Last night in the sitting area of my albergue I shared a few beers with a 65-year-old Dutchman. He told me he was walking the Camino in order to decide how he would like his life to end. “I’m 65,” he told me. “If I am lucky I have only a quarter of my life left. In maybe 15 years I’m dead.” I nodded sadly. He looked incredibly healthy to me. He had bright blue eyes and a head full of white hair.
“I am a religious man and my religion says that I should do everything I can to save my life. But I don’t want respirators. I don’t want machines. When it is my time to go, I want to go.”
I nodded again.
“So I need to decide what I would like to do when the time comes. My son is meeting me to walk tomorrow. I will talk it over with him.”
Our conversation moved on.
“Do you have children?” He asked.
“No,” I said. Then I added, “not yet.”
I must admit that this topic in particular has been on heavy rotation in my mind. What 30-something woman doesn’t think of these things? If you’d asked me five years ago if I wanted children my response would have been a resounding “hell no!” But I’m getting older and, well, things change.
It felt uncanny to meet a man who is walking the Camino in order to decide how he will leave the world as I walk thinking of whether my husband and I should bring life into it.
There were no snorers last night. In exchange, I got a room full of farters. One person farted machine-gun style (fart-fart-fart-fart-fart) all night long. Another let out long, blowing puffs of flatulence. I took my fingers out of my ears and shoved them in my nose.
I got up early and took satisfaction in packing my bag loudly enough to punish the farters. Then I stepped out the door into a cold and foggy morning.
The trail started off uphill and soon I reached the Cruz Ferro, an ancient site where pilgrims have left stones from home for centuries. It is said that each stone represents a pilgrim’s burden. By leaving his or her stone behind the pilgrim can continue on to Santiago a bit lighter, both metaphorically and physically.
I dug through my bag and removed the largest stone that my mom sent along with me to Spain. I held it in my palm, it was warm, and said a prayer for my mom and the rest of my family. Then I placed the stone at the base of the cross and moved on.
Eventually the fog burned off and the sun began to shine. The trail was mountainous and I happily navigated over tree roots and rocks. The views were stunning.
I sat down under an old tree and checked my email. Brian had written to tell me that he’d slept for twelve hours and had just run to the market to buy bread, cheese and olives. “I think I’m already in love with Spain,” he wrote.
“Me too!” I wrote back, “Isn’t it lovely?”
It kills me to know that my husband is in a rural hotel in Spain eating cheese and olives and drinking wine while I’m sitting in the top bunk of a busy albergue in the same clothes I’ve had on every night for the past 23 days.
Only 8 days until Santiago!
Today I walked 16.8 miles (27.1 km).
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