A Christmas Miracle

DSC_0087I try to be used to it by now – Gus’ persistent absence, the silence, the ache but I am not and the pain still creeps up on me when I least expect it.  Most days, the daily routine blunts the sharp edges of his loss so I can’t dwell on it. I focus on being present and looking forward more times or at least as many times as I look back.   Lately, I had even been able to talk about him without welling up (so fast), but this holiday season was brutal and it took all of Gus’ angelic power to save Christmas.

This tale begins last January when in the midst of replacing our deteriorated driveway we decided to build the two story garage/office/recreation room we dreamed of when we bought our house nearly twenty years ago.  Despite my many years in construction, I allowed myself to plan for an unrealistic mid-fall completion. Cramming the contents of three storage sheds into two, as though it was a life-sized game of Tetris, I placed the holiday decor at the very back convinced the garage would be done well before I needed to get to them. Unfortunately, due to rules governing the “historic” zone in which we live, construction did not start until August and we would be lucky to be done by late January (so far so good).  Since it did not make much sense to empty the sheds in an effort to get a few trinkets out, I decided to forgo the “decorative” part of Christmas altogether.  What a mistake!

Thanksgiving weekend was spent pouring over construction budgets and completion schedules instead of swathing the house in holiday cheer while watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” as was my custom. Without a single thing pointing to the impending holiday except for the dying wreath I had picked up on a whim at Costco, all I could do was dwell on what I wouldn’t have this Christmas.  No twinkling lights, no tree, no million presents, no older boy (working), no middle boy (in Hawaii with his girlfriend) and especially no baby boy (even though he would have been fourteen). My house felt particularly empty and cold (no heating either).

Just days before Christmas, although we’d managed to find inspirational gifts for the nieces and nephews (“smile” socks and sweaters), my holiday “spirit” was still nowhere in sight. I attempted to focus on how organized I would be when the garage was finished but that only made me think about whether I should store all of Gus’ things or start giving them away. I was in the midst of considering getting stickers made to place in his books before donating them (see below) –

Fina1- Gus Logo Label

when the idea that I needed to ask my extremely busy husband to draw a picture of a hummingbird came to me. I had no specific reason for wanting it, I just felt I had to ask.

Sadness took over when I arrived home however, and I could do nothing but miss Gus. Four years had passed since our last Christmas morning together and it broke my heart that he’d only gotten to ride the bike he’d received that year once before passing on. By the time my husband got home, I was lying in a heap of misery watching Purple Rain, a poor holiday movie choice made worse by how terrible the movie actually is (why I loved it as a teenager is lost on my adult self). With eyes swollen from crying and nothing to say, I forgot about the drawing and went to bed.

Christmas Eve morning, I summoned a modicum of seasonal cheer by tossing a poinsettia here and there to make the house seem more festive. When my husband returned from work about mid-day, even before he could set the bundle he was carrying down, I requested my drawing. When he said nothing, I quickly added that he did not have to feel pressure to do it any time soon because it wasn’t urgent and I was aware of his load at work. Nodding in relief (or so I thought) he shuffled away while I got ready for the rest of the day which included visiting Gus’ niche, having lunch, and watching football games before heading off to Christmas mass and dinner.

The next morning – he gave me my present.


As it happens, the same day I’d been inspired to ask for the drawing, he’d been inspired to draw it. He was actually carrying it in his arms having just framed it when I made my request. There is no explanation other than we’d each heard Gus’ whisper, his way of letting us know that he is always with us.  Thanks you Gus for this Christmas miracle, it made an otherwise miserable day very special.




Grateful for happiness?

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving was at our house this year and in a sense it was the most relaxing one yet.  This is the first year I wasn’t stressed about making the turkey since taking over that duty from my mom, more than a decade ago.  My sister and I have tried to make it a bunch of different ways but slathering a mixture of butter and herbs de Provence between the skin and the meat makes the juiciest most delicious turkey so we stick with that recipe.  My broccoli gratin was made in advance and the rest was potluck so while twenty-eight of us would gather around the table this year, I spent the day taking a walk, watching football and generally just waiting for the turkey to be done.

Thanksgiving day was warm, sunny and stunningly beautiful.  My California sycamore seemed to glisten in the sun even as the leaves dropped gently to the ground.  It was the kind of day Gus would have been running around the yard, kicking at leaves, agonizing over how long much longer he’d have to wait to dive into the turkey.  I imagined his legs, which would have been by longer now, draped over the end of the couch as we watched the football games or episodes of Twilight Zone. I imagined I would have been trying to capture the family Christmas card picture while none of the boys cooperated. I willed myself not to cry.

Each year, before sitting for dinner, we go around the room taking turns expressing something for which we are most grateful for that year.  Over the years, this tradition has taken on a life of its own as I imagine all traditions do and going around the room has been taking longer and longer because everyone seems to want to make a speech.  I decided I would limit everyone to a single word this year.  To make sure we were all listening to each other, I would ask that each person first say the word just said by the person next to them before adding their own and that we try not to repeat any sentiment or object of our gratitude already expressed.  It would be a wonderful exercise in listening and being concise.

As the time neared for me to start off our expressions of gratitude I wondered what feeling or thing I would choose and if I could mean it. Grief can be unpredictable and devious and so while I thought I had somehow learned to co-exist with it, it has turned around and poked at me with much more ferocity than I expected this year.  I have been missing Gus terribly this holiday season. I feel constantly sad and on the verge of tears most days. Another holiday without him, another year gone by. I reminded myself that Gus would not want me to be sad or make others sad and so when it was time, I slapped a smile across my face and gathered everyone around the table.  After thanking everyone for joining us again, I said I was grateful for happiness and I began to mean it.

Allowing happiness to enter into our midst has been as difficult as the loss itself.  Being happy seems wrong somehow as though it is an act of betrayal or a sign that we are “over it”.  There is no getting over your losses, I still miss my grandmother now deceased thirty years, I miss my grandfather, my mother-in-law and I can’t imagine ever not missing Gus but I have to make a choice. I can either to wallow in the sadness or bask in the sunlight of happiness.  I choose happiness because that is the best way to honor my baby boy who was always happy even when he was sick.  The truth is there is much to be happy about, lots of “upsides”.  I have great friends, an awesome family, a wonderful husband and two amazing, talented, funny older boys.  I have lost weight and feel great about myself.  I have extraordinary parking karma, finding a spot near where I need to go even when the lot is full. I have a job a like and I am taking a shot at doing what I always wanted to do – write. I am finally in a book club through which I was introduced to incredible books and authors. We have been fortunate to have had many opportunities to travel this year.  We skied in Utah, visited my sister in New York, cruised through the Panama Canal, partied in Vegas a couple of times and next week we will head to Seattle to watch the Seahawks take on the 49niners.  We must be happy because everywhere we go, Gus is with us. Our most recent and obvious encounter with him was when we stopped in Cabo San Lucas at end of our family cruise.  Of all the places we could have chosen to stop for breakfast we just happen to pick the one restaurant that is permeated by the image of a figure with outstretched hands in a sign of victory much like Gus’ memorial picture.  Thank you Gus for giving us happiness by your life on earth and from above in heaven.

