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a story to share


hi there...
it's buena! (aka pamela). i returned from my camino not too long ago, and wanted to share a story about one of the gifts i received from my walk. i thought i would post it here for anyone who cared to read it... it's about life, loss and letting go (popular themes along the way : )

if anyone else has a story or a lesson they learned, i hope you will think about posting it as well. i think sharing these stories are important (if you are moved to do so) so that we don't forget the miracles of the way when life gets busy again.

your thoughts are welcome.


"I hate this damn camino," I thought. "It’s just like life where the good things don’t last long enough and I can’t let them go anyway."

My love for the camino had morphed into a burning hatred. Moments ago I began throwing rocks at the cement steles that mark the kilometers left to Santiago. I hated them, and all that they represented. They were the embodiment of all of my nemeses… endings, goodbyes, loss… and UGH how I hated how they mocked me every half kilometre. “You thought you made progress on this camino?” they sneered. “Ha! Look at you now.”

Sensing I needed some space, Michael walked up ahead of me and for the first time in five days, I was alone. I entered a beautiful oak forest, sought the oldest, most gnarled tree there, and slid down her trunk and cried. These were familiar tears, the same ones I cried many time on the camino and over the past several years. Well at least I’m consistent in something, I thought sarcastically. My head spun with questions I could not answer.

How on earth was I going to end this magical journey? WHY did it have to end? How was I going to say goodbye to Michael? How was I going to get to Finnesterre with the time I had left? Why did I still miss my dad so much? All these thoughts and more swarmed my head, each one creating a new cascade of sobs. It was odd to think back to the morning when Michael predicted “something very good is going to happen today. At 8:23pm.” He was always right in the past, but this time I had my doubts. It was probably close to six and it was going to take a miracle for this day to do a 180. After sitting for a long time without any answers I eventually left the forest, alone, and with a gaping heart.

A few minutes later, I encountered a pilgrim named Pedro who was walking back from Finnesterre. He was 42, from Barcelona and a “hippie” man, with a dog, a purple turban, a salt and pepper beard and a gentle spirit. We did the typical talk for a minute about where we started, where we were going and how long we had been walking. Pedro really looked deep into my eyes. He sensed something was wrong, despite my attempt to subdue the intensity of emotions that were still rumbling inside. It didn’t work; the tears trickled out. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little embarrassed.

“Sit down,” he said. “Five minutes. I have something for you.”

So we took off our packs, and sat down on the ground…on the camino… a holy place indeed. Pedro’s dog, Elkie came over and tried many times to put his paw in the middle and be with us. I soon learned Elkie had lost a companion also (his brother), and I think he could sense my pain. Pilgrims walked by, a few cars hummed not to far away but we in our own little world. I continued crying, unable to shake the fierce aching inside. Like the tears, I knew this ache. It was a comfortable companion, the same one I had carried for years.

“What’s wrong?” Pedro asked. A simple question, but I wasn't sure what to say. I felt so terribly confused and jumbled up inside. He asked again, and I searched inside myself. I remembered a conversation that I had had with Michael earlier, about being yourself, standing open and telling your story. I disagreed, thought it was okay for my story to be private, known to only a few people of my choosing. “Otherwise, it’s like standing naked.” I said to him. “But it’s your story, and you're okay,” he reminded me. “And it’s the only possibility if you want to live open hearted.” “But but but...” I would not give him this point so easily. It went against my grain, my history, my paradigm... everything...! But in that moment with Pedro, I was inspired to try.

“I miss my dad.” I said. “He died a long time ago.” This simple truth had lived inside me for twenty-one years. And it was as raw as it was old.

Pedro continued to look me in the eyes. “Your dad is happy,” he said. “And, he is with you. Everywhere.”

I knew this. While on the camino I often felt my dad. In fact we walked together on the camino. Not only side by side but somehow kind of hand in hand. In the mountains of Navarra… across the meseta… through the fields of wheat and rolling hills….

“I know,” I said. But from the deepest part within me, to both Pedro and my God, I said “But I want him here.” and I pointed to the earth next to me. I wanted him really there, as in a physical sense. This spoken truth cut me to my core, and more hot tears careened down my face.

“Ah...” he said. “That’s the ego.” Really? I thought. Okay...somehow that's better than the little girl who misses her daddy. Despite my (often) shoddy memory, I can still clearly recall the afternoon when my mom told my brother and I that our dad died. My brain instantly shot back, “No he didn't!” And in that instant, I am fairly certain my 7 year old subconscious, who knew no other way to handle such news, created, closed and heaved a little black box as far away as possible. Perhaps 21 years away….

