A Grief-Stricken Father and Daughter Search for Peace at Burning Man

Howard Fallon thought he had endured the worst when he lost his wife, Julie, to cancer five years ago. Then, less than a year after his wife's passing, he lost his youngest daughter, Kendra, in a plane crash. Howard and his daughter Shane haven't been the same since the tragedies tore their world apart.

"You think when death happens everybody's going to come together? No, some families disintegrate," Howard says. Instead of leaning on each other to get through the pain, Howard and Shane grew apart in the face of inconsolable grief.

In an attempt to start healing, Howard and Shane make a pilgrimage to the Nevada desert to take part in an annual festival known as Burning Man. On the final day of Burning Man—described by its proponents as an experiment in community art and self-expression—a colossal wooden structure is ritualistically burned to the ground. The temporary temple is erected as a symbol of impermanence, and before it is burnt, the inside of the symbolic structure is adorned with personal memorials by the many participants who travel there each year.

Howard and Shane hope that through this shared experience, they can begin to make strides in the healing process. After years of anguish, Howard is determined to make peace with the past and reconnect with his daughter: "Either we're going to both heal, or neither of us is going to heal."

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Published 10/07/2015
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