Gus' memorial picture

Gus’ memorial picture

Gus image on chairs

Gus image on chairs

Gus image on base of sinks

Gus image on base of sinks

Gus image on the window outside.  Gus with his brothers again.

Gus image on the window outside. Gus with his brothers again.


DSCN0700[1]Southern California is not known for its changing seasons but they do. Like anyplace else, even here the Fall makes things fall.  The sun is lower on the horizon, the trees begin shedding their leaves, and even the temperature begins to lower so that we have to pull out a sweater in the evenings, possibly even a jacket (it’s true).  It was always my favorite time of year.

Last Halloween Haunted House 2010

Last Halloween Haunted House 2010

It meant going back to school, soccer, football, haunting the house for Halloween, the smell of spiced pumpkin for Thanksgiving and the coming of Christmas. Our house was transformed each fall into a seasonal wonderland beginning in September. I knew it wouldn’t last.  I knew that eventually all of my boys would grow up and fail to see the charm of my decor. It had already started to happen, the older boys grumbled more when they had to help with the boxes, they walked by without noticing the new skeleton in the corner or the new cornucopia on the table. It didn’t matter to me. I still had Gus, he was only ten and still loved every part of it.  Then Gus died and fall fell from my view.  I’ve purged the house of every seasonal trinket now, the last of the table top displays going out just two weeks ago, but fall keeps coming.  It came the year Gus passed, it came again last year and it is here now. It just keeps Fall-ing.

I hate this Fall more than the last two because I noticed something about myself that I didn’t expect so soon.  I’ve become used to Gus being gone and I hate it.  I still think about him the entire day.  I am reminded he is around me whenever I hear the songs we played for each other, like this One Direction song he used to play over and over. I got dressed up this past weekend for a friend’s 25th wedding anniversary and it was playing in the car as soon as I entered. I knew then he liked the way I looked.

And whenever I hear The Wanted’s – “I am Glad you came” I know he is around me.  I used to sing this song to him on our way to the hospital every day.  Last year we were in Vegas for my brother-in-laws birthday and of all the clubs we could have gone to that weekend we just happen to pick the one club at which The Wanted was appearing. We were arms distance from them when they performed this very song.  AND, for my birthday this year, the song played everywhere I went. Even when I stopped at the supermarket, I found the produce guy singing along to it as it piped in from overhead. He turned to sing it to me as I walked by him.

While Gus still fills my thoughts, I am used to not picking him up after school, not taking him to soccer practice, not helping him with his homework, and not coordinating all of his extra curricular activities.  I am used to his physical absence and the silence that follows.  At times, I look at his pictures on the wall and wonder if his presence was ever real.  It is as if he was only ever a beautiful dream from which I’ve finally woken up from, instead of the nightmare my life is without him.

I get up everyday and go to work, I go to the gym in the afternoons and then I come home to watch to our favorite shows with the older boys who haven’t quite left home. This year I picked up cross-stitching again as I watch the NFL on Sundays. From my chair next to the window I can see that the giant california sycamore in our yard is already dropping its leaves.  Soon they will cover the yard all the way up to Gus’ swings which remain motionless. I appear to have fallen back into a routine, one I would have never thought possible.

I miss you....

I miss you….



hummingbird-garden-hoverHummingbirds are not a strange sight especially in California where the weather is warm and all the native plants seem to have been created just for them.  And yet, these little birds have taken on a new meaning in our lives recently.

Just a week before Gus’ untimely passing, he celebrated Father’s Day, with his grandfather, dad, brothers and cousins at the local trap range.  No, we don’t have a shotgun at home, but yes my husband taught him to shoot one a few days after birth (o.k. a little later), a carryover from the family roots in the mid-west.  With Gus gone, the trap range was the last place my husband wanted to ever visit again.  This place where he’d spent much of his youth with his own father was now the last place he’d been with his son and he was afraid the grief would overwhelm him. We’d made a commitment though, to face our grief head on by going to those exact places, attending those events and being with those people who reminded us most of our time with Gus and therefore caused the most pain.  And since my husband had already been to his school and even taken his friends to the Big Time Rush concert  that Gus had been looking forward to, he headed to the trap range to meet his dad for dinner.

DSC_3452-1Parking at their usual spot, he looked out to where Gus had taken his last shot.  He’d been trying to remember how many Gus had hit that day or if he’d hit any at all when he became aware of fluttering outside his window.  The tree he’d parked under a thousand times before was swelling and contracting with the greatest quantity of hummingbirds he’d ever seen in one place. How he wished Gus could have seen it.

We knew nothing about hummingbird folklore at the time but the experience was such that my husband wanted to share the story with friends over dinner later that week. The four of us had begun as parents with children in the same class and ended up as parents with children in the same cemetery.  They had lost their infant son to SIDS months before Gus and their eldest son started kindergarten. They shared that in the wife’s Korean culture, the hummingbird was thought to carry the soul of the departed. In fact, they said, a hummingbird had followed them around for days shortly after their baby’s death. It was a sweet to think that Gus might have been buzzing about his dad’s car that day and we joked that he’d needed so many to get his attention.

Since then however, the hummingbird makes a regular appearance every where we go.

IMG_0049_5405-1After Christmas, on a short trip to Sedona, Arizona, “it” was in a store devoted to the work of local artists.  I’d gone in there to clear my head after an emotional breakdown and come across a series of hummingbirds pictures which I thought would make a great gift for my Korean friend and keepsakes for us.  I had forgotten my purse so I had to return the following day as we were heading out.  The store clerk that day just happened to be the artist herself who was only there one Sunday a month and as it turned out had also lost her youngest son of three many years before. Meeting her was remarkable not just because of the hummingbirds but because I had been struggling with the concept of time, the idea of moving away from him as time marched on.  She told us that the Native Americans believed that the hummingbird was a messenger from the “other side” and in a sense the hummingbird had brought me to her to confront the passage of time, like the hummingbirds had made their presence known at the trap range.  It had been more than forty years since she’d lost her boy and while she still ached for him, the tears had slowly become less.

h-bird-1 edited h-bird-2-1

This spring a hummingbird made its nest on the mariachi hat of my wind chime on the back porch. Despite the many years I’d tried to lure hummingbirds with an assortment of specialized feeders, it was the first time one made our home its home.


