This weekend, Ashley’s family is at Timber Outdoor Music Festival celebrating Ashley’s life, while Greg will ride to Seattle to Portland (205 Miles in 1 Day) to honor Ashley and to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Below is a story of how Ashley and Greg met and their musical connection.
Like my mom, Ashley loved music. Even when her health was at its worse, Ashley always had a ticket for the next show she was going see, always another show. I actually met Ashley on November 22, 2013 at a Melodic Caring Project show featuring Brett Dennen at The Triple Door. Melodic Caring Project streams live music to children who can’t go to see live music because they are battling serious illness. They are called “Rockstars” because of their strength, courage an indomitable spirit. I was working with the project co-founder and artist, Levi Ware and #WeRideWhy Director of Photography and lead editor, Jason Tang that night, hosting the stream along with Levi.
I remember handing Ashley one of the Melodic Caring Project postcards. She looked at it and her eyes lit up. She loved the whole idea of streaming music to kids. That night, Brett Dennon put on an amazing show. He gave a shoutout to every one of those “Rockstars”. After that evening, Ashley and I connected again, talked about the show and the project. She was a music fan and I was a music journalist. We became Facebook friends and would exchange messages. Ashley would watch some of the public MCP streams and really supported Melodic Caring Project.
Little did I know that when I met Ashley that night, she had already been in her battle with cancer. At the time I met Ashley, I had no idea. I started following her posts on Facebook and I saw that Ashley had cancer. I was deeply touched for some reason. I wasn’t sure at the time why, maybe because she was a mother fighting to stay alive for her child and how much she seemed to just love life. I started to think of my own mom. You could say meeting Ashley and hearing her story opened up a space to look at my own mother and the disease that ultimately took her life. I became re-present to who my mother was, her spirit, her love of music, the arts and her passion for life. I came to the revelation that my mom and Ashley not only had a lot in common, they were very much alike. Ashley reminded me so much of my mom when I saw her. It is like somehow they were connected. They would have loved hanging out together and digging on some good music.
“I’m gonna celebrate being alive…”
-Ashley Berg posting on Facebook at the Brett Dennen / MCP show.
I reached out to Ashley to offer support and shared the story about my mother and how much her struggle touched and impacted me. You could say that Ashley was the person inspired me to know my mom again from a different perspective.
When announced that I would be riding Fred Hutch Obliteride for the first time in 2016. Ashley was one of the first to encourage and support my effort and congratulated me. Given that she was battling cancer and had a daughter the same age I was when my mom passed away, I felt a strong connection to Ashley. Sometimes I would see her at shows but I was working so I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to interact with Ashley in person. We would communicate over Facebook. Our friendship took a different turn, when I decided to make her part of a story I was working on for our film, #WeRideWhy. As she shared her stories with me when we spoke and mine with hers, I grew to admire and respect who she was and who she was to her friends and family. I loved my friendship with Ashley and the short time we got to share. More on this later…
Ashley’s passion for music was beautiful. Along with cycling, music is my greatest passion as well. I was a music artist and music journalist for a few years. Music was and is my oxygen. Ashley and I spoke about going to see some shows but we never nailed things down and her health was up and down so when the time was right on my end, it was not on hers. I did get to come hang with Ash at a local establishment, Bastille and her bestie, Tasha Shives before a show in Ballard. I was feeling down and Ashley asked if I wanted to come out and meet her and Tasha. I did. I wish we would have had more of those moments.
When someone is sick and looking at the potential of death right in the eye, it is family, friends, art and music lifts them up. Music was my mom’s happy place and it was Ashley’s. When Ashley was at a concert or listening to music, or at a show, in those moments, she was cancer free because she was free and she is free now.
