Hallie Twomey uses Facebook to scatter ashes of adventure-loving son
Strangers offer to scatter ashes in parts of world her adventure-loving son had wanted to visit
For three years, a black stone urn containing C.J. Twomey's ashes has sat on a shelf in his parents' home in the US state of Maine, not far from the door he walked out of one beautiful April day just before shooting himself.
Now, his mother is using social media to enlist the help of strangers to scatter his ashes from Massachusetts to Japan in the hope that her adventure-loving son can become part of the world he left behind.
"I don't want him to have to sit in an urn for my benefit for whatever rest of time that we have," Hallie Twomey said. "I wanted to give him something. I'm trying to give him a journey."
It started with a simple request on Facebook to help C.J., who was only 20 when he died, "see the mountains that he never got to climb, see the vast oceans that he would have loved, see tropical beaches and lands far and away".
The post was shared by nearly 100 of her friends, and soon even strangers started offering to scatter C.J.'s ashes in their hometowns, on family vacations or just somewhere beautiful. She started a separate Facebook page called "Scattering C.J.".
The pictures and videos on Facebook tell the story of where C.J. has been. A man scatters his ashes on a beach in Massachusetts. One sprinkles them in the forest in Jamaica, and another off a rocky cliff in Hawaii.
Along with his ashes, Twomey sends a note and a small photo of a smiling C.J., wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt with sunglasses propped up on his head. She asks the recipient to do four things: Think about C.J., think about the people he gave life to through organ donation, tell him that his mum and dad loved him, and tell him that his mum is sorry.
Twomey regrets rolling her eyes at her son instead of hugging him as he stormed out of their home after an argument. A few minutes later, C.J. shot himself in his car in front of the home.
C.J., who thrived on adventure like jumping out of aircraft, was upset about not making a special forces team with the US Air Force, she said. After being honorably discharged, he was not sure what he wanted to do with his life, she said.
Last week, his ashes were sent to Haiti and India and soon someone plans to take some to the top of Mount Everest, Twomey said. About 150 packets of his ashes have travelled so far and 300 other people have offered to share in his journey.
When most of the ashes have been scattered, Twomey hopes to put together a book with all the notes and photos people have sent her. The proceeds would go to the New England Organ Bank.
Many offering to help scatter C.J.'s ashes have also been affected by suicide or lost children.
"Really, why would a complete stranger want to help us?" Twomey asked. "I really think people are doing whatever they can, even if it's a small thing, to ease our burden or to embrace life."
Security guard Jessica Hale, 37, who lives in Juneau, Alaska, said seeing the impact C.J.'s death on Twomey's family opened her eyes to the immense hurt suicide causes. She is also a US military veteran and said she had contemplated suicide.
"It made me realise that I couldn't do that, and it made me make a promise to myself that I would never do that," she said.
Hale scattered C.J.'s ashes near a rocky beach in Juneau.