A year-ago today it was St. James day in Spain; I took my final step of my Camino de Santiago. Little did I know what the next year would bring and where would I be without this experience? Is it true that when you take your final step, a new life-long journey begins with a different view about life?
I remember the day as I walked by myself to the end of my 56-day journey. My head and heart were filed with an emotion I never knew existed. My heavy backpack felt like feathers. I carried my pack every inch of the way from France through 164 villages to Santiago, Spain; it was over 500 miles. I walked with no money for food, which taught me the true meaning of humility!
As I stood in front of this historic cathedral, I looked at its beauty and just stood there, I did not want to talk. I asked myself, how I accomplished this. It started with a dream, the day I saw the movie “The Way,” The dream showed me taking my last step at the cathedral, but nothing else? For my one year of training and every morning as I started my walk, I had the vision of me standing in front of St. James Cathedral.
AFTER TWO YEARS, MY VISION CAME TRUE!
I took my backpack off and sat on the cobblestone entrance. I felt strong and yet exhausted. I laid my head on the backpack and looked at the Cathedrals majestic site thinking how many pilgrims attempted this journey in search of something that could make his or her life better. I tried not to think and only listen; a young man came to me looking down at my obviously worn-out body and said, “How was your journey?”
He introduced himself as a volunteer with the Jesuits, and they come to Santiago during the St James celebration to help the pilgrims with their needs. He was very soft-spoken and hoped my journey was enlightening. He also invited me to one of the chapels where they were having a prayer service for pilgrims. He offered to take me into the busy cathedral to the correct room. After a short rest, I found him, and he took this photo of me.
We made our way through the crowd to this little sanctuary where one of the volunteers was playing a guitar and singing. There were several other pilgrims all sitting a distance from one another, no one was talking. It seemed like everyone was avoiding eye contact as if to give everyone equal respect. We were in our own world with a connection that I never felt before.
Tears of joy fell from my eyes; I could hear other people weeping. No one turned their head, a wink or a hug was not necessary; something happened. As we sat by ourselves, we were not alone. The lessons I learned were making sense. Some of the answers I received, were to questions I had not even thought about.
As I reflected on my journey and the many experiences of myself and others that had the life lessons connected. One that quickly came to me was back on an early part of my pilgrimage; it was in Pamplona at an albergue/ hostel. After a long exhausting walk carrying too much weight, I meet a retired Padre that was walking the Camino; he was 87 and had many words of wisdom. I told him my backpack weighed so much, and it was very painful I don’t know how much farther I can carry it! He responded, “Son, the weight of the burdens you have been carrying your whole life far exceeds the weight of the backpack; they will get lighter, in time this will make sense to you.”
While sitting in this small chapel inside this massive Cathedral, the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together, and I understood what the Padre meant. I had many miracles happen on my journey, and it was not over; more un-explainable things happened.
St James Day is Spain’s largest celebration; however, that night as we were waiting at the huge fireworks show at the Cathedral when in Spanish, an announcement came, you could hear a pin drop. There was a horrible train crash, and 80 people lost their lives. All activities were canceled, a very somber ending to the most enlightened moments of my life!
Today even being faced with some physical challenges, I asked how I could handle all this without all my family and friends plus the lessons I received from the Camino. Now I know, there is nothing I can’t do!
Walking the Camino starts as a physical challenge and quickly turns into a mental test. I am not a superman; anyone can do this. I saw blind people others in wheelchairs even a group of mentally challenged adults. You cannot do this wrong! Some do it over several year’s others can’t make it to the end. Many choose to take shorter routes or do part of it. Even the ones who have to quit, that’s OK every step has its lesson. One thing I know everyone has a different experience and are never the same after their journey.
Parts of this story is from my book, “Sticks and Stones.” ….Coming soon.
Love this life, Jim….. Please leave comment below.
This video was made by my friend Susan R Mann, globalpilgrims, as I was on my journey.
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