When Ashley was battling cancer, one of the biggest highlights of the year was the Timber Outdoor Music Festival. She shared it with her daughter Piper every year since the summer of 2013. The last couple of years, her family joined her and Piper at Timber. As you will see in the video below in which the festival’s founder organizer and artist, Kevin Sur, paid a moving tribute to Ashley and her family from the stage. Ashley’s family will be there again this year to honor Ashley and celebrate her life. They and thousands come to bask in the majesty of music, art, activities, community, and God’s glory underneath a beautiful sky in a lovely little place called Carnation, Washington (Man, I love to ride around there)!
Timber Outdoor Music Festival... is not just a music event, it is a life event. It is a celebration of community, music, art, love, and life itself. It is something you share with your family. It is an experience that stays in your heart for the rest of your life… Like Ashley.
#Timberfest you make me so happy every year. I love you
I have a few regrets in my life, one of them is that I didn’t get to share Timber with Ashley. I was there the first couple of years but I was working and there were so many people, I couldn’t seem to find Ashley in the crowd.
When we were in the process of filming, Ashley and I were speaking on the phone and spoke about Timber! She asked if I was going to be going and if we could meet up. I was registered to ride Seattle to Portland that weekend, and would not be able to attend. I promised that I would be thinking of her and we exchanged messages that weekend. While at Timber, Ashley texted me a message to let her know that she was enjoying Timber and thinking of me. This was encouraging and her words were with me as I continued to ride. I was so excited to have completed 205 miles in 1 day, I texted Ashley right away a photo of me holding up my bike after the finish (See Below).
Ashley texted me back, congratulating me. I knew Ashley was sick but I took comfort in knowing that even though Timber Fest 2017, was her last, that she was in her happy place and at peace, surrounded by family, friends, music, and God’s creation. I also take comfort in knowing that Ashley’s family is at Timber! again this year in 2019. Ashley is there too in spirit. She always will be.
As I ride Seattle to Portland again this Timber weekend, Ashley and her family will be in my heart as I ride. For me, Timber and Seattle to Portland will always be connected and a shared experience with Ashley and her family at the center. I will ride hard, with love in my heart. #ForAshley #Sunshinegirl
Below is a bonus content piece we produced to share the story of Ashley’s love for music and her relationship with Timber! The piece includes, shots from Jason Tang and Seattle Music Insider editor, Abby Williamson. Once again, the theme music for the film was produced and performed by our music supervisor, Andrew Joslyn, who will also be performing at Timber! who along with the Passenger String Quartet will be performing with headliner, Mark Lanegan (Kevin Sur and Andrew collaborated on a project and performed at the Fremont Abbey in November of 2018.) The narration of the video is provided by the voice of #WeRideWhy, Grammy Award winner, Michael “Wanz” Wansley (Macklemore).
Spring and summer are filled with life, energy and color. Hope springs eternal, a chance for renewal, even redemption. After spring and summer, The petals fall off the flowers, our lush green leaves turn a beautiful golden brown in September, letting us know that their time to sparkle will soon come end. One by one the leaves lose their color, they wither on the branches and fall to the ground, to become part of the earth or atmosphere…a different shape, a different form.
Winter is darker, the days are shorter, the sunny days fewer. Color turns to monochrome. Grey, lonely days prevail, but comfort, warmth and color are found among friends and loved ones. We are gather around tables to share stories, a drink a meal and love. In November and December we are surrounded by trees with lights or candles other beautiful adornments signifying a certain holy time of year. Winter is a time of reflection. It is a time to look within, to look without and think about those who are in our lives and those who we loved and lost.
After winter, the first blooms start to appear in March and by April and May the leaves and flowers are back, just like we remember, like an old long lost friend who went away on a journey for the winter, only to come back and visit us in the new year. The flowers, the trees, the clouds all look like they did the year before and the year before that but the thing is they are not the same. They are new flowers, new leaves. They look and smell like they always did, but different and the trees and flowers bring us the same joy, a reset and rebirth. The trees, the flowers, the mountains are constantly changing. They will remain, long after we have departed. To me the turning of the seasons represent perpetual change, the circle of life and transformation, “There is no finish line.”
