Scattered ashes

I’ve always thought about what happens when we scatter a little of ourselves across the Earth. I have had my hair cut in Tokyo, have clipped my nails in Norway, watched my blood flow from a wound halfway up a mountain in France. In my first book, “The Archives of Hell” (which has never been reprinted), I speculated about this, as if we felt we had to sow a little of our own body in various parts of the world, so that in a future life, something would be familiar to us. I recently read in the French newspaper Le Figaro, an article by Guy Barret about a true story which took place in 2001, when someone took this idea to its final conclusion.

Who managed to do it? Vera Anderson, who spent her entire life in the town of Medford, Oregon. In old age, she was the victim of a cardiovascular accident made worse by emphysema of the lungs, forcing her to spend years in her room connected to a balloon of oxygen. As if all this wasn’t enough of a burden, Vera’s case was even more cruel, because she had always dreamed of going round the world, and had saved up in order to do so in retirement.

Vera managed to be transferred to Colorado, so that she might spend her remaining days in the company of her son, Ross. There, before making her final journey – the one none of us return from – she took a decision. Since she would never get to know even her own country, she would travel after she died.

Ross went to the local notary office and registered her mother’s will: when she died, she wished to be cremated. So far, nothing unusual. But the will went on: her ashes were to be placed in 241 little bags, which were to be sent to the chiefs of the mail services in 50 American states, and each of the 191 countries in the world – so that at least part of her body would end up visiting the places she always dreamed about.

As soon as Vera departed, Ross fulfilled her last wish with the dignity one would expect of a son.
Each parcel carried an accompanying letter asking for a laying to rest worthy of her mother.

All the people who received Vera Anderson’s ashes respectfully obeyed Ross’s wish.

Thus, Vera’s ashes were scattered on Lake Titicaca, in Bolivia, following the ancient traditions of the Aymara Indians; on the river outside the royal palace in Stockholm; on the banks of Choo Praya, in Thailand; at a Shinto temple in Japan; on the icecaps of Antarctica; in the Sahara desert. The brothers of a charitable orphanage in South America (the article doesn’t say which country) prayed for a week before casting the ashes in the garden – and they then decided that Vera Anderson should be considered a type of guardian angel of that place.

Ross Anderson received photos from the five continents, from all races and cultures, showing men and women honoring his mother’s last wish.
When we see such a divided world as today’s, and think no one could care less about each other, this last journey of Vera Anderson fills us with hope, knowing that respect, love and generosity still dwell in the souls of our fellow men and women, however distant they may be.


  1. Tess Elliott says:

    A touching wish that brought many people together. Too bad it probably couldn’t happen now. Homeland Security would be all over him after the anthrax scare. It’s this kind of magical act that a dying person’s wish can overstep fear, but now it’s likely to inflame fears. Am glad Vera got away with it. I haven’t seen a lot of the world–mostly just Italy. But I have studied the art of every place and culture, and in that way I feel connected to the world. In spite of political boundaries and fear of outsiders, every single country (and the many cultures within) have created their own unique kind of beauty that can perhaps keep alive the desire to embrace the outsider rather than resist.

  2. Parvin says:

    Thanks Paulo for this beautiful story.
    I will translate it in Persian and post it on my blog.
    By the way, would you like to do that for yourself?

  3. Auto world says:

    your post has interesting information
    I will add you to my blogroll so I can come back often.

  4. Agnieszka says:

    I know this story, beautiful.
    Everything and everyone will turn to ashes, except for our souls, our hearts, they can be everywhere, with everyone, sharing love.

  5. Thomas says:

    I first read this story in your book “Like the flowing river” and I found it really toching like a lot of stories in there.
    I translated it for some friends of mine into german, and I want to ask if there would be a problem if I put the translatio onto my website (of course with a link to this site).
    I’d be even more glad if you would take it for the german translation in your blog instead of the awsome automatic translation.

    Best regards and hoping for a reply

  6. Sandra says:

    What a touching story. I am sure her spirit moves all those who have come to know Vera in life and in death. I know it moved me. Thanks for sharing’

    Peace Always,

  7. Sibila Maria India says:

    Hi again, Paulo,

    I think that when we recognize places or cultures as being familiar it´s because we´ve lived there before so a part of us responds to this. Whatever we´ve learned in a life is collected energetically and is partly or completely carried over into a new life as a new physical body is created for us by our parents to be in the new life.

