Crack of Dawn

Last night was a gorgeous night. The weather was so perfect that many people didn’t even set up their tents, they just slept under the stars. And there were no cows mooing all night!

The morning wake up was similar. Chanting monks! This time though, we could barely move. How on earth will we be able to pack out supplies let alone carry them to the staging area? How can I even walk to the port-o-potty?? Jason was in intense discomfort. He was walking like he had something shoved up his you know what. We decided that we were going to have to pack up and take the bus. Jason couldn’t go on with how bad his thighs hurt and there was no way I could walk without him.

I figured if I started walking the pain might subside because I just needed to stretch but as I walked nothing started to feel better. I made my way to the potty and prayed. I asked for a miracle. I specifically asked Mother Mary to help us walk. We were about to give in and I didn’t want to not finish because I really wanted to help with the pilgrimage the next year. If I hadn’t finished, what was I going to say to people that would be helpful??

As I left the potty, it hit me! My prayers were answered…or so I thought. I would still need Jason’s permission but I felt like this was the answer. The only problem, it was very gross. So here’s the TMI.

It was my time of the month on the pilgrimage. The only two days of the month that were best to be avoided for this sort of thing and I was there managing it. Only problem is, last night I realized that I forgot to make sure I had extra underwear in my bag. I had brought some for the trip but I forgot to put them in my pack for the pilgrimage.

So, because my undies were sweat-filled, I hung them up to air dry and I would flip them inside out for today. Which meant that last night I slept in my “unders.” Or knickers, or silk/spandex shorts that go under the skirt I wore. Because I was wearing a skirt and we were headed to the monastery, I also had leggings with me. We were told to wear modest clothing for the monks as well as priests and men in general.

I wasn’t sure Jason would accept my unders considering the entirety of the situation. Plus, I had worn them all day yesterday. It’s gross! But, we were in the Marines together and I figured he still would “improvise, adapt, and overcome” so I thought he would accept my offering.

He had just taken down the tent but hadn’t folded it up yet as I approached. I said, “I have our miracle. I think we can finish this walk.” He asked, “How?” I said, “Put the tent back up. You can wear my unders.”

Jason put the tent back up, we made the switch, and he walked around a bit to “test” them out. Sure enough, he wasn’t in as much pain. He said, “I think I can probably do this now.” “Great!” I replied. Let’s just take it five minutes at a time.

I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and 1000mg of Acetaminophen and off we went to the staging area and then lined up. It was beautiful. So joyful! People were singing and chanting and we waited for enough sun to start walking.

Our bodies hurt so badly but we had petitions to pray and people to pray for as well as reparation for our sins so we just kept taking steps. One at a time. That’s all we could do. One foot in front of the other. I could feel the blisters beginning to form. The medication had done nothing. The best thing, the pace was slower.

The first break was short as all the others had been but the pace was slower. See, we’re smiling…sort of. Man, were we in pain. We still really weren’t talking much. I Was surprised others were able to talk. Some had super long conversations but Jason and I were just tired.

We were happy we made it to the first break area because we didn’t think we would. When we made it to the final break area, we were shocked. I was also experiencing significant blister pain. This break had a Mary grotto in a rock wall and many people were walking to it but there was no way I was going to be able to go any further. I needed to visit the medical tent.

When I arrived at the tent, there was a line. One woman was on a stretcher and she was in tremendous pain. Her feet and legs were wrapped and there was no way she was getting up. I felt horrible. Turns out the night before an ambulance was called for someone who cored, and another person who was severely dehydrated. I just had blisters.

The medic was super nice. She looked at my feet and told me I had two blisters that needed lancing. She cleaned me up, and lanced. I felt nothing. The pain everywhere else in my body had superseded a scalpel. Actually, she said I probably wouldn’t feel anything but still. I thought it would hurt and it didn’t. She wrapped up the blisters and I went to rest before the final leg.

This was the part that many people were saying was the worst. The FINAL stretch into the monastery is THE HARDEST part…so they said. It’s hills and a gravel road. The last hill was difficult. I was mentally trying to prepare myself for this and repeated, “their pain isn’t my pain. Everyone has a different perception of what is difficult and what isn’t.” I didn’t want to psych myself out of the final part of the walk.

As we approached the monastery gates, my body realized something. If I stopped, it was excruciating to start up again. We started to stop alot. We were ahead of schedule so we had to stop numerous times and it hurt so much to start walking again. By the time I reached the gates, I decided I needed to march in place. This was a much better option.

While it hurt tremendously, this hurt less than stopping and starting up again. In fact, if I stopped, I wasn’t sure I would be able to start again, so I had to march in place. It seemed like forever before the monks arrived to open the gates. Once they did, the final stretch was here. I couldn’t even see the monastery.

There was no adrenaline left, we just needed to keep placing one foot in front of the other and praying for God to give us the grace to keep moving. It truly was placing everything in God’s hands. There is no way my physical body could do this. I was on a grace auto-pilot. I was being pushed by the Holy Spirit, literally. Some husbands were behind their wives pushing them to keep moving. It was THAT difficult at times.

As we took the final steps towards the monastery, I couldn’t see it but I could hear it. The bells! Oh the bells! This was when what little adrenaline was left in my body kicked in. My soul was being called. My soul leapt for joy when it heard the bells. It was as if God called me by my name and stretched out His hand. I was going and no one was going to stop me, not even the blisters or the pain.

We had done it! We made it! The walk is over! As we waited to enter the monastery, I put on my veil. It was time for Mass with Bishop Konderla. The sad part, yet amazing, was there were so many pilgrims, we didn’t get to go inside. There were too many of us. They had an area set up outside though with TV’s and speakers to broadcast Mass and there were so many priests to help distribute communion. Despite not attending Mass inside, it was beautiful.

We were able to enter the monastery after Mass. It still smelled of the pilgrims. After all, we were in the wilderness for the last two days. LOL

We also went into the gift shop, which was packed. We bought a few things. Apparently I have the CD with the chanting monks. I think I have PTSD so I can’t listen to it. LOL Actually, the last time I listened to the same chant it gave me chills. I’m ready to go again.

This pilgrimage was a testament to our marriage because there was never any fighting, bickering, or resentment. Just love for each other and what we were enduring inside. We pushed each other to keep moving and encouraged each other.

We didn’t bring the kids for several reasons but when we picked them up after everything, Timmy mentioned that grandma thought we would divorce on this trip. That truly made me sad to hear. Divorce is not an option but I was sad that there was so little faith in the bond we had. We certainly have our problems. All married couples do.

It’s not all peaches and cream. There are some days things are awesome and others we are not each other’s favorite person. We’ve had serious trials and have gone many months disliking each other. We have lived as room mates instead of a married couple but we have endured. God has given us grace and this pilgrimage proved it.

Viva Christo Rey!

Bus ride back after the pilgrimage