“What makes you think of your dad?” Pedro asked me.
“Butterflies,” I said.
“What else?” he asked. After a long pause I said, “I don't know..” and my voice trailed off. Again I searched, but wasn't sure. The truth was I spent most of my time just missing my dad. Not trying to find him.
“The clouds?” I said, almost guessing.
“Your dad is everywhere. In the trees, in the birds, in the clouds. Everywhere in nature is God, and everywhere in nature you can find your dad.”

Pedro offered to walk with me. And I thought about it, but felt it was better to carry on alone. Before I left he gave me a beautiful necklace he had made by hand. It had a dark stone with a small yellow arrow painted on it (resembling the ubiquitous trail markers of the camino) wrapped in silver wire.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I knew when I saw you we had to talk,” Pedro responded.
“And now that we did, what is the reason?” I asked.
“Maybe so that you could cry.” he suggested.
I did feel better. “Sea feliz,” he kept repeating. Be happy. “Vale,” I said. Okay.

So once again I carried on. I didn’t have a clue in the world where I was or how far until the next town, or anything. It was 8pm and I assumed Michael was long up ahead, which really bummed me out. But to my surprise, the outskirts of town were just around the corner. And who was sitting outside at the first bar but Michael. With a cortado con leche of course. Ahh... my angel Michael. So we hugged and talked... I told him about my encounter with Pedro, and we marvelled that it was 8:17, a mere five minutes before his predicted moment of goodness! From the bar we decided to do something out of the ordinary: visit the town church. While Spain has some lovely churches, we had been walking for a month and had passed (literally) hundreds of churches. Like Mexico’s pyramids or India’s temples they were lovely, but when you see too many and they start to blur together. And I often thought the Spanish incessant love for gold in churches was a bit gaudy. But we went anyway.

Mass had just gotten out when we got there, yet the front door was locked when we tried to enter. However someone must have heard us trying to get in and they let us in the side door. (Churches are often locked on the camino, but this is the first time someone actually opened up the door!) We entered the church (not gaudy, but small and lovely) and I sat for a long time in the pew, praying and thinking about the past hour. I was just about to light a candle for my dad, when the priest told us he was closing up, so we had to go. The moment wasn't over though, and we both sensed it. So Michael and I just stood outside the church and embraced for a very long time. It was amazing, and I can’t tell you why but I sensed something huge and really beautiful was happening. After awhile Michael looked at me said “Your father loves you very much. And he is here.” I thought I felt him too.

Then suddenly from nowhere a man appeared. He was BEAMING, with a grin from ear to ear and completely ecstatic to see me. It was evident he was a local man, not another pilgrim, and a bit autistic. His hands were moving rapidly and repetitively, so fast it was hard to understand what he was saying. For at least five minutes he made a heartbeat on his chest with his hands, then angel wings, kisses, and pointed to the sky a lot ... He hugged me, put his hands together in thanks, and hugged me more. To be honest, I felt a little strange since I never met this man and was unsure what to do with his enthusiasm! But he was so happy…and sweet, too. He kept playing the little joke of pretending to take my nose off with his thumb, something my dad always did. We learned his name was Usha and he lived in town. Then he asked Michael to take a picture of us, which he did, and asked me to mail it to him. Then he started motioning other things...something about the number nine, tomorrow, eating, stamp, writing… Michael and I tried to understand. “Meet tomorrow at 9am to get a stamp?” “Yes” he nodded with extreme excitement. More hand gestures, more smiles, more heartbeat flutters and angel wings. Just when we thought we were going to go and find the alberge and part ways, Usha started fixing Michael’s walking poles on his backpack. We almost didn’t know what to do, it went on for so long. But everything he did was so gentle, done with so much care and concentration. He just wanted to help us. Then, just when I thought we were about to go again, Usha disappeared only to return with a rose, which he gave to me. Oh my... what did I do to deserve this? I wondered.

Eventually, at least an hour after meeting Usha, we left the church grounds. Usha guided us to the alberge in town, gingerly helping me down the stairs as parent would help a child just learning to walk. He left us at the alberge, but the alberge was full by that point (which was no surprise, it was 10pm and most pilgrims had finished walking about 9 hour before). So instead we got a room in a pension above the bar just across the street. We were starving, so we dropped our bags and left to get some food. Believe it or not, guess who also happened to be at this random bar but... Usha of course. He rushed out to greet us, gleaming, but not surprised to see us. It was almost as if he expected us to show up. He had a paper and pad in his hand and I could see it had his address written neatly on it. But before he would let me sit down, he ran back inside and came out with a damp cloth and wiped down the table and the chair for me. Then he had me sit down and write down my home address and gave me his. I told him I would send him the picture for sure, but I might not be home for awhile. This didn’t phase him a bit; it was as if time was irrelevant. Then we went inside, joined Michael, and all sat down to eat.

