every moment, you can do it.”
Jonathan works at a bike shop and has ridden and raced long distances, although nothing like this trek.
His sister, who just quit her job as a nurse to train and take the ride, has not.
“Yes,” she said with a laugh, when asked if she’s anxious about the journey. “I’m totally scared. I’m really, really scared.”
But as they build their endurance, they say they’re not looking at it as one 4,000-mile, grueling ride.
It’s one pedal at a time, one mile at a time.
“That was one thing mom really taught us, is live in the present,” Ann said. “In the end of her life, she just wanted to really seize each moment and find the joy and grace. So, I’m trying to do that too.”
“Meemers” was a health-conscious, positive-thinking dynamo who at the age of 51 looked 31.
But the 1-in-3,000 strain of liver cancer that struck didn’t care, and took her away after a fight that lasted more than four years and included chemotherapy and surgery.
Toward the end, the 40-year institution Hope Hospice Rhode Island that now helps more than 5,000 patients a year was there for the Wish family.
“Mom’s nurse [Joe] was just amazing with her,” Jonathan said. “He really touched me in many ways just watching him, just how sincere he was.”
His sister points out that is what Hospice does.
“They help support you and they help make your loved one have the best quality of live they can for the longest period they can have it.”
The duo said they have talked about the worst case scenario that one of them can’t continue due to the physical strain, and they’ve agreed that the other one will keep going.
“Just knowing what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, it’s all about mom,” Jonathan said. “Empathetic, caring, compassionate, all the things that we strive to be. She embodied all of that. She’s everything to me.”
Their ride will raise awareness about cancer and possibly $20,000 for Hospice through a GoFundMe page called Bike USA Jonny.
And when the wind blows in their faces or rain falls, and when the flat roads of the Midwest turn into the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, they will look down at the picture and listen to what “Meemers” might whisper to them.
“Keep going. Keep going,” Ann said. “That’s what she did. So, I’m going to try to do it too.”
With their father Seth and middle brother Bradshaw offering inspiration, Jonathan and Ann start peddling June 3 from Westerly’s Wuskenau Beach, and about three months later they expect to arrive in Oregon. Along the way, they will camp when possible and stay with relatives in some cases to keep their costs down. Click here for more details.