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Anders Forselius scatters the ashes

Anders Forselius scatters the ashes of Alex Blackburn recently on the beach in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Photo by Shawn Gust/Coeur d’Alene Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Anders Forselius was feeling it on a recent afternoon.

Still in cycling attire, he tilted his head back for another swig of coffee at Bakery by the Lake.

After biking the 40 miles from Kellogg to Coeur d'Alene, and still recovering from the Missoula Marathon a few days earlier, his tan legs were a little wrung out.

"I feel like I've been running a marathon," he said with a chuckle, his words lilting with the accent of Ljusdal, Sweden.

Just outside the window, the Swede's hybrid bike was laden with swollen travel packs.

Of course the going has been tough. And hilly, though not much worse than Washington.

But there's no backing out.

He and Alex have come so far.

And a promise, after all, is a promise.

"To fulfill a last wish, that must be the finest thing you can do," Forselius said.

It's been four months since he started his latest trek.

The freelance writer kicked off by running the Boston Marathon. His goal was quixotic: To bike across the U.S., running marathons along the way to raise funds for cancer research.

Not unusual for the 43-year-old, who has bike-marathoned around the world since the '90s.

"My mother asked the same question," he said of why he does it. "I guess I'm addicted to this thing with marathons."

But this time, he has a passenger.

Safely zipped in his backpack is a glistening wooden box, the size of a child's harmonica, containing Alex Blackburn.

Accurately put, it contains the 12-year-old's ashes.

With a beatific smile, Forselius is glad to explain.

The arrangement came out of a deal he made with a woman in California in 2008, he said, during one of his tours.

Forselius was feeling sick - and he never gets sick - so he stopped for the night at a hostel.

The woman working there, Sparrow Lysek, was kind. She told him about her son, Alex, who had died from a virus in 2001.

The boy had lived his last year in Coeur d'Alene.

He had disclosed his dying wish at Sacred Heart in Spokane, to another sick boy.

"He told the boy, ‘When I die, I want my ashes spread all over the world,' " Forselius recited.

As it happened, Forselius sees a whole lot of the world every day.

So Sparrow handed him a bag, containing some of her son's ashes.

Would he, she asked, take her son along?

"It was so natural," he said. "She asked me, and of course it was a fantastic mission."

He has been true to his word.

Since 2008, Alex has accompanied Forselius everywhere, the Swede scattering a mist of the boy's ashes wherever he feels compelled.

So far, part of the boy has stayed behind at the Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, and - Forselius discloses with a finger to his lips - in front of the White House.

Some of the pre-teen's remains are also in South America, and in Europe.

Someday soon, the ashes will be added to Wrigley Field.

"I think Alex has such good karma, if I put him on Wrigley Field, the Cubs will win," Forselius said with a smile.

Forselius even took the ashes with him when he ran the Missoula Marathon.

Throughout their travels, Forselius, who goes by the "Biking Viking," has found shelter where he can, including at fire stations and with friendly strangers. He lives on less than $10 a day.

His mother doesn't quite understand, and his fiancee called it off awhile back when she realized he was kind of a hobo, he said.

But it's worth it raising thousands of dollars, and hanging out with Alex.

"He's so much alive for me," said Forselius, who is jotting down their adventures for a book he is writing from Alex's perspective. "When we were running the marathon, it feels like we're doing it together."

They were together still as he prepared to scatter Alex's ashes at the Fort Grounds beach recently.

Kraig Lysek, Alex's stepdad, met Forselius for the first time there.

"It's hard to talk about," Kraig said when asked about Forselius. "But I'm happy he's doing it."

The beach was where the family used to spend afternoons, he said, and where they held Alex's memorial service.

"We had a lot of fun moments down here," he said.

As the setting sun tinted the sky gold and pink, Forselius knelt by a gnarled pine and gently tapped out a wisp of ashes.

"I guess the end of my book will be this spot," he said.

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