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….

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.



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.

Our Camino – We get by with a little help from our friends – April 9, 2013

Keep Going

Keep Going

The Camino has a way of bringing things to you just when you need them, like the men who appeared to the group of young women to carry the wheelchairs for them. It was no different for us, when we most needed a boost, some levity, three Irishmen and an Argentinian walked into the bar. No, it is not the start of a pathetic joke, they really did.  Andrew, the tallest of the bunch was celebrating his 61st birthday, on this journey to Finisterre. He’d met, Chris the Argentinian at the outskirts of Santiago, the Camino throwing them together as walking companions.  Chris, who’d done the walk to Santiago the year before and spoke the language had somehow gone several kilometers in the wrong direction before realizing his error and retracing his steps, getting to the start of the Camino again, just as Andrew was beginning. They’d been walking together for two days.  The other two Irishmen, who’s names we did not catch due to their heavy brogue had only just met up with them.  They invited us for a drink, apologizing that the bar only carried Scottish Whiskey, we chatted, they joked, we laughed.  It was midnight when we all decided to go to bed, our new friends anxious about the difficulty of the next morning’s first ten kilometers, straight up hill they said, the whole way.  We divulged that we would not be joining them as our arrangement included a 10 kilometer transfer, they said we did not know how lucky we were and joked they might be begging for a ride.

The next morning, we could not help feeling a little ashamed as we rode comfortably in the cab while the few scattered pilgrims walked up a steep hill along the hard asphalt highway, their trek made even more uncomfortable by a steady downpour.  But, as the cab pulled off exactly at the 10 kilometer mark, we had another thought.  Providence had lightened our load.  Months before, when making the necessary arrangements for our journey, our MacTours booking guru Ewan had informed us of the transfer.  We balked at him, not wanting to cut any corners, but Ewan had simply said “trust me, you will want the transfer”.  After our experience the day before, the transfer was not only wanted but necessary, another hill would have crippled us for ever.  The total walking distance that day was 33 kilometers, we still had another 23 km to go, up and down more knee killing hills in the bitter cold and rain.  By the time we arrived at our hotel, exhausted and soaked, we were grateful for the head start.  We concluded that God often sends you help well in advance of when you may need it.  We thought back on all the people that were put in our lives well in advance of when we’d lose Gus and how much they’d help lighten our load as we went through the worst time in our lives.  We are forever grateful.

More hills, more rain.

More hills, more rain.

This tree looks like a hand holding a ring -

This tree looks like a hand holding a ring –

One of the few markers for a Gus rock.

One of the few markers for a Gus rock.

 God -Thanks for the help today.

God, thanks for the help today.

Our Camino – Santiago to Negreira – April 8, 2013

To Finisterre - To Santiago

To Finisterre – To Santiago

Less than ten percent of pilgrims who arrive in Santiago continue on to what was previously thought of as “the end of the world”, Finisterre.  This is true from what we’ve observed, as we’ve only run into a few pilgrims since leaving Santiago, mostly solitary men.  The journey is more difficult, on this side of the “Camino”. The distance between towns is greater, the road more treacherous and less kept. So far, we’ve ducked under fallen trees and the rocks that have always littered the path are boulders not pebbles. We’ve spent a great deal of time therefore looking at our feet, reminding us of that Indiana Jones movie line that says that “only the penitent man may pass”.

When we left Santiago we felt like Camino pros, looking forward to the next 25 km, our legs anxious to get going again, but as the day wore on, we became physically and emotionally wrecked.  Before arriving in Spain, we had practiced going up and down a steep hills, judging the steepness of the maximum hill by our John Brierly guidebook.  What we had not anticipated or encountered before was a hill that was not so much steep, as it never seemed to end.  Every time we rounded a corner thinking we’d finally reached the zenith we’d only found more hill. Our legs wore out taking our hearts with them.

I personally grew angrier and angrier as I continued to climb the hill.  My thoughts going from “will this hill ever end?” to “why did I ever agree to go to Finisterre?, then to “why did I even want to do this walk?” and finally to “why God had taken our beautiful boy!”  I was sobbing by the time I reached the top and with no one else to be angry at, I blamed my husband for failing to warn me about the length of the hill. So I left him, nearly sprinting down hill as quickly as I could..  As I reached the bottom, furiously wiping the tears from my eyes, I came upon an “ass” in an open field, eating grass, minding his own business. I could have sworn that in that moment, the rain clouds parted and the sun illuminated the donkey as though God was saying “stop being such an ass”.  Even angrier, I gained speed. I was galloping now, trying to leave my grief behind.  I stopped only when I arrived at a medieval bridge over an expansive river, the water rushing underneath, mirroring my own fury. I softened just a little, thinking how literal God could be when he is trying to communicate.  I sat and waited for my husband, my sobs being carried away by the current.