    There are places in this world that I deeply feel that I want to visit and there are places in this world that I deeply feel are “dangerous” or “difficult” and that I absolutely have no wish to visit unless I have to. I´m sure this simply is because of past experiences there.
    When I grew up in Lisbon I felt as a child that the bridge across Tejo there was wrong, that there was something wrong!!!! When I was 26 I made a deeply immportant long journey to San Francisco and great was my joy, finally I felt the bridge, -Golden Gate – was right. Now “it” was right inside me. Well, I know now it´s the same ingeneer who built both bridges, but I´ve also learned much more about a deeper explanation. Part of me knew deeply San Francisco would involve experiences for me of coming home. Inside.

  8. THELMA says:

    I have read somewhere that we die and be re-born everyday. While we are asleep, our Soul leaves the body and our body mends the ‘wounds’ we experience during our days of …learning and walking the “Path”. So I think, I am not attached to my material body. I see it as a vehicle that helps me live in this dimension. The scientists say that every twenty eight days all our cells are changed. So we are not …our nails, blood or hair [although, I feel, I loose my power….whenever I cut my hair!]. It is said that a person feels the pain of a part of the body, even when it is amputated.. What can we say about the transplants?? Our Souls are free to go wherever they desire or dream. Imagination has no boundaries..
    LOVE, Thelma

  9. Sibila Maria India says:

    Dear Paulo,

    Thank you so much for sharing this story… it´s carries hope and good will and caring in a dignified way.

    What you write at the beginning made me think of one particular experience I´ve had among the travels I´ve done: Before leaving Denmark on a big journey at a cross-roads time in my life 16 years ago I had my personal horoscope chart made in a particular way: Overlaid the map of the world. This is a simple astrological tool and it has given me exciting information and explanations into what kind of experiences are encoded for me at particular places.
    One particular thing I thought missed the mark completely when I got this done many years ago: The energy line I have that go through Denmark where I lived and still live is specific about the home that is what I create if I choose to live here. Among other things this home in Denmark would be filled with all kinds of technical devices and pioner stuff in the technical media area. This made me laugh out loud 16 years ago as I am very, very unpractical and technical know-how is beyond me!! Well! Wonder of wonders, as I´m writing you this, I´ve just come home with yet another technical wonder – I´m married with an artist who´s also a technical pioner in his field and who loves experimenting with all kinds of new technical stuff that plays with at home before he makes it work at his work…
    This became a long story about an aspect of your remarks: How various parts of this globe trigger or bring forward various kinds of experiences for us.

  10. Heart says:

    Just off my exercise bike here. Nails! Yuuuu. Do you know that even one little nail, if a Lunde fugl, bird, ate it, it could kill the bird.

    Pope John Paul II, when he visited a country, he always left a kiss on the ground. I have slept in the same bed and showered in the same shower as our Holy Father, a couple of years after he visited my old home country. In the parish the room where he stayed, now is called the Pope’s room. God Bless his Soul.

  11. austere says:

    Look at me-I am still between disbelief and being stunned! Which says more about me than anything else, I guess.

    Such inherent goodness in people…!

  12. Thank you for sharing this – it was quite moving. She was a brave and insightful woman and fortunate to have such a devoted son. The small, or perhaps not so small, acts of kindness from those who received and scattered her ashes from around the world added just a little more hope into the world.

  13. Alexandra says:

    what a beautiful story)I can not add anything but I’ve got a question) it’s said in bible that people that we sleep with take some part of us…and ancient ancestors of russians called vedruss believed that sexual energy wasted for pleasure takes very much energy from future child’s soul…it’s obviously bad)but…we distribute someting to the whole universe by sex)i’m at a loss

  14. Agnieszka says:

    I know this story, beautiful.
    Everything and everyone will turn to ashes, except for our souls, our hearts, they can be everywhere, with everyone, sharing love.

  15. Parsh says:

    Really amazing. I wonder how much solidarity is there when a person departs….I am wondering now if people would have been equally kind if Vera were to visit place ask them to show around the place. It would have meant considerable time and money ( assuming Vera had no money to travel around). Why is that the stance of people change when one is not there to when one is living ?. On one hand it looks like a noble act by all who had fulfilled Vera’s wish…..why dont people perform all time such noble acts while living with each other.

  16. Ivan says:

    I agree with Fabrizia comment, what a remarkable story.
    I felt Very reading this with me.

    God bless her and all of us.

    Thank you for sharing


  17. Fabrizia says:

    A wonderful way to create an extended breath of love,

    this has touched me deeply,

    bye, Vera

    thank you, Paulo