Yesterday I announced that we will finally be making our dream pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain beginning October 8, 2018.
That is exactly one month from today! 🙂
[4 weeks + 4 days + 4 hours to be more exact]
but, who’s counting? [I am!]
So. Excited. So. Excited. So. Excited!!!!!
Today I’ll begin telling you the story of how this is happening for us.
But, before the how, I must speak about the Why.
1. LETTING GO OF FRANCÉS…
For years we’ve felt that we HAD to walk the Camino Francés route. It is the route in the movie The Way which called to us. It is the route all of our friends have walked. It is the route everyone says you should do first! It is the route we have read dozens of books, and websites, and blogs, and Facebook pages about. And we’ve probably watched hundreds of YouTube videos, too. We have had nearly seven years to memorize all of the towns and villages, the places, the sites, the points of interest, the alternate paths, the regional foods and the particular challenges and joys each stage might hold along the 40-ish day journey of a Francés pilgrimange. We “know” the Francés about as well as anyone could, the only thing missing is actually ever being there in person.
I feel like we have created a close family relationship with the Francés. Like expectant parents, we have gathered armfuls of breathless hopes, and dreams. From the trivial [all the iconic photo-ops we planned], to the deeply meaningful [placing our burden rock at the Cruz de Ferro].
If we were walking the Francés, we wouldn’t have to let go of this…
Letting go of something [or someone] we’ve held on to so tightly, for so long, can be really painful. It takes a lot of courage, and trust. I think it is an act of purest faith to be willing to lay down our fears of the unknown, and to walk forward humbly toward the actual unknown.
It wasn’t until I could let my beloved Francés go, that I could begin to welcome our new and completely unknown (yet exciting) Way into my heart.
Fear: What if I let go of Francés, and I lose everything we’ve ever hoped for?
Truth: What if letting go of Francés means you will find everything you’ve ever needed?
2. LETTING GO OF SOMEDAY…
Mr. Mo and I were waiting for more time, more money, more convenience. We were waiting until we got into better shape, lost more weight. We were waiting until I didn’t have Choir commitments and we didn’t’ have work commitments. We were waiting for retirement. We were waiting for our children to be raised and fully independent. We were waiting for the perfect future that we assumed we were going to have… when every star would align in our life… someday.
But, what is a “someday life”?
Life – real LIFE – is happening RIGHT NOW – in this very moment. We breathe it in. We breathe it out. We breathe it in again. We feel our heart beating inside of our chest. We blink our eyes, tap our toes, wiggle our fingers… and in this moment, this breath, this heart beat, we experience the gift and possibilities of our life.
This is our moment right now on planet earth to live, to love, to dream… to be.
3. LETTING GO OF ALISON…
Something clicked inside of me two months ago. There was no single earth shattering thing that created this “AH HA!” moment in my brain. There wasn’t a giant hand from the sky shaking me awake, or a loud booming voice from Mount Sinai saying something like:
“Thou Shalt Not…
“Hey you! Life is ridiculously short – and unpredictable – GO get OUT there and LIVE IT while you can!
And can I get an AMEN over here?! “
Although, that’s all great [and maybe even true for some pilgrims! The hand or voice of God…?] For me, it seems to be the accumulation of a lifetime of many events, people, places, and memories that haunt and inspire me to LIVE bigger and better than myself.
August 12, 2014 – When I walk in the door of my 30th High School class reunion (and yes, I’m that old) Alison is one of the first to greet me. I hear her before I see her. “HOLLY!” a gleeful shout, and then long arms wrapping around me. She is bending way down, and I am standing on tip toes, and we are both laughing… Yes! It really is our sparkling, vibrant, radiant, gifted Alison who has hardly changed at all – with all her long blonde hair, her same large expressive eyes, and her same infectious laugh – oh that laugh! When Alison laughs, the whole room laughs with her. She is the one flying around the room now, making sure she speaks with everyone, gives a hug, says a kind word, gives a compliment, shares a memory she has of them doing something ‘forbidden’ or ‘silly’ or ‘thoughtful’ back in the day…. Later, Alison is the one who invites us up to her room at the lodge – the four Musketeers – her, Lori, Leslie, and me. We linger and laugh and talk and reminisce – catching up on our lives. She is an equity actress now, there’s been a lot of stage and screen work – she laughs as she details the intense makeup for the latest zombie movie she was in…. and we are amazed at the photos she shares on her cell phone…
A snapshot is captured of the 4 Musketeers… all of us smiling together. Alison’s smile (of course!) is the biggest and brightest of us all. And when she shares it on Facebook, in typical Alison style, it’s nothing about her, and all about us.
Alison was born with a rare disease that destroyed her kidneys. She has been battling with kidney disease since childhood – and has received a kidney transplant – but the disease has progressed to the point she is in critical need again of a donor match. However, her required match was so rare, she tells us the odds are not in her favor. She needed a miracle. Now. And she deserved one! Alison was desperately needed on this earth. She was raising her beautiful ten-year-old daughter as a single mom. She had so much to give the world – so much art, music, drama, love, life, faith, meaning. She was spending every minute either with her child, or hooked up to a dialysis machine fighting for another day of life to be with her child. Another extra breath making another extra moment possible to stay on this earth, until her “miracle match” happened. That’s all she wanted. Just to stay.
To at least get to see her daughter through her school years, and graduate from High School. That was her “impossible dream”.
Amazing, strong, positive, beautiful, loving, kind, generous Alison – it was impossible to imagine her miracle wouldn’t just happen – because if anyone could, Alison would find a Way to live forever.
But, Alison’s Way to forever was heavenbound.
Six months later – to the very day that I hugged her goodbye at our High School reunion – Alison was gone.
I still hear her laugh when I look at her photo. I still hear her voice eagerly asking me how I’ve been, how my family is doing, and wanting to hear all about my Choir adventures. I still cry happy-sad tears each time I think of the beautiful gift of herself that Alison gave to me personally. Her kindness. Her joy. Her inclusion. Her courage and grace. And most of all, her precious time.
This beautiful woman suffered so much hurt and pain each day of her life – but none of her days on earth were ever wasted nor taken for granted. Alison embraced every breath of her life until there were no more breaths to take.
She taught me The Way.
4. LETTING GO OF DOUBT…
How many days do we each get to live on this earth?
How many hours? How many minutes? How many breaths?
If Mr. Mo and I are both healthy enough and capable enough right now to hike our Camino – climbing mountains, wading through streams, braving whatever elements or circumstances arise, walking for 9+ hours a day – then who are we to say right NOW is not the right time?!
How will “someday” ever be better than NOW?
And what if – heaven forbid – life happens [like it always does] and the day of our “someday” arrives but we are not healthy or capable any more?
Worse, what if only one of us is healthy and capable [or alive] … and we must walk alone?
This brings us to the final and most crucial question.
If I don’t do this now, and I never get to do this, can I live with that?
My answer was a resounding “No!”
No. I cannot bear the thought of never going to Spain and never walking with Mr. Mo – he and I – hand in hand – step by step – making our pilgrimage together to Santiago de Compostela. No. I cannot bear never completing this bucket list adventure together.
No. I cannot bear never fulfilling our Calling.
To know that we had the chance, but let it go, would be a crushing regret I don’t ever want to live with.
Once I had my answer, I asked Mr. Mo – and he told me he felt the very same thing.
Letting go of doubt and fear, we have found our truth.
It’s now, or never.
¡Buen Camino! – Holly