Clare, USA

“I was stunned to find my mom and brother both vomiting and fainting with weakness on the bathroom floor. It was day three of our pilgrimage on the Camino, and we had just arrived at an albergue in Frómista after walking 25 km that day from Castrojeriz–the most distance in a day we had attempted so far.

We really thought we could push ourselves, but muscular overexertion had led to lactic acidosis and acute illness for my mom and brother. Not surprisingly, some sympathetic peregrinos stepped up to assist us by providing cold water and hot tea. As the only one still able-bodied in our party, I took responsibility to find a private room in this unfamiliar Spanish town, temporarily leaving my family to be safely cared for at the albergue. With tired muscles, I gingerly walked along the quiet streets to find a nearby casa rural. Luckily, using my advanced Spanish skills, the hospitalera warmed to me (I’m sure she could sense my anxiety) and offered me a good room where I was able to help my family recover. I enlisted some fellow American peregrinos to help transfer our gear and support the invalids across the little town to the serene hostel. One peregrino named Mike even shared a little prayer of healing over my family. It was a small moment of compassion that still moved and consoled us. We never saw Mike or his family again after that encounter, but I will always be grateful for their kindness.

Despite my own exhaustion and anxiety for my family, I embraced my unanticipated role as caretaker. Lying on the floor between the single beds, I was up all night repositioning my mom and brother. In their incredibly weak state, I would hold up their heads to sip cups of tea and even had to transfer them onto the toilet when needed. Seeing them in this incredibly weak state greatly concerned me. I asked myself, ‘Will they recover? Should we continue on this arduous journey? Where do we go from here?’

Ultimately, after two days of rest, we decided to continue on our pilgrimage, and try to persevere. My family and I had to reconsider our strengths and limitations as we continued our journey on the Camino. Even after this difficult speed bump, we remained steadfast with our goal to walk to Santiago.

With lighter packs and shorter distances per day, we were able to continue hiking, and finally reached Santiago de Compostela many days later. As I reflect on that trip, I see that it was both a geographic and an internal journey allowing us to find our own strengths and weaknesses within ourselves and as a family unit. It took teamwork and leadership. The pilgrimage tested our physical strength and mental endurance, and without the support from one another and other pilgrims, it would have been nearly impossible. In a foreign environment, we found it crucial to connect with new people in a respectful and understanding way. I am truly grateful for these encounters I made along ‘the Way’ that continue to inspire me on my personal life journey.”

– Clare, USA