Once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim!

My mum exhaled for the last time. I barely heard her breath escape her lips, I don’t really know what I expected but it wasn’t this. Perhaps I thought I would glimpse the very essence of her – her soul – take her leave, gently, serenely in a peaceful sort of “floating on gossamer wings kind of departure”. I was in shock. Drained. Empty. Numb. Stuck in an aching chasm of despair.

Caring for a loved one at her end of life is both an honour and a trial. Witnessing your best friend struggle with pain, then diminish and fade, when your memory of her is so all encompassing is a strange and uncomfortable place to be in.

She left. Then my world fell apart. What would I do now?

It was at that very moment I received an insight from my intuition. A quiet nudging, as if my own soul knew already what would be the very best and most transformative course of action for me to take. A croaky voice emerged and wobbled from somewhere in the distance “I am going to walk the Camino de Santiago to honour my mum and her life”. I caught my haunted reflection in Brett’s eyes as they fillled with tears. He had been with me throughout my mum’s final week and sat next to me, quietly accompanying me and my mum through her final journey. Astonished, I realised those words had escaped my own lips but I felt they had come from another time and place. A different world. That decision changed my life completely.

A few weeks later, I began this blog before I flew out in September 2015, in order to document my reflections from my experiences along the ancient path.

Getting acquainted with my pack for the Camino Frances in September 2015 by the River Thames in Battersea.

Within days I was on a plane to Biarritz to begin my very first walk along the Camino Frances route of the famous pilgrimage known as el Camino de Santiago or The Way of Saint James or Jakobsweg or Le Chemin se Saint Jacques.

Fast-forward to seven years later in 2022 and I am about to set foot on el Camino del Norte from Biarritz today…

I am different now. I carry a lighter backpack for one thing!

Now a seasoned pilgrim with a smaller, lighter pack in the same spot in Battersea, September 2022

I wish I could find the words to really explain how I have changed or rather how the Camino has changed me. I have heard some pilgrims say that “You think you are walking the Camino but in reality the Camino walks you”.

It seems to seek out all of the nooks and crannies where one might have forgotten parts of oneself or deliberately hidden them, pushed them down, and covered them over in a hasty burial. The Camino knows where the bodies are buried though… your light body, your pain body, your soul, what you have done to your physical body over the years and how a mind has trodden a well-worn tortuous path of its own. The Camino beckons a pilgrim to rediscover all of it. To confront every piece with a loving embrace and a gentle, forgiving and understanding.

What will I learn this time on this Camino I wonder? I check and correct myself. Each Camino I have walked belongs to the same pilgrimage. It is one journey. A saunter that is everlasting. Once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim.

Perhaps the Camino calls you and it is time for you to discover this for yourself.

Ultreïa et suseïa!

With much love,

Sarah x

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