Later, on a trip to San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) in May, this hummingbird mosaic found its way into my hands.  Walking through an organic market, I met an American woman who’d moved there and then “accidentally” founded an art school for children, when children just wouldn’t leave her house after giving them pencils and paper. She was most excited about one particular boy’s art, “he makes the most amazing mosaics” she said.  After assuring us that all proceeds went to the school, she asked if we’d be interested in buying something. Turning to retrieve the piece, she lost her footing and as I caught her and the multitude of pieces she toppled over, she shoved “it” into my hands.  Of course a hummingbird.

Then, at my husband’s family reunion in Iowa this summer, one aunt had a hummingbird on her door while the other wore a hummingbird t-shirt to the reunion and finally on our epic family cruise, we came across a hummingbird drawn on a leaf as we walked ashore in Costa Rica.

Like the “Love You More” sign, drawings and bands we find when we least expect them, the hummingbird has become another sign that Gus is all around us…




Magical Gus

Smile - I'm Fine

Smile – I’m Fine

It occurs to me that we spend a great deal of time in life thinking about what happens after death. If the movies are any indication, we seem to have come to the consensus that the only way our spirits can linger on earth, if they linger at all, is as attacking, angry, torturing, evil presences. Otherwise the “good” spirits are supposed to have gone to the light where they roam about in vast fields awash in vibrant colors as the most beautiful version of themselves just waiting for us to join them.

It doesn’t seem fair that only evil spirits would have the power to make their presence known.  Shouldn’t loved and cherished spirits have the power to conquer all including death? As a Mexican-American I believed the spirits of our loved ones are always there to guide us; we need only be open to the signs. In my own life, when I was most anxious, worried and afraid, I had the sense that my grandmother came to me. Just as I started thinking of her, her favorite song (a very old one) played on the radio or she’d come to me in a dream.  But most often I felt her near me in the dead of night. I’d be jolted from a deep sleep by the smell of cigarettes (none of us smoke). The specific scent of her Lucky Menthols lingering far into me becoming fully awake.

The night Gus died I thought I felt his weight against my arm as though he had slipped into bed between us as he had done nearly every night since birth. I hoped to feel it again the next night and the night after that but the feeling never returned. I was beginning to think that it was only wishful thinking that had kept my grandmother around when we went to see AJ Barrera.  The reading suggested a spiritual awareness though that was far beyond what I ever imagined.  When we left, we resolved to be more open to the spirit, more specifically Gus’ spirit.

We left AJ’s house and headed to a Hallmark store for a gift.  Since Gus’ passing we’ve walked into a million stores carrying those painted wood signs with inspirational sayings.  We even bought the one with the quote by Wilfred Peterson, that says “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…” The sign we saw that day was different. It appeared like a personal message sent from above coming so soon after the reading.  It simply said:


This was our thing with him.  A nearly daily verbal war that was never resolved.  He’d usually start with “I love you Mom or Dad” and we’d say “I love you more” and then he’d say “I love YOU more”, and we’d go around and around until something else diverted our attention.  In typical Gus fashion he was getting the first word, foreshadowing Gus’ alternate presence in our lives.




For my birthday that year, his art teacher and a dear friend to me was wondering what to give me when she found this drawing he’d made on a rare day he was at school that last year.


My friend swears the box in which it was found had been emptied the previous fall in advance of the new fourth grade class and gone through a number times.  She was shocked to pull it out as an answer to what I should get for my birthday.





For father’s day a month later, my husband and older sons decided to go golfing at the last minute, getting one of the last few tee times at a course they’d never been to. They arrived to discover that a fourth man had been added to the group who walked up to them and said “Hi, I’m Gus!”.

Then later on the Fourth of July, a day Gus loved because we’d spend the entire day at the beach lighting sparklers well into the night, we found this:


A band he’d likely made at his last cub scout camp out. Could we have really overlooked it each time the car was cleaned out for over a year until it appeared in time for one of his favorite holidays?




His prayer card (shown above) says “Smile. I’m Fine”.  It is what he said to me each time he could see that I’d been crying.  I tried desperately not to cry in his presence, but sometimes I could not help it, the tears streaming down my face as much in grief as in anger that my precious boy was in crisis again.  AJ said Gus’ mission was to help us; to remind us to smile because we would be fine on earth as we are in heaven.

While I wish everyday he was here in the flesh, I am amazed at the many ways he continues to be present in our lives and how the spirit moves to answer and address the questions and concerns that affect our hearts.

Love you more……

Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part Four

Always smiling

Always smiling

I have no doubt that many readers will find a million ways our meeting with AJ Barrera was a complete farce.  We are after all grieving parents eager for evidence that our son is not really lost to us. Even I can point to the many times we offered up unsolicited information.  However, there is no way AJ could have known about the collie, the location of Gus’ memorial shelves in our house, the memorial plaque at his school (see below), that Gus would poke fun at his relationship with his oldest brother (see below) or that he would take credit for the music that fills his other brother’s life now (see below), not to mention accurately describing the personalities of all the other relatives that made an “appearance”.  But the reading was even more than that, hitting nearly every aspect of the difficulties and questions we had not even had the heart to talk to each other about. For example, until the reading, my husband had been incapable of venturing into the backyard, especially where the wagon was hiding directly across from the swing set.  It was there, at the bottom of the slide, that he and Gus had last spoken, having a heart to heart about life as Gus enjoyed the sun warming his bald head.  For my part, I was wondering if he’d woken up on the other side disappointed that he was no longer with us.  I could almost hear him say, “Aw Man, I’m dead…”.  I worried that it was my fault for not giving him the stem cells sooner, that I had missed something that would have kept him alive. It gave me great peace to know there was nothing I could do to prevent it and that he had been in control of his leaving and was ready for his transition. We left the reading with the knowledge that Gus is not just in our hearts and memories but that his spirit is actually still with us – we only have to be open to the signs.  Like our walk in Spain, our reading with AJ was trans-formative.  Since then, Gus is as present in our lives as ever and we are practicing living each moment with more presence and openness.  Life can be truly magic.

Final reading segment:

AJ:          I might misinterpret this….is there….I actually want to drop it down younger.  So I want to drop it down to your younger energy and I rather be wrong on it, but is there actually like a mural or either some sort of engraving or some sort of writing that you had done in honor of your son that I have to bring up here?

Us:         Yeah..

AJ:          Where is this if you don’t mind me asking?

Us:         It’s a memorial plaque at his school.

Memorial Plaque at Gus' school.

Memorial Plaque at Gus’ school.

