As is the case with many Americans, Shari learned about the Camino watching the movie, “The Way”. When she saw it, she wondered if this was a real place and decided to do some research to see if the Camino de Santiago was real or just Hollywood. As soon as she discovered it was real she knew she needed to learn everything she could because she must go there. She had many limits, she did not speak Spanish, she had never been to Europe and lacked any knowledge of international travel. From the beginning she knew she had to do the Camino, she felt as though she had an umbilical cord still attached and someone or something was pulling on that cord so strongly there was no way she could deny the calling.
It was 2013 when she decided this was something she must do. She is a recovering alcoholic and has not had a drink in 25 years. She discussed this with her husband and though he was not interested in going himself he supported and encouraged her to go. Finally after much training she went on her first Camino in September of 2014 beginning in Saint Jean Pied de Port and walked for 6 weeks until she reached Santiago.
She was very nervous and very excited, it really seemed like a challenge. She had met 2 other pilgrims in New England before leaving on her journey and though they crossed paths the first couple days they soon parted ways and Shari walked alone most of the time. Despite having trained for months, after 9 days on the trail she found herself with blisters that kept her from walking for 3 days. She had met some pilgrims along the way that had become her Camino family and she wanted to continue walking with them so she took a taxi for 3 days so she would be in the same town as they were each evening. Shari had heard that on her 6 week journey the first 2 weeks would be all about the physical, the second 2 weeks would be all about the mental and the third 2 weeks would be all about the spiritual. She was finding this to be true so far as her pain was all physical in these first 2 weeks.
While walking on the Meseta Shari began to understand why the pull for her to be here was so strong. She recalled the many things she had survived as a child, sexual abuse by her father (who had died 2 years before her journey), her drug and alcohol problem that began when she was just 13 years old. She was feeling the pain of her brothers and sister not allowing her to visit with her father before he died. She had forgiven him years before and her only intention in seeing him was to love him and touch him before he died, but they wouldn’t allow it. They also didn’t want her to attend his funeral and told the funeral director to keep her away. To their dismay he didn’t do as requested and Shari was present at his funeral, but none of her siblings would speak to her and were very agitated that she was there.
The day she was walking into Astorga which happened to be a 32k day she had a break through, she knew she could no longer go on carrying these resentments and her anger towards her brothers and sister, that it was destroying her from the inside out. She knew she must forgive them for how they treated her and she now understood there was no way they could believe her truth from the past as it meant their past was also a lie. Her forgiveness towards them began, she knew she must forgive them on many levels, for not believing her, not supporting her, and abandoning her when she needed them the most. From that moment forward her heart began to soften and she had compassion for them and what they too had gone through. Within 48 hours of this realization God had already touched her family and things were in motion back home for a family reunion. Shari was still in Spain, but contact had been made with her husband by her mother and brother that started the healing of the family. Shari was astounded and realized that all she had to do was to be willing and open her heart. God took care of the rest. Shari’s mother had been sad for years watching the fragmentation of her children, she now had tears of joy at seeing all 4 of her children united again in love.
Upon her return to the States, she was grateful for the experience but said “I’ll never do that again, it was just too difficult for her feet, they were in pain every day. About a month later she met up with a woman who lives in New Hampshire who she met and ended up walking the last 4 weeks of her Camino with. They had become close friends and were thrilled to learn they were about 3 hours apart and could meet halfway to walk together. On their 7 mile walk they passed a pile of dead leaves in someones front yard, to their amazement when they looked down at that pile of leaves they noticed 2 scallop shells on top of the pile. The just glanced at each other in disbelief and then Shari said, “Oh my God we’re going back!”
Shari did return in April of 2016 to do the Camino Frances again, but her friend did not accompany her. She had heard that it was a Jubilee year announced by the Pope as the Year of Mercy. She knew she wasn’t finished with her healing. This time it had nothing to do with her family but had everything to do with her own being and the inability to forgive herself for her own past. In speaking with one of her religious friends she realized this was a must for her, she must ask for forgiveness from God but must also be able to finally forgive herself for what she believed was unforgivable.
For this Camino she had an intention before she even left home. In her days of drug and alcohol use and madness as a young girl she had made some very bad choices and had become pregnant, not just once but twice, and on both occasions had decided to abort the babies at 6 weeks pregnant. After all these years of trying to move past this, she still felt regret, remorse and a hatred for herself for doing such a horrendous act. She needed to heal that wound to be able to move forward in a positive light and feel a freedom from her past. She walked alone most days in quiet meditation, seeking an answer of who could be the priest to bestow forgiveness upon her. No answers came for days, and then as if a lightbulb went on she remembered her most amazing experience on her first Camino at the Pilgrims blessing in Carrion De Los Condes. She would try to find that priest to share her confession with and ask forgiveness. She felt a calmness come over her as she knew it was all going to be ok.
