by Linda Dieckhoff
As I write this blog I feel compelled to share the most moving miracle of my walk on The Camino de Santiago in Spain this past summer. Those who followed my blog will have already heard this tale, but now in retrospect, maybe the story is a bit different. It is a story of love and hope, of prayers answered (and a testimony of prayers answered, not in the way I had hope, but with a sign at the end that brought comfort), and angels sent!
Many of you know I dedicated my walk on The Camino to my dear friend and member of St. Mark, Andrew. Andrew and I met during our Faith Journey class and joined St. Mark’s at the same time. He provided testimony many times during Faith Journey, and beyond, by sharing his story about being diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer. He shared this story with faith and hope and also humbly and provided me with an example of the strength of faith. When I left for Spain I got to see Andrew the Sunday before I left and got to say goodbye.
I carried 3 rocks in my backpack as I prepared to walk the 500+ miles across northern Spain. They all represented something in my life I wished to conquer and move past while walking The Camino.
On that first day I walked from St. Jean Pied de Port, France across the Pyrenees into Spain. It was a harsh trek of over 8 hours in the rain (usually Washington type rain, but at times pelting) and gale-force winds with a bit of sleet thrown in. Visibility was only a few feet in front of me.
As I walked that mountain, Andrew was on my mind and the burdens he was going through and how minor mine in that moment were. During that trek the largest rock in my bag took on a new meeting. That rock came to symbolize Andrew’s burdens rather than my own.
As I came into my first place of rest in Spain, Roncevalles, I stopped at the stream we had to cross before going into town. I unloaded that rock and threw it into that stream praying, as I had most of the trek, that Andrews burdens be lifted. I prayed that he no longer had to suffer the pains of cancer and the pains of the treatments. I asked if it be God’s will that he be healed, but most of all to release him so he would no longer suffer.
Fast forward to July 4th (I crossed the Pyrenees on June 22nd) and I had decided to walk a marathon (23.2 miles) in honor of my country’s birthday. It was a long walk that day, and one I walked literally alone. I came across only a handful of pilgrims that day, which is rather unusual. I was never alone that day however – God’s presence was soooo very strong and we got to talk a lot that day. He answered so many prayers that day. The wind on my back as I crossed the mesata (a desert of sorts) in the heat of the day. The ceasing of the wind that nearly pushed me off the road in the evening as I walked along the canal leading to Fromista.
Most importantly was the butterfly. As we talked, I ask God for a sign on where to get rid of the rock still in my bag and how to do it. We joked as I reminded Him I was a skeptic and would need a slap in the face to see any sign! Then I remembered a fellow pilgrim’s story about the day she walked and it was so peaceful the butterflies even sat on the blades of grace and rested. God, I asked, please send me a butterfly.
A short time later a butterfly flew by and lighted on a bush in front of me and sat there. I watched the butterfly for a while and then unloaded that rock. With renewed energy, I walked into town and found a place to stay… I had not only completed my goal of a 23.2 mile marathon, but walked a full 28 miles!
Oh but the story isn’t over! The next morning I rose, sore of course, but ready to get on the road for a short walk day. I had a haircut appointment that day, so I loaded my gear and went to the cafe where there was wifi to kill the time and check email. It was there I received the email from Pastor Ruud that Andrew had died. I learned later that he died while I was walking on the 4th of July.
The news hit hard and I immediately messaged two friends, my angels, immediately asking for prayers and explaining what happened. They knew about Andrew and would understand my need. It just so happened that at that same time they had taken a break in a town with wifi and got my message. They ensured me I was in their prayers. So with a heavy heart I headed to my haircut appointment.
A couple hours later as I prepared to walk on out of Fromista I was greeted by none other than my CAMINO ANGELS. Those wonderful young women were there so often when I need them and God knew I needed them more often than ever that day. We hugged and cried and then took of down The Camino together.
A bit later down the road, as we approached a cemetery I hung back. I stopped viewing that cemetery and thinking of Andrew and crying for my loss. As I prepared to walk on, a butterfly, just like yesterdays, came and sat down on a bush in front of me.
As I watched that butterfly, a second, identical butterfly landed on the same branch. As I watched those two butterflies flew upward into the heavens until I could no longer see them. The tears streaming down my facing were no longer of sadness but of joy. God reminded me He had answered my prayer and quite clearly told me Andrew was with Him now and no longer suffering.
I thanked God with a full heart and a smile on my face now as I took off to catch up with Chanelle and Emily, my angels.
Prayers aren’t always answered the way we want, but they are always answered and sometimes in a far better way than what we had asked for.