We dined on purple octopus and fresh cheese, both local treats from the province of Galicia (and fitting since we were in a pulperia, or restaurant specializing in octopus, afterall). Usha gave me a brochure of the camino and pointed out with care where I should stay, emphasizing one called Hotel Carlos. It was very sweet. I was getting used to my new yet unexpected friend when Michael said

“Do you remember what we were talking about right before Usha appeared?”
It took me a few moments. “Um, yeah…my dad.”

That made me wonder… Was it only a coincidence Usha appeared at the exact moment I had been praying, thinking and feeling my dad, or was it something more? Was it also a coincidence that Usha, a man I never met before in my life, was overjoyed to see and spend time with me? But also wasn’t surprised that I showed up? Or that he played one of the same games on me that my dad did when I was little? Or that he insisted I stay at a hotel with my father-s name? I wasn’t sure, and a part of me certainly thought I was crazy. But I started to entertain the possibility that perhaps there was more to this chance encounter than I first realized.

I have always believed that people can be angels and angels could be sent in the form of people. So then was Usha an angel? Was he delivering a message from my dad? Maybe letting me know that my dad was near and loved me? Or was this God’s response to my indignant plea to him just a few hours earlier yearning for a physical manifestation of my father? All that motioning Usha did involving angels, heartbeats, love, and pointing to the sky…or was it heaven? All that excitement and care and love that he was showering upon me, a stranger… Was this the “something very good” which Michael had predicted?

I wanted to believe many of these things. I had spent decades longing and searching for that elusive something (anything!) that would return the feeling of certainty and wholeness which slipped out of my grasp when I was seven, and grant me a sense of peace. But was this it? How could I know for sure? Would anyone believe it anyway? Did I even believe it? Because wow wow wow…it was all a bit much. I tried to swallow my octopus.

Back at the pension, Michael and I ordered tea from the bar and took it up to our room. We talked about all that had transpired, recounted the succession of events, the timing, the “coincidences”, the way things had unfolded, one leading to the next and to the next…. my tears in the forest, meeting Pedro, bumping into Michael, the atypical church visit, my prayer in the pew, being rushed out of the church and then lingering outside, the uncanny timing of Usha’s appearance, his excitement, games, the hotel…

How could I believe that all that was just a coincidence? Slowly…and not just from a logical, intellectual place, but somewhere deep within my heart, I did begin to believe. Everything. Michael held me as the tears came. They were different tears this time, not the ones from before, and I knew it. These were tears of a long overdue and beautiful release, tears allowing a young woman to liberate a part of herself that no longer served her. I let go of my dad that night, and the pain and anger I carried inside for over two decades.

Sometimes a part of me is tempted to look back on all this and think that maybe I just injected a whole lot of meaning and symbolism into a unique situation. Perhaps I manipulated the details and superimposed meaning onto coincidence in order to arrive at a conclusion of my choosing, not “reality.” (Although when is reality ever a collective or universally accepted entity anyway?) What I keep going back to is a simple truth I believe about life. I believe that life is a creative endeavour and that during our lifetime we not only get to help direct our stories (along with the help of a loving power greater than our self, which I call God) BUT... we are the ones who give meaning to our experiences, and ultimately decide what it all means. Although at times my brain is tempted rationalize or doubt, my heart cannot be swayed because it simply knows the truth. And months later I can’t begin to tell you how much lighter and whole I continue to feel…

So, this is my story… And after sharing all of this, I don’t even feel naked. I just feel…me.

One last thing, the name of this little town in Spain of such an incredible encounter? Palas de Reys. The King's Palace. God really does know what he’s doing.
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I was moved to both tears and joy by your account. I am much older than you (I turned 50 in August) but my father also died when I was young... when I was 8. I missed him so very much, everytime I sat down to eat dinner and he was not at the table - all those times you too would understand. Then when I was 15 my mother also died, which added another complication to the mix.
It was when I was 30 I was able to finally say "goodbye" to my father. It was not on a pilgrimage - it was during some counselling that I had come to realise I was in need of. I had just had to say 'goodbye' to a close friend, and it plummeted me into a kind of despair. I was old enough to see that I was reacting far more severely to the goodbye than other people - and that it was perhaps the fourth time I had had such a reaction. I was lucky to meet with a very skilled counsellor who helped me to say goodbye to my father... which was the goodbye I really needed to make.
I am sure we all have to say "goodbye" and move on at some point. How truly wonderful your account of how it happened for you on the Camino is. And I don't for a moment think you have injected meaning that was not there onto the events. You "know" you have finally said the goodbye you needed to say, and it has brought you a new peace.