AJ:          He wants to let you know…” thank you for honoring him and thank you for doing this” because there is a part of it that is written and it’s engraved and there is a part of it that he wants to let you know, it’s his way of waking up and being a legend because he is a legend on the other side because he is known on this side, there is like a superhero type of energy, that he is still strong and not fighting this but still the main guy on this side.  Is there a reference to him like just being like honestly a character?

Us:         Yeah..

AJ:          Because part of it like he is making me feel like “I am not sick, look, I’m not sick”, part of it like I’m alive, I’m happy, I’m having a good time and his energy for me is about kind of making you guys happy and making you guys laugh because I feel like his energy, when it was here physically was kind of to make you guys happy and make sure mom and dad were ok, it wasn’t for you guys to make him up, you know what I mean? I feel like his duty was to assist you and help you guys out as well, he’s also bringing up for me, do you actually…and this will sound very unique,  you don’t have his jacket with you do you?

Us:         Not with us for today, no.

AJ:          Do you carry his jacket around?  Why would he bring up his jacket?

Us:         His sweatshirt is hanging inside his room and I grab onto it every day.

AJ:          He wants to let you know that “I’m there with you when you do that”, “I’m there with you”, because he is making me feel like I need to acknowledge the jacket or the sweatshirt he is identifying with you and he wants to let you know I am still there for that event, I am still part of your life, because his energy, again, he is alive, like spiritually, he’s like right here, my hair is just rising, he’s a vibrant energy for you guys again, it’s not about the medium it is truly about you guys of understanding of why he wants to come across to you guys, it’s about making sure that mom and dad are ok.  They are also bringing up for me like when this energy….. did you say your mom passed on the fourteenth?

Us:         Uh –hugh.

AJ:          Then there must be another reference to this, because flag day is like June 15th, so is there another significance to a governmental holiday, that I need to bring up for you guys?

DSC_0038-1Us:         This morning, the cub scouts go put flags on all the graves for Memorial day.

AJ:          Are you guys doing an event?

Us:         I haven’t done it the last two years, today and last year but we did every year since he was born with him as a guy in a stroller, or as a cub scout.

AJ:          Have a party for him, he is going to be at those events so if you are placing the flags, he wants to acknowledge that I will be there with you guys, so enjoy the moment, enjoy the time with him and even though spiritually he is around you guys even though physically he is not, there is part that he wants to let you know I am still a part of your life today as well,  because when I look into you guy’s energy, he is making me feel like, you guys are a team, you are a whole, you guys are a backbone, so I don’t feel like one is weaker than the other I definitely feel like you guys balance each other where you guys are at, but his energy is like I just want to step forward and be this true energy for you guys as well.  Why? Is there a weird reference…..do you guys have ties to Orlando? Like Florida?

Us:         We took him to Disneyworld.  I have some relatives there.  We went there twice with him.

AJ:          It’s something one step further.  I don’t think it’s just Disney.  Or two I need to call him by a different name. So would he go by like Dopey, Sleepy, Goofy or something like that?  Is there a name that I am actually supposed to bring up here? To acknowledge him, or to acknowledge one of you guys? I feel like it’s a funny, haha, reference that he wants to acknowledge because I don’t think it’s just making the trip to Disneyland because I’d actually see like Anaheim but I feel like if you have ties to Orlando, then I feel like in some sense I need to acknowledge Disneyworld or maybe the name of something.  There is something they want to bring up here, like it’s a name.

Us:         We used to call his brother Grumpy.

AJ:          That makes sense, his brother?

Us:         Yeah.

AJ:          Your brother?

Us:         No, his older brother.

AJ:          Still call him Grumpy. Let him know he is still Grumpy from the other side, because I feel like I need to acknowledge him, and need to acknowledge like the name the character, and was he close to his brother if you don’t mind my asking?

Us:         Yes.

AJ:          Because I need to acknowledge him in a joking way, like bust his chops and let him know that I still want to feel like the brother energy.  But he is making me feel like he’s the better half though. So kind of like tease him with that, so he makes like he was known for that and even though parents don’t have like a favorite child, there is a part of him like he is the better one. So I feel like it’s his way of teasing him in a unique way because he’s making me feel like “I still have all the attention” regardless.   So I feel like it’s that type of energy of how he wants to step forward for both of you guys, you know what I mean? And I feel like the energy of him is just to be funny.  It is truly just to be funny and remember him how he was like today as well.  Now is there a separate energy, like on you guy’s level that is like a male that is passed over?  When I say your level I mean, brother, cousin, friend.

Us:         No – we don’t think so.

AJ:          If not then I might be switching over…….  AJ does switch over after all this time to another person in the group but Gus was not done.   After speaking to another woman for about twenty minutes, AJ turns back over and says…. Why is your son bringing up music? Was he a musician or why is he bringing up music?

Us:         No.  Our middle son is really into music all of a sudden.

AJ:          Your son is bringing up music.  Like he wants to let you know… like I am seeing musical notes.  Like when I am talking to her, he just threw music at me.  So I feel like it’s almost like he is not done, you know what I mean?  So I feel like he wants to jump in so I feel like of how they want to jump in just to acknowledge the energy.  They often do that just to get like the little messages across but I feel when your dad steps forward I need to acknowledge the signs and signals, so I feel like he is going to be inspired, like your son is inspiring your son now as sending the music across to him.



Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part Two

Is this really Gus?

Is this really Gus?

I left off just as Gus was “coming through”.  I admit the first part with Paul’s grandfather and my grandmother was somewhat generic.  The spirits were just sending love and promising to be with us but what he was about to tell us about Gus and then Paul’s mother would be far more specific and really the capture the “spirits” of Gus and his Nana.

AJ: Is there a younger energy passed over for you guys as well? I have to acknowledge, is this yours? (pointing at me) or both of you guys?

Us:         Both of us

AJ:          Both of you guys; Ok – I have to acknowledge that grandma is bringing through a younger energy and she wants to acknowledge that it is over there with me as well. When they bring this energy it makes me feel like it’s a ball of energy, so it makes me feel like its vibrant, its vibrant, its vibrant. And they are also bringing up for me, now I can totally misinterpret this but I actually feel like there is no responsibility connected to this energy, so like there is a point if they push responsibility and no blame is connected here so I feel like there was no way of preventing it, no way of stopping it.  Do you understand that? And there is a part that I am actually supposed to bring up here, now this…would this actually be a young energy? Not someone that is older? This wouldn’t be like someone who is eighteen, twenty right?

Us:         No

AJ:          Here is the thing and I am going to be completely honest with you guys, I actually feel like a young energy … like a kid.  I don’t know if there was life expectancy with this energy but there is part that I feel like I need to talk about like “I am living my life” and “I’m growing up with you guys as well.” They are also bringing up for me to talk about August. So where is August connected at?

Us:         That was his name.