While in Boadilla she stopped for lunch and was eating alone when suddenly the table filled with 8 or more other pilgrims talking, drinking, having a grand old time. Shari felt a bit invaded as she cherished her alone time. Soon she began chatting with the woman next to her from Colorado and they began to discuss their reasons for walking, when the other woman shared that the Pope had written a letter about this year of Mercy and that it was directed to those who were incarcerated as well as to woman that had had abortions. Shari immediately began sobbing as she had no idea about his letter, she just knew she had to be here during this year to walk through the holy doors in Santiago after being absolved by a priest and forgiven by God.
When Shari arrived in Carrion De Los Condes she knew she must go to the pilgrims mass and seek out the priest she had seen 18 months prior as he spoke English and she needed to confess (though she had not practiced Catholicism for over 40 years, she knew she must do this). After the mass she learned the Priest who did this mass did not speak English, though the nun with him did and said she would bring me to see the other priest who did speak English. Upon arriving at his home we discovered he was not home and she had to leave disappointed. Shari went back to the albergue and undressed for bed, and got under the covers just as the nun came running into the room, “he’s back, he’s back” so she got up, got dressed and went downstairs to wait for this English speaking priest to arrive in the entryway of the albergue where many other pilgrims had gathered.
When he arrived they went to the side of the room to talk, Shari was puzzled and a bit taken aback that they would talk about something so private and painful in front of or near all these other people. Who were within hearing distance. Her desire to be free of this pain and remorse was stronger than the fear of these people seeing or hearing what we were talking about. She told the priest her story, shared her pain, her regret, her fears. He was the most compassionate priest she had ever met, did not appear shocked at anything she shared. He very calmly and quietly told her what she needed to do to move forward in freedom and in love. First he said you must name these babies, one a boy and one a girl, then find 2 stones to leave at Cruz de Ferro for them. He also told her that when ever she thinks of them now she must think of them with love for they are happy and are at peace and they have forgiven her for what she did. She is no longer to think of them with regret. Then she must walk through the holy doors in Santiago. Then once she arrives home she is to help the homeless and the orphans. Shari told him they already had a fellow living with them from Kenya who was a victim of human trafficking, so the priest said, good, then that part is done. He then asked her to get on her knees as he laid his hands on her head and absolved her of her pain. For the first time in years, she felt a sense of freedom and of joy when thinking of her two lost children. She picked up her stones and left them at the Cross on the hill known as Cruz de Ferro, the last of her tears for this painful past.
Shari is part Native American and her Native name is Rainbow Medicine, she sees rainbows on sunny days and knows they are messages. After she left her stones and was continuing on towards El Acebo she stopped for a drink at a roadside café, when she sat and looked to the sky she saw a rainbow by the sun and asked a friend to take her picture making a triangle using the sun, the rainbow and herself. Later that day when looking at that photo she noticed a blue vibrating orb that was clearly and energy force from beyond and learned later in an article that these blue orbs, were seen over Arizona and in Spain and somehow they were captured on her camera. The Natives call it the Blue Star Kachina. At the same time back home, one of her husbands best friends passed that day and Shari felt her presence very strongly, but didn’t learn until later that she had passed until later that night.
She ended up leaving her Camino early to be with her husband and support him through his difficult time. This was not an easy decision as she had not yet gone through the holy doors which was part of what the priest said she must do. Her husband came first and so began the long journey home to be by his side. Now she was torn, what do I do. She was still not done, maybe she could go to a local Basilica to complete her journey and go through their holy door? It just didn’t feel right. After a short time she decided to return to Spain for 17 more days in the fall and complete her pilgrimage. Two of her friends wanted to join her and so it was set, we would walk the Ingles in Santiago and continue to Finistere and Muxia. Along this walk Shari saw a couple of stones along the way that she knew she must pick up and carry, not sure why, but they spoke to her so she picked them up. While walking through a small forest there was a makeshift alter with a cross and a photo of Mary holding the baby Jesus, Shari burst into tears and knew this is where she needed to leave her stones. She said a prayer and they continued onto Santiago where she walked through the holy door and then received communion during the pilgrim mass. She finally felt forgiven and had finally forgiven herself. A peace and tranquility came over her that she had not felt in many many years. She no longer felt damned for eternity.
Shari continues to walk the Caminos in Spain and has walked 5 times, adding the Norte in 2017 and the Primitivo in 2018. She is bringing her 40 year old son and 11 year old Granddaughter in May 2019 so they too can experience the energy of the Camino and fill their body, mind and spirit with all that is good. Shari is connected still by that umbilical cord to the spirit of the way and will return often to feed her soul. The healing that occurs while in walking meditation can cure all that ails her, though the darkness that held her in its grips has been released there is always something she can meditate on and leave behind so she can continue to walk in beauty and be free from the past that bound her.