When I took my pack weight down to a bare minimum in an attempt to ‘save’ my leg, I shipped the things to Ivar who offers storage service in Santiago and is the moderator of a great Camino forum. I need to fly back to Paris and will do so from here this evening. I picked up my box this morning.
(I am going to just sit here and cry through this. A group of about 10 pilgrims, speaking Italian, just arrived together, holding hands in a long line, began jumping up and down and just melted into a big cheering group hug.)
I considered not coming to The Cathedral. That little nagging of I didn’t arrive by foot, other than a short walk from my hotel. Yet, this is just a place and I wanted to check in with Mary. She showed up today before I got here (yes, the Mary stories will be written). So my decision is to sit here in the square and write. I do not want to go in (I will walk in when I finish walking The Camino) and I am taking no photos. I am here yet I am not here. I am choosing to Be the silent Witness for all the pilgrims arriving. Holding space like we Temple Guardians do at Burning Man.
This post is reflecting the third aspect of GreyWolff Walking, I have written about Shadow Dancing, Ghost Bridges and now: Passionate Sadness.
Passionate Sadness is the grief experienced from losing someone or something deeply precious to us. Sitting here, at The Camino ‘end’ point, listening to bagpipes and drummers, why Passionate Sadness? Not finishing The Camino is a Ghost Bridge. How it reflects and interacts with me personally is Shadow Dancing.
I reflect on Passionate Sadness because tomorrow is the 12 year anniversary of my husband Joe’s death. I fly to Portland tomorrow. Interestingly flying ‘against’ time will mean I spend more than 24 hours on April 28th.
I had a powerful flashback a couple weeks ago. A Camino Sista’ told me about a pilgrim walking who was a little less than a year from his wife’s death. She told him about me and that I have facilitated retreats for those living with the grief of losing a life partner. That evening I met him as we all ended up in the same Alburgue. His pain… His raw grief was palpable. I could feel his agony. An interesting thing, I could quickly tell he wanted nothing to do with me. I would have waited for him to say anything, I do not step into any engagement uninvited. Yet, he not only did not say anything about his grief, he would not speak or make eye contact with me at all. We, by chance, ended up sitting next to each other at dinner and he shifted his body to look away from me.
My friend was a little surprised but I got it. I imagine that he knew, that I ‘know’ where he is, what he is experiencing. The idea of ‘being seen’, I believe was terrifying to him. I know exactly that feeling and it brought me right back to the agony. Grief becomes part of cellular memory, it doesn't take much to feel its Shadow.
After 12 years I am far removed from that expression and depth of grief, of profound Passionate Sadness. Yet here is the ‘truth’ about death... Beautifully stated in ‘Death Haiku’.
12 years, he still is gone and I still miss him and the life we lived together.
So why did I call this post ‘Following Hearts’?
One thing that got me through the raw time of grief was making a conscious decision to ‘live for us both’. That my eyes would see for us both… That my feet would walk for us both.
The day after I met the man who was grieving so deeply, I walked through a forest of mist and over a couple mountains. (Ok Pacific NorthWest people, I know not a ‘mountain’… A good sized climb up and then down. We are such mountain snobs!)
I left later than most that morning (my norm) and walked about the first 40 minutes or so with out seeing another pilgrim. Then out of the mist walked a young man, a huge smile on his face… Glowing with delight. I felt that instant connection I had with Joe from the first time I met him. He saw my knee brace, I saw his and we chatted about knees and his feet were a mess yet he said this was the first day since leaving St Jean, he felt he was ‘back’. His joy went to my Heart.
I recognized The Divine masculine in him that is the same as the part of Joe that never died. What a remarkable Blessing to my Heart this young man’s smile was!
(Now another small group of pilgrims, laying on their packs, in the square, looking up at The Cathedral are playing the Jeff Buckley version of ‘Hallelujah’. I think not ‘finishing’ The Camino is to get me to release a whole bunch of tears I tend to hang on to.)
Back to my story… The sweet Irish young man was not the first or last time I felt Joe smiling at me through the eyes of another on The Way. This is what the integration of Passionate Sadness can become… The profound recognition that Love Remains. All/Ways.
That day I continued to see Hearts, and for the first time, I started taking photos of them. Walking with Joe. Later in the day, when I was out of the mist and out of the forest, I took the Heather off and left it as an offering with one of The Hearts. Saying in essence: I see you. And saying a prayer for the man from the night before…
Joe loved the wilds. There was nothing he loved more than strapping on a pack and wandering. He was strong and could move through the woods like he was part of them. Our beautiful Alaskan Malamute Sophie, his best hiking buddy.
When we were together, I like I do on The Camino, love to stop, take in a place or tree or vista… So they always tended to get ahead of me. Then at some place, they would turn and wait. I held Joe for his last breaths with Sophie also at his side, 7 years later at age 14, I held Sophie as she took her last breaths. I am sure when Joe died, she wanted to ‘follow’ him. I have the sense he said ‘stay’… For me. And for 7 years she did.
So now, they have gone ahead where it is not time for me to go… Yet, I know when my last breath arrives. They will be there. Waiting for me to catch up.