AJ:          So it would be just their way of acknowledging and their way of stepping forward as well and there is a part of it that they want to step forward for you that “we’re here for you as well”  I don’t know how long ago the individual passed away, you don’t need to tell me, but there is a part of it they are making me feel like “I am well adapted on this side” and “I want to come through for you guys”, the part with the energy is that and this will sound very unique, um… are you familiar with the radio flyer, like the little red wagon? Is there a reason why I am actually supposed to bring that up? [AJ told us he communicates with the “other side” through his “spirit guides” so the “they” must refer to them]

Us:         He had one.

AJ:          Do you guys still have it?

Us:         Yeah.

We found the radio flyer here. The thing about this spot is that Gus used to spend a great deal of time perched on these two roofs.

We found the radio flyer here. The thing about this spot is that Gus used to spend a great deal of time perched on these two roofs.

AJ:          Make note to it. I don’t know why they are bringing up here, I don’t know if this is something I need to make note of like it moves by itself, I have no idea but there is a part of that the energy is saying that “I’m still around this wagon” so if it’s a toy wagon or actually a big wagon I need to acknowledge like the radio flyer type of thing, that “I am still around you guys” as well.


You can just make out the radio flyer in this picture.

You can just make out the radio flyer in this picture.

AJ: The part with your energy is that it’s making me feel like, and I’m being completely honest, it’s almost like I’m here and then I’m gone. Like I don’t, and I’m being completely honest, like I feel like a part with it’s that it’s not that they did not know what happened it just happened that’s the type of energy they are bringing up here; but they are also bringing up for me like, do you know if there was anything going on with its like blood stream that I have to bring up here? Like, either something was enlarged?… When the individual, your son did not, your son? He didn’t internally bled-out or bleed-in did he?

Us:         No. He had a…He had an infection.

AJ:          Ok.  He is bringing up his blood disease like whatever happened in his blood, but he is making me feel like something internally happened with him so and I’m sorry to be personal here but do you if this actually physically shut down his whole system?

Us:         Yes [Gus died of Septicemia, his internal organs shut down one by one over less than twenty-four hours]

AJ:          Ok.  I need to acknowledge, I don’t feel like this was one thing that happened as if it was a heart attack, an aneurism, you know what I mean this isn’t something that slowly deteriorated but I feel like it just snowballed with him, do you understand that?  And there is a part of it that he makes me feel like I need to acknowledge you (pointing at Paul).  So I don’t know if you still communicate with your son but he wants to acknowledge Dad, Dad, Dad and Happy Father’s Day because it’s coming up so I have to acknowledge, he wants to be like the father, he still wants to be like the dad type of energy around you, and still wants to kind of like, what I am seeing and don’t take the wrong way but like my dog going around my leg so I feel like it’s that the energy that it still wants to be connected with you still wants to hug you as well and they are also bringing up for me now, was August not supposed to be his name though?

Us:         [We giggle but don’t offer any more info. No one called him August but Gus and since we didn’t give him a middle name, he always wanted one and gave himself the name Zach.]

AJ:          Or two am I actually supposed to call him by a different name? Ok He is making me feel like I am not supposed to call him by like his name or I am actually supposed to call him by a different name and he wants to acknowledge like “I want to joke around about this”, “I want to joke around about this” as well and there is a type of energy, and don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to direct it to either to you mom because he is making me feel like “mom it’s not my fault”, “mom it’s not my fault” – so if there is either responsibility that you feel like you personally could have prevented it or stopped it, I need to let you know – I need to dust my hands clean from the situation and I need to let you know that “I made it over there safely”.  (Medium pauses looks off to the floor)  Would he be over five? [I did feel and sometimes still do feel responsible that I did not prevent his death.  I missed the clues and didn’t push harder to get another treatment.]

Us:         Yes

AJ:          Would he be eight?

Us:         He was ten.

AJ:          Where is like the eight significant at?

Us:         He’d been ok (in remission) for eight years.

AJ:          For eight years he was sick?

Us:         No he was fine for eight years and then he got sick again.

AJ:          (Pauses. Looks off to the side). Were you guys… Were you guys refusing medical advice… with your son? Like meaning like you guys were supposed to put on a respirator but took him off or like you were supposed to give him meds but you didn’t do it? Like they are showing me A. M. A. which represents “against medical advice” so is there something that you guys should have had done or something the doctors should have done but you guys didn’t do it?

Us:         I… I don’t know, I mean we were trying to get him to…there is the stem cells thing but that wasn’t really against medical advice.

AJ:          Like how, like what were you going to say?

Us:         Well we opted not to follow through on one protocol of one treatment. [We refused to return his stem cells immediately after one of his treatments because they warned us that while they are “cleaned” some cancer cells can still get by. It would take a long time but his bone marrow could recover on its own, he relapsed anyway.]

AJ:          Was that both of you guys’ decision?

Us:         Yes

AJ:          Here is the part of that, he is making me feel like I need to acknowledge this thing so if you guys feel like you should have done it, you should have went into it, again whatever the situation is like don’t feel responsible that you guys should have done it because I feel like it would have happened anyway and I’m sorry to be blunt about it but I feel like this energy already made its transition you know what I mean, it’s already on its verge and the part of it about this energy, it wants to validate for you is that (gardener makes lots of noise) sorry…sorry about the noise let me close this door real quick guys I don’t want to be distracted (closes door) but I feel like to make sense of what’s happening there is a part of it that I need to acknowledge the medical thing that happened like prior to the situation, prior before the passing and I feel like I need to let you know do not worry about that as well.  They are also bringing up for me…like do you… you guys don’t have a collie?

Us:         No we had one. I had a collie a long time ago. [This one really got us, not even Gus knew the collie, it passed before he was born and note he did not just say “dog” but collie – the collie’s name was Laddie]

AJ:          Is the collie passed over?

Us:         Yeah.

AJ:          I have to let you know he has the collie with him. (We start to laugh) I have to let you know he is with him on the other side because to me he is petting the dog (makes petting motion with his hand) to me he looks like Lassie but he is showing me the collie he has it on the other side.  He also wants to validate that we are part of the energy, we are part of the family so again whatever time frame has passed he wants to let you know we are still together, we are still one big family. But I don’t know if he knew your grandmother in life but he wants to let you know “I need to thank grandma for doing this and I need to thank grandpa for doing this” basically, these other loved ones for bringing through this energy.  The part with your son’s energy though is that, it’s like…I don’t want to be rude about it but it’s like he already knew but I don’t know if you guys told him what was going to happen because there is a part that I feel like there was a knowing that was there, like it’s almost like he knew he was going to make his transition, like he knew what was going on, like I don’t feel like this kid wasn’t aware of the situation but he is just making me feel like it just happened. — [We never told Gus he had “cancer”, we never told him he might die, actually he was doing really well despite the second relapse with his chemo. His death was not expected when it happened]– Do you know, and I don’t want to be personal here, (pause) do you know if he actually, and I don’t want to be blunt with this but did he like just pass away in his bed?