Although I know I too have said goodbye, there are still some times of sadness. Last year it was the 40th anniversary of the day my father died, and I was cycling in the French countryside in the Loire at the time. Some weeks earlier I had spent a few days in Lourdes, where I had met a Kiwi priest. He had given me (lapsed Catholic that I am!) a blessing, lifting up my hands, when we parted after sharing a picnic lunch on some seats in a local square. As I cycled along the country roads on this day of my Dad's anniversary, I was having sad thoughts about the day Dad died, and all the things that happened then. But each time I had a sad thought, it was as if I was lifted up out of my sadness by the very action of the blessing. The lifting of my hands became the lifting of my spirit. And I know that I am not imagining something I wish out of this experience. I was truly being blessed as I remembered my treasured Dad.

Pamela, thanks for sharing your very moving experience.


Wow Margaret, thank you for sharing your story. Its lovely to find kindred spirits out there who understand. I also still miss my dad but like the Kiwi priest you met while in France, we are always sent what just we need when we need it. I love the image of lifting your hands and lifting your spirit, that is really beautiful. If we can remember that we are always guided, perhaps we can remember we are never alone.

rioja routard

Active Member


What a wonderful story. I think it is really important to share stories and experiences like that, moments where the timing is more important than the event itself, like the link above I posted.

My father also died when I was young and I recounted the part he played in my pilgrimage below.

I continued on my Way, in the sweltering heat, meeting many interesting and kind people. When one meets a fellow pilgrim, you have a chat about where you started from and the reasons why you are walking, you stay together for a while then you go on your own way; it’s a great metaphor for life, everyone going along with their own purpose and direction to the same destination.

A significant point came when I got to an iron cross, (Cruz de Hierro) Foncebadón
where people leave stones from their homeland and mementos of loved ones. Some of the things left are very poignant and moving. I knew this was the moment for me to leave my own memory. I laid down a photograph which had meant the world to me and then, sat on rocks. What happened next surprised me, I had a massive outpouring of grief, I was mourning for everything I had lost; my father who had died 30 years ago when I was still a child, my being deprived seeing my beloved daughters grow up and then losing what had felt like the love of my life.
The minute I felt that my grieving had ended suddenly I’d find new fresh tears pouring down my face again and this continued for the next 2 hours as I walked in mountains, alone. Afterwards I sensed a calm and inner peace and I started the long descent to a small village called El Acebo. Thick storm clouds gathered so dark fact it almost seemed like night as distant thunder echoed around the mountains. Then something amazing happened; a shaft of sunlight pierced through the darkness, illuminating the path in front of me, lighting it as I walked. Passages from John's Gospel came to mind "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out", "Believe in the light, then, while you have it, so that you will be the people of the light", as did the words ‘let the sun of righteousness scatter the darkness before your path’.
That evening I knew I was healed and felt incredibly strong. I happily found an open church and gave thanksgiving.
There was no air conditioning functioning on the train but I thought I am used to heat by now, however uncomfortable. I could not believe the amount of walking I had done as the express train turned my days walking into just hours. I thought that I had done something truly amazing, I felt proud of myself and thought that I dedicated this walk to the eternal memory of my father, Geoffrey Phillip Hinton, who had more than played his part in this pilgrimage and my own reflections over my own life. I really hoped and prayed that the changes I now felt would remain strong


gracias rioja for sharing your story... i am sure your dad is proud of you. a pilgrim pointed out the other side of "'clinging" to a loved one... and that is when we are able to let them go, we also allow (perhaps) their spirit to more fully experience heaven. no lingering "earth ties" if you will. its an interesting perspective anyway : )
all the best on your journey...
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buena! said:
I also still miss my dad but like the Kiwi priest you met while in France, we are always sent what just we need when we need it. I love the image of lifting your hands and lifting your spirit, that is really beautiful. If we can remember that we are always guided, perhaps we can remember we are never alone.

My wife and I had made 4 pilgrimage journeys before this year but this year was different. In other years we have had difficulties and obstacles but this year it was as if a guiding hand was making the journey easy for us. Little things, coincidences, things that could easily be explained - but so many of them!

Thank you Pamela.


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