Mike Gardner walked the Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometre pilgrimage across the north of Spain. He was so moved by his experiences that he wrote a book called Miracles on the Camino.
Mike has a rest day high in the Asturian Mountains – but he only gets two hours’ sleep.
My plan to get a good night’s sleep at my Spanish friend Ana’s house, high up in the Asturian Mountains and 100km from the Camino and its record-breaking snorers, was a bit of a disaster.
Ana has a dog called Mara, a large labrador who I have met before. Mara’s favourite pastime is sleeping and her best friend is a tabby cat called Twitter. They seem to spend all day slumbering together on the large patio in front of the house. Unfortunately for me, herds of corzos (wild deer) and jabalís (wild boar) chose last night to begin some kind of migration across the mountain pass just behind the property. This didn’t go down too well in the mind of Mara, who reacted to the commotion by barking loudly sometime around 1am about three feet from my bedroom window. She started to get bored after around four hours. I thought I was having a dream about Sherlock Holmes and The Hounds of Baskerville and I eventually drifted off in the early morning and now I can’t wait to get back to the more familiar sounds of sleeping pilgrims.
Tomorrow, I am getting a train back to Leon where I will pick up the path to Santiago, sometime around 10 in the morning. Xxxxxxxx
I have a wonderful, joyous and uplifting story to share with you today. It is, quite literally, a miracle and if you don’t shed a tear after hearing it, you don’t have a soul.
It is around 12 noon and I am sitting in the plaza in front of Leon’s stunning cathedral. There’s some kind of party going on where old and young are dancing together in harmony following the movements of a fitness instructor on a raised stage. Children are wearing white shirts and red bandanas and they are laughing a lot.
I could see her from the corner of my eye, staring at me, but I couldn’t place her. “Are you the guy who writes those blogs about the Camino?’ she asked, without waiting for an answer. ‘They are great. I love reading them. I came here looking for an answer, but I couldn’t find it and I just cried myself to sleep at night. I felt so alone, but something incredible happened to me last week. I have never felt so happy in my life and it is God’s work. He has saved me.”
We sat down together on a bench, holding hands, surrounded by dancing children and I just listened, in awe of her courage, writing notes as best I could, as her stunning story unfolded in front of me, surrounded by so much beauty.
Her name is Jo and she is from Tauranga, New Zealand. From time to time, Jo tries to kill herself. She can’t begin to explain it. When she was nine-years-old, she decided that her life wasn’t amounting to much, so she went into a barn and drank a large bottle of tomato fertiliser. Thankfully, she was violently sick and that saved her life. Every now and then, the urge to end her life overpowers her and there is nothing she can do about it. Her last attempt to kill herself was a few months ago, but she says that is all behind her now. She is a new person and she can’t stop smiling. Her demons have gone, cast aside by the glorious intervention of God, a few days ago, right here on the Camino, in a tattoo parlour in Leon.
“God came to me. I don’t know why. I just know He has and now I can’t wait for the rest of my life. God is the hero, not me. Everything has come from Him. People who have tried to take their own lives usually have scars. Normal people don’t think about this, but I had scars all over my wrists. Every time I wash my hands I can see them, but not anymore. Look.”
Jo pulls back her shirt and now she is beaming. She shows me an incredible work of art. There are four exquisitely drawn flowers which signify her children and a colourful bee above them which represents Jo looking out for the people she loves most. The word ‘family’ flows through the artwork.
“I told the tattooist my story and he drew me a marvellous design,” she says. “When he had finished we just hugged each other and cried. Now I have a new life, a new beginning. God has changed everything. I have been fighting this terrible thing for 48 years and now it is over. I don’t care what people think. God has empowered me. I would lie in bed and think about my life. It was such a battle. Sometimes I got through it and other times I didn’t and that is when I tried to hurt myself. I just decided that it was easier to kill myself than go on living. I didn’t feel depressed. It just seemed the best thing to do. God has saved me. He has fixed everything and now my walk is over. It is one of the happiest days of my life. I came to the Camino looking for an answer and God has provided it. People judge others who have suicidal thoughts, but unless you have been there, you can’t possibly understand. Mike, I want you to share my story please. There will be people out there who will be feeling like I used to feel. If they read my story, perhaps they might understand that you can beat this thing.”
Then we cried together and hugged one last time and Jo was gone, swallowed in an instant by the dancing children.
Next month: Mike meets a Spanish Golden Eagle.
Miracles on the Camino by Mike Gardner can be downloaded directly onto your Kindle, mobile, tablet or computer from Amazon books for 4.32€. It has 173 pages and more than 80 pictures is and is also available as a hardback and can be delivered to your house in Spain.