I read a recent Americans onThe Camino post by Julie Fancher who was struggling emotionally and physically on The Camino which consequently made me think of 4 special Camino buddies who I think of whenever I am finding the going difficult:
Dani, a 74 year old French woman that could not weigh more than 70 lbs(31 kilos). On a foggy, gray misty morning out of Barbadelo I approached her from behind thinking she was a child and wondering why she was alone. Dani had lost her husband 2 years earlier and was walking for him. Here I am spontaneously picking her up and hugging her after she informed me she was walking solo and had started where I had, Le Puy en Velay, about 1400 kilometers back in France.
Alain and Alice of Paris. Alain was a powerful man, a martial arts instructor who had been diagnosed with MS 6 years before and had required a wheelchair the previous two. He was walking The Camino to give his 2 year old something special to remember him by as he faced a rapid decline in health. And his companion Alice who did not know Alain before this but had helped him to raise funds for a special wheelchair, set up and maintained a blog for the trip and gave him 6 months of her life. I also found that while others focused so much on Alain, Alice was overlooked and yet she carried on selflessly.
Last was Lynne Essex, a 58 year old Aussie woman whose path crossed mine in Muxia at the edge of the world. She had just completed a 780 kilometer (500mile) pilgrimage on Camino Francis while I had completed a 1000K walk from Seville on Camino Via de la Plata. I was whining to her about my blister the size of a tennis ball on the bottom of my foot. She told me that she had Stage 4 Cervical Cancer. I spent some time with her that day and she was obviously in pain. She mentioned that she could only go about 15K per day on her Camino. I asked her what her doctor said about her going? She said, “He and others told me I was crazy”. She said this with a big happy grin and indicated the pain was getting worse but she was so glad to have been able to finish. A few weeks later I got a message from Lynne that the increasing pain was not the cancer, which was in remission, but a broken pelvis which she most likely had since before starting her Camino.
When I am struggling in any way on my current 3000K Camino, I simply think of these 4 and their beautiful spirits and my aching, heavy feet and legs lighten and the next few miles are not nearly as difficult. Thank you to my four friends. Ultreia!
A prayer of recognition and compassion to those people that struggle with various illnesses that take them to the depths of despair that require medication to bring them out of it. Especially deceased relatives Bridget Enright Scanlan and Chris Conrad. And a thank you to Boudewijn van der Ark for helping me and others to better understand the incredibly difficult ongoing battle faced by people with illnesses that cause severe depression.