You never really left me, did you ? You simply moved me out of your life temporarily. But it felt like yet another blow which I could not take.You told me that I must leave the house or you would kill me. That was the third time you had threatened to kill me and I suddenly felt “Why am I here ?”
So I left.
Years later when you died, I felt nothing but grief and guilt, which I still feel but less intensely. We were living apart but the bond was always there.
Two years after your death from cancer, the Camino was my way of coming to terms with your death, or so I thought. I was looking for a miracle, a sign that you were okay, and for forgiveness. I wanted to pray for your soul. But my companion was not a religious person and felt that I should just “move on.” For her, I was “not much fun.”
I remember cycling up a long hill in the Massif Central (we started from Le Puy-en-Velay) and the sense of achievement when we reached the top without having to walk. The view was magnificent. But I wept as I thought about you, feeling guilt at my survival and ability to live and enjoy my body. By the time we reached Cahors, the relationship with my companion had deteriorated and I remember feeling that I wanted to go home. I needed to pray but I struggled on to St.Jean-Pied-du-Port where I finished and returned home. My companion continued alone.
The good memories that I now have of that journey were not mentioned in my journal which was full of the vivid dreams I was having each night. Now I remember the church at Aire-sur-l’Adour where we discovered St.Quitterie, the patron saint of the mentally ill; and the welcome we received at the Basque Franciscan Community in St. Palais on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.
Since then I have continued my spiritual journey in London, working with the mentally ill and caring for our children and grandchildren,cycling from Dieppe to Paris, and many visits to the church of St. Sulpice – and, of course, the support of my church of St. James Piccadilly. I have learnt in therapy the extent of my pride and omnipotence – how could I have thought I could save you from the terrible abuse you suffered as a child. I am not God!
When you died, Lama Zangmo, from the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Bermondsey, London, said that I must thank you for the gift of your death. I found that hard to understand, but of course she was right and my life has blossomed with the children you gave me and the sense of family they have given me, that neither of us had then.
I have also started to comprehend the meaning of the death of Jesus and his gift to our world.
Perhaps it is time for me to complete the journey to Santiago, and with more hope and love in my heart.