It has been said that to truly heal from the loss of someone that we love, we have to go through all of the seasons without their physical presence – the birthdays, the holidays, the anniversaries, family milestones. I have gone through many seasons after the loss of my mother. The pain and loss will always remain but it does not stop me. It fuels me.
I have gone through all of the seasons since Ashley Autumn Berg passed away the day after mothers day, last year on May 14. I will never forget that day and the moment I received a message from Ashley’s mother Heart: “Our beautiful sunshine girl has passed at 2:41 am. Her courageous fight is over, Peace God bless her and us.” Next to the losses of both of my mothers, this was one of the most deeply felt losses in my life. It is pretty amazing how someone can be in your life for a short period of time and make such an impact and alter your life forever. Ashley changed my life. I am not the same person that I was before I got to know her. Ashley taught me to love unconditionally and to bring that love to everyone. That is what I am doing through our film and sharing her story to do just that. This work is bigger than me, it is my calling.
Working on our film project, #WeRideWhy, I went through all the seasons with Ashley during the last year and a half of her life. She and I laughed, we cried, we shared, we comforted and inspired each other during the production of the film and during her fight. I knew when I started down this road with Ashley, that it could be an emotionally difficult journey. When Ashley passed away, I was lost for a while in terms of where to go with this project, she was a partner on this. We were supposed to celebrate the completion and release together. The end of the story that I had written for the film was not what I had written. When Ashley passed away, it made me look at everything about this project, the why, the what, the purpose.
What this film started out to be and what it will be is much different now and more powerful. #WeRideWhy It is a love story. It is about connection and how much we really need each other to get through this thing called life. It is a conversation. It is about the positive difference, that thousands of people can make when touched by tragedy and driven by love.
My mom and Ashley are the heart and soul of the film Ashley is was and continues to be a collaborator. I feel her love, I feel her presence and hear her and my mom’s voice encouraging me to ride, on, tell this story so thousands can be lifted up, touched moved and inspired.
Jason and I started the post production process earlier this year. It is going to take several months complete the film. The editing process is very meticulous, we need continue to craft and fine tune the story, there is still a lot of writing to be done, there is Voice Over work to come from our friend Michael “Wanz” Wansley, there is music to select and of course our Music Supervisor and Andrew Joslyn and his brilliant music must be put together with everything else.
Good enough is not good enough for any of us. My mother, Judy Roth, Jenny George and Ashley, Fred Hutch Obliteride and the thousands who ride to raise money to cure cancer deserve the best that we are able to deliver and that is what they shall have. That is what YOU shall have. It is now not just about my mom, Jenny and Ashley. This is about Piper and Ashley’s family. They are the inspiration of this movie. We are committed to making a document of something that Ashley’s family can be proud of and hold in their hearts, to celebrate Ashley’s life.
So, here is what is next. Jason and I will keep our promise and have the film complete by the end of 2019. We will have small private test screenings and then post test-screening editing sessions to get to the final cut. We will have private screenings early in the year and be ready for festivals like Seattle International Film Festival, Sundance and many more. We will also host a premier and music even in Spring 2020. We will keep on hammering until we get to the top of the climb.
There is much to do between now and then. Jason and I will be heads down, hammering away. In the meantime, we will be releasing some bonus content and behind the scenes content every month so that you can see our progress and get a little taste of the film and look inside.
Our first piece we are releasing was shot up at Discovery Park / Fort Lawton in October 2018. It was chilly and overcast day. Ashley was not feeling well that day so her coming out to help drive the vehicle while her daughter Piper shot out the back and side windows, was a big deal. We got some amazing footage that day. Also, I shot some beautiful photos of the two of them. It was one of the most special days of my life. I wanted so many more of those days but it was not to be. That day would be the last time I would see Ashley and Piper together. I am so blessed to have shared that day with the both of them. Every time I see the sun on a beautiful day, I see Ashley, the sunshine girl.
To help cure cancer in our lifetime, you can make a donation on Ashley’s behalf or join our team to walk run or ride to help #CureCancerFaster. GO HERE.
…There is no finish line