Us:         Yeah, well not in his bed he was in a hospital bed.

AJ:          He was in a medical bed because I feel like “I didn’t wake up”, like I feel like “I fell asleep and didn’t wake up” there is that type of thing that he is bringing up here so I don’t feel again like this was a cardio thing but I almost feel like I took my last breath and he wants to validate like “I’m still breathing”, “I’m still breathing” so if there is an issue that happened here within respiratory he wants to validate that I am still committed to being with you guys as well.  He is also bringing up for me like if I first walk into your front door, I actually feel like I am directly into your living room but I feel like off to the left is an offset dining room, is that correct?

Us:         Off to the left? No that is the living room.

AJ:          Ok, then I need walk to be in there. Do actually have a memorial in there of him?

Us:         Yeah

Gus' Memorial exactly where he described on the left side of the family room.

Gus’ Memorial exactly where he described on the left side of the family room.

AJ:          I need to acknowledge whatever is up or whatever is put out, he wants to let you know “thank you for doing this” so if this is even some sort of, I don’t even want to call it a shrine but I feel like it’s more like memorabilia in some sense he wants to let you know “I’m known for this” and “people see me”.  Do you understand that?

Us:         Yeah

AJ:          And there’s a part, he didn’t have like a, and this is going to sound funny to you, you know the Little Rascals?

Us:         Yeah

AJ:          You know Spanky?

Us:         Yeah

AJ:          Did he? Is there a hat that I am actually supposed to bring up that he has? You know how like the little spins?

Us:         Yeah

AJ:          Is there a hat that I am actually supposed to bring up or is there a reference that I am actually supposed to bring up to like the bowl hair cut? Did he have a bowl hair cut? I don’t know where he is going with this. But I feel like it’s about his appearance about either what he is wearing or what his hair looked like. So they are showing me Spanky. So I need to acknowledge this.

Gus and his hat.  He always asked me when he was going to be "normal" again.

Gus and his hat. He always asked me when he was going to be “normal” again – so it was curious that AJ used that language.

Us:         Oh, he had no hair so and he used to cover it up with a hat.

AJ:          I need to acknowledge that he has his hair back, that he has his hair back because I feel like he wants to joke around about his looks and appearance and he wants to acknowledge that “I’m normal again” and I feel like with his type of energy he wants to me to feel like you guys weren’t hurting him. So I don’t know if there was fear that you guys were putting him through trauma, or you guys were putting him through the situation, but he’s making me feel like (chuckles) “it’s all good” like, “it’s all good” like there is a part of his energy that “I’m still alive”.  I’m also supposed to bring up here, do you also have another younger energy, female energy connected here like still living?

Us:         Um. I mean nieces.

AJ:          You don’t have another daughter? I mean you don’t have a daughter? You are not pregnant are you?

Us:         Not that I know of.

AJ:          (Very awkward pause) I don’t want to get too personal but are you guys trying to have another kid?

Us:         No but we are not preventing it.

AJ:          Here is the thing that I feel like I need to bring in a female energy not a male energy so if someone just had a child that would make sense, if someone is going to have a child that would make sense but if none of that I need to bring up a new energy coming in. So it means like you’re pregnant, you are going to get pregnant, um…I’m fluttering that is why so when someone is fluttering I know there is a baby situation going on.

Us:         Ok. That would be his gift to us, I guess. [No – I am not pregnant, at my age that would be a miracle BUT my cousin did give birth to a beautiful baby girl April 2014.]

AJ:          No I feel like it’s his way of acknowledging that circle of energy so if there is something you guys are… try not to stop it because I feel like there is a new energy so if this is something you guys choose to do, I feel like there is a new energy coming in. So it’s his way of kind of acknowledging himself and acknowledging that circle of energy as well.  Why would he bring up for me like…was this individual really hooked up to like IVs and everything?

Us:         Yes, a lot.

AJ:          Like I mean… like poked and prodded, like the whole nine ok… there is a part of it that I feel like this child is actually to me an old soul type of energy, it’s almost like it’s lived it’s life and it’s making me feel like “I’ve done this before and I was actually here to assist you and help you”.  I feel like with your son’s energy with both of you guys, is that even though your son passed away there is a part that he is making me feel like, you guys still haven’t gone through the grieving process and truly let go of that situation.  It doesn’t mean that you guys have to forget about him but it is to help you guys move forward because he is making me feel like “mom and dad” he is showing me green lights over on both of you guys which represents to let go and to move on. It doesn’t mean to detach from the situation but just know he is part of your life and I feel like in some sense I want to lead with dad more so than mom, it is almost as if you feel guilty for being happy. You know what I mean, so it’s like if you are not happy it’s just like I should be thinking about my son, I should not be happy and having a good time and he is like “dad you need to have a good time, dad you got to enjoy your life”. And they are also bringing up for me, they are bringing up a boat around you so I don’t know if you guys are going on a cruise or if you are going on a trip, but he is bringing up a big boat that’s around you. So why is the boat significant here?

Us:         We went on a trip recently [We thought he was talking about Spain.]

AJ:          Was it a cruise?

Us:         No.

AJ:          What is the boat referencing?

Us:         Oh We were supposed to go on a cruise but then he got sick again. [We had booked a cruise to Baja the year he relapsed that we never took.]

AJ:          Was that because of him?

Us:         Yeah.

AJ:          Make the cruise happen.  Take the cruise.  He will be there for that event, because I feel like I need to acknowledge like bringing the enjoyment of having a good time so if it’s something you felt you know we couldn’t do it because you had to spend more time with your son, our son if you will, he wants to let you know mom and dad enjoy that time and make it happen as well.

It will take another two posts to finish our “reading” with AJ. He actually spent more than forty minutes just with us.  ALSO – we are taking the cruise.  The entire family is making that trip happen in less that two weeks and just to prove that Gus is always helping us – Carnival honored our previously paid and “lost” deposits for everyone.  


Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part One


Hello… heaven?…

Grief, like being Mexican, has a way of making you do things you might not otherwise have done. Only a Mexican would eat a piece of fruit with lime, salt and lots of chile and only a grieving mother would consider going to a medium but I am both, so when it seemed like a medium was calling me, I went.

Shortly after returning from our walk in Spain, I was channel surfing my favorite radio presets when I came across my “latino” station in the midst of their “medium” segment. I’ve been a fan of the station for years and I had never heard this type of segment so I stopped and listened to it for a while before turning it off.  Had that been the only time that I heard the medium I would have never gone, but as it happened it seemed like every time I was in the car for the next few weeks I caught that very segment.

