For the past 2 weeks I have been walking through Clare connecting with my home County, friends, and family but now it is time to continue on to Dublin, then the length of France before the final stretch through the field of stars, The Camino de Santiago. There is a ancient custom to carry and leave a stone from your home or one you pick up along the way. I have been fortunate to make it to Cruz de Ferro 3 times in the past but each time I went without a Stone. (You can read my story ‘Three Times to Cruz de Ferro With No Stone’ on my blog at: www.thesenioradventurer.com/3-times-to-cruz-de-ferro-with-no-stone/
This Camino has me walking from my ancestral home and I was determined to bring a stone this time. I was given one by a dear Camino friend from a beautiful isolated beach on Mallorca, where I have been spending time of late working on learning Spanish.
Another one I picked up in the very special Tibetan Tsum Valley on the Manaslu Trek in Nepal this past April.
Then today, I selected a third stone off the beach in Carrigaholt, the birth home of my grandmother, Mary Scanlan.
So this time finds me overly prepared with not one, but three special Stones. Just moments later I came to a fork in the road. My plan was to go left taking me by my grandmother’s birth home, and my deceased cousin John Kevin Scanlon’s family home as well as the quickest route according to Google Maps. For no reason whatsoever, I went right. About 10 minutes later I see a woman walking out of a graveyard and remembered just last night asking my cousin Martin Dan Scanlon when we were walking through the graveyard directly across the street from his home about his brother John Kevin’s grave. He was killed in a boating accident back in 2009 and Martin had said “He is at the other graveyard”. So I thought this is probably that graveyard. I asked the woman standing just inside the gate of the graveyard now if she was local and she said no. “Oh too bad.” i said. “I am looking for the grave of my cousin, John Kevin Scanlon. I will just have to look around and hopefully find it”. She than looking at the first grave inside the gate repeated, “John Kevin Scanlon”. Then “Here it is”. I thanked her and said goodbye as she left. Then said a prayer to John at the grave side and was about to leave when I noticed the grave was covered with sea shells. The scallop shell happens to be the most iconic symbol of The Camino de Santiago. I had met John just a few times over the years but I felt he was the the type of person that would have loved the pilgrimage to Santiago. So instinctively I picked up a shell and placed it in my pocket.
( Pictured: My backpack with the large Camino shell hanging and a small shell from John Kevin’s grave on top.)
So, i lift my backpack once more and happily walk on realizing that I did more than just connect with my ancestors here in Clare. With this shell, I sense all passed on family members and ancestors are joining me on this pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.