We left Estella at 7am under a glorious blue sky and with a cool breeze keeping the morning fresh. Not too far down the trail, we were already shedding the sleeves and putting on sunscreen for what was turning into a scorching day. Billy (the Irishman we call Little Billy - he named himself that due to his height next to Billy Drum) caught up to us as we walked. On other days, Little Billy (a man in his 60s) has had a goal and a pace and has passed us up quickly each day. But today, something was different and he said that he had already hit the wall. It wasn't even 8:30am yet and he was slowing down and low in spirit. So he walked alongside us instead of his usual pace.
For the first time, we could actually chat with him. Big Billy (my tall husband) asked the question that seems to stump many on this Camino... "Why are you walking The Camino?"
Little Billy began to slowly tell the story of his wife and her long battle with MS. So much love and compassion and pain began pouring from his heart as he recounted the story of their relationship. At times, he laughed and talked about their vacations together, about her love of writing, about her unquenchable desire to learn more and get her masters. He also told of her battles with losing her ability to walk, of her going blind, and of her loss of independence. He talked about being a caregiver and about finally being told by doctors that he couldn't do it all...He needed help. He talked for many, many kilometers. In the end, it turns out that this week is the one year anniversary of her death. He walks in honor of her and as a way to mourn and grieve.
As his tears fell, I reached out to touch his shoulder and he turned and grabbed my arm and squeezed it tight. He looked me in the eyes and said "Thank you. Thank you, Laurie. I'm going to be okay." And he kept walking alongside us.
These things go one of two ways. Either the openness and vulnerability becomes too heavy and role find a way to separate themselves and self - protect, or the vulnerability brings them closer. In this case, Little Billy pulled in closer to us. He stayed with us all day. He walked at a slower pace and talked to us for 22 km. I hung back quite a bit and let the two Billy's talk all day.
At the end of the day, even though it had been a sweltering day on the trail with little to no shade or shelter, even though my muscles were aching and I was exhausted, I thought it was a most beautiful, most incredible, most holy and divine day.
Little Billy went his way and we went ours when we got to town. And it wasn't an hour later before he called our cell phone to see if we would come to the square to share a drink with him and wind down from the day. We went to the pilgrim mass and blessing together, and then we ate dinner together.
Loving living life with others along The Camino! It's a Holy experience.