I am actually writing this sitting
in the square in front of
The Cathedral of
Santiago de Compostela.
The place all paths of The Camino end.
The Way of St James.
Look… I made it!
Well… Me and the train.
(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’.
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.
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!
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…
The Hearts have continued, including the ‘Heart Tree’.
I saw it the morning leaving my ‘last’ alburgue, heading to the train station.
The ‘End of The Beginning’.
The one on the bottom left, at the train station.
The one on the bottom right, I saw just this morning.
I see you Joe…
I see for you Joe.
I love You…
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.