My husband came along a few minutes later, he’d been wrestling with his own pains, one in his heart and one in his leg having pulled a muscle trying to catch up to me. I did not need to apologize, he said, he understood and felt the same.  He was only worried that I’d get lost or be kidnapped by the truck that kept driving back and forth.  I apologized anyway and the thought of a scrawny little man trying to push me, amazon woman, into a truck with all my gear, as furious as I was made us laugh.  We were still laughing when he asked if I’d noticed the “ass” along the road, informing me that he’d taken a picture of it just in case (God still trying to make a point). The bridge loomed before us, like the rest of our lives without Gus.  If we were going to make it, we’d need to cross the bridge of grief together. We collected the pieces of our heart, stuffing them into our pockets with the hope of piecing it back together later and crossed the bridge.

Leaving Santiago

Leaving Santiago

Starting up the hill

Starting up the hill

Still going up.

Still going up.

I know - I was being an ass.

The ass.

Crossing over.

Crossing over.



Our Camino 2013 – March 28th – 30th

Gus was in “remission” Easter of 2012. We celebrated the promise of that “new beginning” with an Easter egg hunt that had the kids solving mathematical clues and riddles to get to the big prize, a money filled golden egg.  We took pictures of our three boys as usual, Gus there in the middle of his two much taller brothers, all smiles.  I took a tentative breath and thanked God for another miracle.  This time the miracle would not give us eight more years but just a few more months.  Soon he complained of leg pain again.  Soon he was back in chemo.  Soon he was gone.

We planned to start “Our Camino” on Easter of 2013 not only because we could not bear to be home but because we were in-fact starting anew.  Not all beginnings are happy and bright we’ve since discovered but they are beginnings nevertheless.  A beginning we chose to greet with a saddened smile but a smile still in his honor .  The following is a chronicle of our journey last year as originally posted privately to our closest family and friends (minus the grammatical and spelling errors).  I hope it helps someone.

WE ARE WALKING – March 28, 2013

In just a few hours we will embark on “Our Camino”.  We are likely over packed and under-prepared but excited and anxious.  Why walk?  After the year we’ve had why not just sit on a remote tropical island beach, staring off into the horizon sipping on fruity drinks? Because we can’t. In one of his first sermons after being elected Pope Francis said “Walking, our life is a journey and when we stop there is something wrong”.  So we will walk.  We will walk to try to move away from the pain of so much loss and towards the promise of our reunion.  We will walk to honor the physical challenges that Gus endured without complaint or bitterness.  We will walk to know that moving forward does  not mean leaving him behind.  We will walk because if we stop, we may never get up again.  How appropriate that our “Camino” begins Easter Sunday.






Gus & His Nana – Both lost to us in June of 2012




DSC_0130Gus & his Great-Grandfather Juan who followed him to heaven in February of 2013.





WAITING TO WALK – March 30, 2013

Funny thing to say “waiting to walk” but we are.  After almost twenty-five hours of planes and trains we arrived in Sarria (pronounced “sorry-uh”) early – very early Saturday morning. The train station, a smallish building that kind of looked like a house, was encased in fog just like in the movies.  We were surprised to discover we’d been traveling with a number of other “pilgrims” who immediately took off on their journey.  For a second we were a little embarrassed that our backpacks were inside the two enormous bags we dragged while they carried nothing more than their backpacks and that we were headed straight for our hotel while they hit the road after the long journey from Madrid. However, a quick whiff of myself got me over that bit of humiliation only to be replaced by the even bigger humiliation of just how loud two rolling bags can be over cobble stone streets.  We are happy to report however that we do not appear to have awoken anyone (at least no one yelled at us) and that we were immediately given our room despite arriving far too early for check-in (no doubt they got a whiff of us too).  We were able to take a nap, shower and eat before heading out to look around town and purchase our pilgrim shells.  We will commence walking tomorrow because we intend to start walking refreshed and looking good!