A ride to remember: Julie’s Journey

Julie Rosenthal is riding in the Cycle of Life Tour to honour her husband and support Victoria Hospice.

As Julie approaches the one-year anniversary of her husband Joerg’s passing, she is taking on a new challenge. She will join 125 other cyclists in the Cycle of Life Tour in July. It’s a two-day, 200-kilometre ride to support hospice care on Vancouver Island. 

As soon as Julie heard about the tour, she knew it was the perfect way to honour Joerg’s memory. He was a long-distance runner, triathlete, and cyclist. 

“I think he’d get a laugh because he knows I’m not that much of a cyclist. But he loved it and he always wanted me to go cycling with him.” 

Now, she’ll cycle in his memory. For Julie, it’s also a way to give back to the care team at Victoria, whose support was so critical to them both. 

From their first days together, Julie’s mind was made up about Joerg. But Joerg’s feelings were more of a mystery.

Both had quit their jobs and sold their homes to seek out adventure and escape from the daily grind. After a chance meeting in a Nashville hostel, Julie offered the German traveller a ride to their next destination, and the pair got to know each other. Joerg insisted on opening doors, and surprising her with little things. “He wanted to do things to make me feel special and take care of me,” Julie says. 

But Joerg was very private with his feelings. When Julie invited him to join her on a 500-mile pilgrimage along the famous Camino de Santiago, he agreed, but she still didn’t know if her feelings were mutual. “We had never even kissed,” she says. 

It was during the trek that their romance took off. Within months, Joerg packed up his life in Germany and followed Julie to Canada. The next 14 years were filled with laughter and travel and adventure. They didn’t make a bucket list. They just lived life to the fullest. 

But their adventures were cut short when Joerg died of cancer on May 6, 2023. He was 56. 

Victoria Hospice helped Julie after Joerg received his terminal prostate cancer diagnosis. Always private with his feelings, Joerg didn’t want to discuss his disease. 

“It was tough emotionally because I wanted to talk about it, but I needed to respect his wishes,” says Julie. Counsellors from hospice gave Julie the outlet she needed to air her concerns.

Joerg felt strongly about dying at home. The Victoria Hospice Palliative Response Team checked in on him daily, provided on-call support 24-7, and coached Julie on how to administer his medication.

Joerg’s death came as a shock to many in his wide circle of friends, on both sides of the Atlantic. “He didn’t want people to know,” says Julie. “Even in his dying days, it was about taking care of me. Every time I say it, I choke up because that’s the definition of him.” 

After Joerg died, Julie continued to receive counselling from the hospice team. “I was telling the counsellor all the feelings that I had and she said, ‘that’s absolutely normal.’”

It was a message Julie needed to hear. During the past year she has embarked on what she calls “the memory tour”, revisiting places that were special to her and her husband – including the Camino. She blogged about her experiences, her grief, and even re-published tidbits from the journal she wrote during her first trek on the Camino with Joerg, when their love was new. 

“Joerg was such a private person, but he was so special that I want the world to know more about him,” says Julie. She also hopes her blog helps others going through something similar, to know their feelings are normal. 

Now Julie is putting her efforts into training for her first long-distance cycling ride. Her goal is to help ensure other families receive the same kind of care hers did.

“Joerg always wanted to help others. Donating to my ride and helping Hospice will, in a way, be his way of continuing to give to others who need hospice support. I can’t think of any other greater purpose of life than helping others. Joerg would agree.”

Support Victoria Hospice by donating to Julie Rosenthal’s Cycle of Life Tour, July 20 and 21, 2024.