As far as I could tell, the medium, AJ Barrera, was really good although what did I know? My only exposure to mediums were on TV via the Ghost Whisperer and Crossing Over with John Edwards. AJ though, appeared to be specific about dates and names, not just throwing out “I am getting an “A” name”.  It was even more impressive because his readings were over the phone and therefore he could not be “reading” the person in front of him. So, I acquiesced to the universe and looked him up on-line, discovering that not only was he local, but that he was having a “spirit circle” a month away.  My first thought was to go by myself – in secret – just in case it didn’t t work out. What if it was just “mental-ism” like on the Mentalist or Gus’ spirit did not even show up? but, as I was signing up I noticed that there were two spots left and decided I should at least ask my husband who to my shock said he would go.

It was only after I paid the small fee that I looked at the small print.  The session was scheduled to last an hour and the sold out group would consist of eight.  While everyone was guaranteed a reading, we’d get what – fifteen minutes?  I began to fret.  How could I be so gullible?  Could they look us up? How would I prevent myself from leaping to conclusions?  I was tempted to cancel when we received an e-mail confirming our attendance at the spirit circle on Saturday May 25th, but then I thought..What if Gus came through?

When the day finally arrived, we were a mess of nerves.  We left and arrived far too early for the session and were forced to sit in the car until it was time to go in.  I concentrated on asking the universe for a small favor, to let us be the only ones in the circle, while Paul made sure we were “unreadable”, no Gus pendants, no letters, nothing with us that could give us away.  When it seemed like we’d waited enough, we went in.

We were received by a much younger man than we’d imagined.  AJ is young, twenty-eight but his baby face makes him look even younger.  He has the kind of face that puts you at ease right away, the kind that says trust me – I told myself not to.  He led us into the living room of his home where two other ladies were already waiting.  My heart sank, I had hoped to be alone.  We talked about the things people do when they don’t know each other; the sun, the LA traffic, the holiday weekend while we waited for the other four.  They never showed up.

What I am about to share with you is what he told us – word for word.  We have a recording of the entire session and I spent hours making sure I wrote down exactly what was said.  The skeptic in me says he must have read us like an open book.  There are lots of things that are obvious, like the fact that everyone has a grandparent that’s passed over, or that a couple showing up together has likely lost a child. I admit that at times we offered more than we should have verbally and perhaps non verbally but there are lots of things he could not have known or that we can’t imagine him going through the trouble to find out just for our sake. Most impressive is that more often than not he did not even look at us directly but down and to the side.  So here it goes…..

AJ:          Actually I’ll start with you guys first of all.  How are you guys related please?

Us:         Husband and Wife

AJ:          Ok. So the first thing I do want to bring up here. I actually have an older gentleman that does step forward first of all this will actually be most like a dad figure that has passed over. If anything I actually feel like I am directed with you. So what was your name again? Paul?

Us:         Paul

AJ:          I want to link with you so do you know your dad’s side of the family pretty well?

Us:         Pretty much, yeah.

AJ:          Ok. Do you know if his father has passed over please?


Paul’s Grandfather Raymond – The parallels we forgot is that although our older son is not biologically Paul’s, I named my son Ramon – spanish form of Raymond.

Us:         Yeah  [Paul’s grandfather lived in Iowa, Paul was much closer to his mother’s father so it was a surprise to have this grandfather come forward.]

AJ:          Ok. I want to lead with him and your dad is still here?

Us:         Yeah

AJ:          Ok. I need to acknowledge like his side and need give the love to his son. I don’t know if your dad is open to this work but I need to acknowledge that type of energy. When they bring this up for me like your grandfather is making me feel like I need to acknowledge you.  So I don’t know if there is actually parallels in dates or parallels in names that I am actually supposed to bring up here, but there’s like a times two so where is that connected please?

Us:         (Silence we are totally blank…….)

AJ:          Is there like parallels in names like your first name is like someone else’s middle name?

Us:         Uh. Yes. My dad’s middle name is his dad’s name.

AJ:          Ok. So that would his way of acknowledging his son and acknowledging the energy. So again, I don’t know if your dad is open to this work, but he does want to step forward and wants to acknowledge his son type of energy as well.  They are also bringing up for me to talk about April so where is April connected at here?

Us:         (More silence…)

AJ:          Connect it to your dad’s side.

Us:         No. I don’t…  It’s not coming to mind right now.

AJ:          I still feel like I’m here with you (pointing at Paul).

Us:         April? No.

AJ:          And where is like the hard like J or G name connected here?

Us:         Still Blank

AJ:          Where is like a George or Joseph?

Us:         There is no one I don’t…there is a Raymond is a….

AJ:          UH. UH. Don’t give me names.

Us:         Oh sorry. No I don’t…Not…

AJ:          And this person is still living they are not passed over.

Us:         (Still Blank) [We never did figure this out]

AJ:          Is your dad one of four?

Us:         No. Two.

AJ:          So its April connected.  They keep bringing up four, four, four.

Us:         No.

AJ:          That’s ringing is huge, so the four is very significant how they are showing it to me.

Us:         I don’t know. I can’t think of it can you? I can’t think of it either.

AJ:          Is someone born like on the fourth of a month, like January fourth, February fourth?

Us:         No.

AJ:          They are bringing this four like huge, this is like huge, they are not letting this go.

Us:         Cameron is born on the fourth I think… of February? [Cameron by the way is not born on this day]

AJ:          That’s fine as long as it’s the fourth, who is Cameron connected to?

Us:         Paul’s side, my nephew, my sister’s son…

AJ:          (Pause) And is there a separate energy for you (pointing at me) like a mom figure passed over?

Us:         For me?  Yes.

AJ:          But mom is still here?

Us:         Yes


My grandmother Elvira – the four connection we could not think of – her birthday was November 4th and my mother had four children – duh….

AJ:          Then I want to link this onto to your mom’s side of the family, so I don’t know if you know your mom’s side of the family but there is definitely an older female that does step forward like a mom that steps forward but she’s making me feel like I need to acknowledge these parallels, so I don’t know if there is like parallels in dates or parallels in four connection but I feel like I need to acknowledge that type of energy so I don’t know how well your grandfather knew like your sort of energy, like your family now but there is definitely a feeling that he steps forward and wants to acknowledge you guys and wants to acknowledge like the ties that bring you guys together.  I don’t know if you are recently married or you guys been together for quite some time but there is a part that he wants to acknowledge like and the female figure that I want to step forward.  With this female figure there is a part of it when she talks about her passing, like I feel like this was more like respiratory how it happened, I feel like it’s more of a natural thing, I don’t feel like it was like was a tragic event as how it happened.  Do you understand that please?

