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Finding Forgiveness on the Camino

It has been pouring down rain all day; I have never been so wet, and cold in my life. The kind of cold you feel in your bones. We have been hiking since dawn; my poncho dramatically rips off with a sudden gust of wind .In such a way, as if god himself is punishing me for something. Everything I own is wet, making it even heavier to carry. It is only my third day on the Camino, A 800k hiking pilgrimage in Northern Spain. I approach a store, and go inside to buy a poncho and dry off before continuing. There it Is, a vase of white lilies. A sign everything is going to be okay, I am exactly where I need to be. It has been one year since losing my brother. But he did not die, I lost him to himself. I am mourning someone I never truly knew, his demons weighing heavy on my shoulders; On the Camino even a feather weighs a ton. I suffer a few more days, before having a breakdown in a hostel basement while washing my lone two outfits. Out of supplies and cash and with badly blistered feet, I decide to take the next day off, almost ensuring I will not finish on time. Realizing suffering is a choice; I chose to no longer suffer. The day off is spent meeting new friends, drinking way too much sangria, eating fresh local octopus, and making dinner together in our hostel kitchen. The hostel, an old church perched on top of a hill in the middle of town. The days are long, the distance far, but I am never truly alone. At times I am thinking about life, other times about nothing at all. My mind is completely silent. Dawn, with its damp smell, cool air, and mystifying fog, quickly becomes my favorite time of day. The sounds and colors of nature as the sun rises and the local cattle wake up. I am following my heart and body, walking only as far as it tells me each day. Nights are spent with new friends at Pilgrims dinner and bedtime is before sun set in tiny bunk beds. At Cruz de Ferro, I told the universe I forgive and left my rock among the others. Although I didn't believe it myself, I put the words out into the universe. The burden of guilt would be left there with my rock. A few days later, I finished, finally making it to Santiago. At the pilgrims mass a few powerful words spoken clearly in English during the closing prayer. "Forgive those who have lost their way". I knew it was time to forgive and move on. A massive weight was lifted from me, a weight which was never mine to carry. I found the last thing I expected along the Camino, forgiveness.