Took me a couple of days to get this post up. Arrival in Santiago was emotional and busy and intensely personal and intensely relational. I'm now back home, resting and processing - slowly.
We arrived on Saturday in Santiago about 1 in the afternoon. We went straight to the cathedral and sat there in silence for quite awhile. Over to the side, we saw other people we had met on the Camino. Didier was talking with other pilgrims. It was a great time of reunions and reconnecting with people we had shared the journey with. The reunions included hugs and congratulations all around. We stayed in the cathedral plaza, taking photos and sharing stories and hugs, then the team sang the Aggie War Hymn together in the plaza. It was quite a spectacle.
I received my compostela which is an official document that recognizes me as a pilgrim and my walk from St. Jean pied de Port in France to Santiago, Spain - a total by their estimate 775 km. Also, the Franciscan order is giving out a special compostela to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage of St. Francis of Assi as he walked this very Camino to Santiago. It was a surprise and an awesome privilege to receive this special compostela.
Last night, we had a celebratory meal with many laughs, tears and stories from the Camino. I originally started this journey as a tag-along with the group, but ended as a member. They accepted me as one of their own and I am now forever connected with 14 incredible people. Quite an honor.
Today we attended the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral. It is a Catholic mass that recognizes the countries represented by the pilgrims that arrived the day before in Santiago.
After mass, I started the process of saying goodbye to my friends. We had many tearful hugs and promises to keep in touch. I also got to spend time with Didier today. We went to get ice cream and later toured the cathedral together. He is still in his wheelchair and continues to pray for healing. He, however, does not seem to be disappointed. We both told each other goodbye and hope to stay in touch. As we said goodbye, he called me his brother. He left this evening on a bus with some of the Aggies as they headed to Finisterre, the place once thought to be the end of the world. It is the furthest most point in Europe. Until Columbus, this was it. Didier had insisted on saying goodbye to the group and decided to take the trip to Finisterre with them.
I am still struggling with my feelings right now and still processing many things. I think that it will take some time for me to process all that I have experienced over the last 5 weeks. Debrief is a must. I plan on making the same trip next year with Laurie and a few others. Let me know if you would be interested in joining us in the journey.