Us:         Yes [My grandmother did not recover from surgery for a brain aneurysm but she continued breathing on her own for a while after she was taken off the respirator]

AJ:          And there is a part of it that she is also bringing up for me, now they are bringing up for me … is there also like a Margaret or Marie connected here?

Us:         Um Marie? [Me not trying to leap to conclusions.]

AJ:          Yeah – who is like the M – R name connected to.

US:         My mom, Maria?

AJ:          Ok. So that would be her way of acknowledging her daughter giving her love to your daughter.  So your mom’s mom is passed over?

Us:         Yes.

AJ:          So it would be her way of acknowledging her. So the only reason they give the names is to acknowledge these individuals. I don’t know if you knew your grandmother well in life, but she is making me feel like I need to give the love to you as well.  The unique part about her is that she wants to definitely be like the mom energy, not the grandma energy so there is a part of her that she wants to let you know “I wanna give love” but she comes across as a very, very dominant energy almost like a male’s energy where she kind of pushes your loved ones out-of-the-way (pointing at Paul) and says this is my turn this is like my type of show as well. She is also bringing up for me, now I don’t know if this is either on your level or I need to drop it younger. Is there a younger energy passed over for you guys as well? I have to acknowledge. Is this yours? (pointing at me) or both of you guys?

Until next post…….

Our Camino – Final Thoughts – April 12, 2013

Buen Camino

Buen Camino

We took a bus from Finisterre back to Santiago de Compostela.  What had taken us four days to walk was covered in less than three hours. The landscape looked different from the confines of a bus and as we rode along we thought about how the Camino had affected us.

When we planned the trip, we doubted that we could make it from Sarria to Finisterre, we wondered if the pain in our hearts would amplify the inevitable pain in our legs, leaving us stranded in the middle of Spain. We were angry, secretly demanding that God explain himself via burning bush or a hand written apology, however we’d settle for a glimpse of Gus, walking along with us, maybe just slightly ahead.  It was crazy of course but this particular “Camino” was a religious pilgrimage so why not?  There were no notes of course and the ground was too wet for bushes to burn, even miraculous ones, and all we were ever saw were cows but as we walked, we marveled at how much the journey mirrored life.

There were ups and downs and whole areas of mud and sludge that threatened to bog us down.  Forward progress went smoothly when “all water was under the bridge”, keeping us stagnant when it was not.  We’d proceeded carefully trying to avoid all the “crap”, while others simply stepped in it, but more often than not the “crap” found us anyway.

We thought about how easily we had faith in odd things, like Ewan of MacAdventures (not MacTours) to whom we entrusted our money and personal belongings, not once worrying that our hotels would not be booked or our things would not be safely kept ahead of us; and that the Camino markers were official, always taking us where we needed to go even when they were spray painted on the road; along the side of a house, or a tree.  Our struggle with faith therefore was not that we did not have it to throw around but that we had to keep it, even now, when things had gone horribly wrong.

The road to the end of the world was by far the most difficult part of our journey, but just when we wrestled with the idea that leaving Gus rocks, crosses and pictures was pointless and only adding to our misery, we’d met Andrew and Chris who lifted our spirits and were surprised to discover it was us who’d left the amazing rock they’d seen on their way out of Santiago after their own happenstance meeting.

We do not return ready to empty Gus’ room (if ever) or with any more clarity than when we left, but we proved to ourselves that we are stronger than we imagined having walked an average of 20km per day for ten days much like we’ve gotten up everyday since 6-24-12.  The Camino has given us some peace knowing that while we will always love Gus and will miss him more with every passing day, we can walk in this new world.  Buen Camino.

For Gus

Until we meet again Gus. 

Rock On Baby!

Rock On Baby!

We are on our way.

We are on our way.

Our Camino – Finisterre – April 11, 2013

Onward Pilgrim

Onward Pilgrim

We woke up this morning to dark menacing clouds threatening a downpour at any second.  Yesterday’s sun had been abducted by the force that insisted our walk be difficult to the end. It brought out our innate dispositions, with me tending toward optimism, insisting it would get sunny therefore going without my rain jacket and my husband tending towards pessimism going for the full rain armor.  We set out early after our final “pilgrim’s breakfast” of toast and Iberian ham and cheese.  Our legs and feet felt fresh for this final leg, we were sure we’d cover the next fifteen kilometers in record time.

The Camino continued to be a challenge, taking us through more mud, over bigger boulders, across swollen rivers and along partially washed out roads.  We thought that after the beautiful Cathedral in Santiago, the ocean-side finishing village of Finisterre would be a disappointment but we were wrong.  The sight of waves crashing against the beach as we made our way out of the mountains to walk along the shore was moving in ways we had not anticipated. Further ahead we caught a glimpse of our friends, Andrew and Chris, but they were walking too briskly and we could not catch up. That final ascent to the edge world was for us to walk alone.

As we neared town, we looked up towards the light house at the very edge of the peninsula, but it was barely visible. Like our journey without Gus, it was fitting that our final destination would be encased in fog. Mid-way up the final hill, just as we walked past the statue of a pilgrim appearing to lunge head first into the wind, a ferocious windstorm blew down the hill, pushing us back, but we persisted by taking on the statue’s stance to continue up the road.

The lighthouse was virtually deserted when we arrived, winds swirled and howled all around us, furious, as though we’d done something wrong.  To get to the very edge of the cliff where a bronze boot commemorated the pilgrim’s journey, we had to become more than penitent, we had to become beggars, crawling out on all fours just to take a look.  We had intended to leave our final offering there but were forced to double back to a sheltered ledge we’d seen near the 0 kilometer marker.  There protected from the wind, we pulled out a pair of Gus’ beloved basketball shoes from our packs, each of us having carried one shoe for 215 kilometers.  Through a mess of tears we scribbled our final messages to him, leaving one shoe on the ledge with his prayer card and a cross and keeping the other shoe to bring home as a reminder that we will always carry him with us.  We walked back to the 0 kilometer marker and left our final rocks – one for Gus’ Wito Juan, his Nana Robyn and one for Gus.  We’d just finished taking our final picture, when the heavens opened up, pelting us into seeking shelter at the souvenir kiosk.  For a second we thought we could walk back, but as the sheets of rain came down much heavier than any we’d experienced, it was clear to us that our Camino had ended.  God and Gus were saying it was time to stop walking and call a cab.

Final Destination encased in fog.

Final Destination encased in fog.

Bronze Pilgrim's boot.

Bronze Pilgrim’s boot.

Gus' shoes - he will always fill up the space between us.

Gus’ shoes – he will always fill the space between us.

Leaving one shoe behind

Leaving one shoe behind

We did it!

We did it!

Final Rocks.

Final Rocks.