In the Middle of Miracles

To know you are in the middle of miracles is a profound experience. I can’t do it justice by writing. But I will try.
I trained for a year to walk the sacred pilgrimage of the El Camino in Spain. Before leaving I hiked 80 rugged miles in 8 days. I read every book or blog I could find. I was ready. Our son Al accompanied me for his own walk, not as my helper.
My goal was to be there for Easter. I prayed to be able to see God more clearly.
The first two days were exactly what I dreamed of, beauty everywhere, a vast multicultural experience with fellow hikers, very few of which spoke English. Even so, the first person we met was a former nun, worker with Mother Teresa, and now nurse who lives in Al’s neighborhood. More later…
On the third day I stopped to email myself a poem that the rhythm of my hiking poles dictated. I picked up my pace and moments later I did a highspeed, extremely hard, faceplant on flat pavement. When I hit, I heard myself think, “Oh no.” Followed instantly by, “This was meant to be.” My first Spirit infusion. His gift of total acceptance. No anger. No grief.
When I sat up it looked like a crime scene. Blood was all over me. My glasses broke my nose, my forehead was a mess, and my teeth on the right side were threatening to burst through my lip. That was on the outside. Inside my head was saying, “Thank you God that this didn’t happen and prevent me from coming. But I wonder why You chose this for me.” No disillusionment. Pure curiosity. Mercy and Grace. Oh…and pain.
Within seconds pilgrims behind me gathered. One, an herbalist from Denmark had organic creams, and another had a shake/activated blue ice pack. A woman insisted that she walk with me while I called Al and found a place to sit. Of course, her name was Grace. Why not? As soon as Al ran back to find me, she disappeared. Unlike all the others I met, I never saw her again. Angel?
As I sat, a pilgrim from Floyd, VA, walking with her adult sons, checked me out and gave me the exact things I needed for nausea. Everyone begged me to go to urgent care. I relented only to going to the hotel. Her fluent Spanish assisted when she walked with us to a place to call for a taxi.
When the taxi driver arrived, he shook his head and in broken English said, “No. Urgent care.” There he waited for us, would take me to the hotel, then drive Al back to the spot he stopped walking. I was seen immediately. A Spanish triage nurse examined me and then a kindly doctor gave me hand signals and touched his heart several times to warn me that he cared it was going to hurt. I was so moved. On a translation app, they typed that my nose was broken but had no concussion, and not to walk for a few days. When I pulled out my insurance cards the office manager touched my shoulder and shook her head no, instructing me to pay St. James in Santiago. I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness of strangers.
The taxi driver took us to the hotel. Al got out of the cab, ran to check us in, then back to the cab to continue his walk. Our new friend from Al’s neighborhood was sitting outside in the hotel café. She ran to me and sat me down telling me I had to meet someone.
I was dazed and just wanted to go to my room. But she came back with a handsome, well-dressed, English-speaking man who said, “I’m an ear nose and throat surgeon, from L.A., I think I should examine you.” Inwardly I was awestruck by the absolute incredibility of the miracle. Who He sent, and the timing, could not be anything but God. I told him I had just come from urgent care. He said he would give me a second opinion. He confirmed the first diagnosis.
I was so blown away by the perfection of it all. I thanked him saying, “God truly loves me. He sent me only the best. The Camino provides.”
I promise you I am not exaggerating when I say within hours, I had the most disfigured face I have ever seen (and I’ve seen airbag injuries). My eyes became black, swollen shut. A lump bigger than a ping pong ball protruded from my forehead, my lip on one side looked like I had lost in a fight club. Not to mention my hands, toes, knee, and hip. Minor injuries in comparison.
That night I awakened in the middle of a dream in which I was praying. I clearly heard God tell me that I had delivered my son twice, once to life and then to the Camino. Al had said many times that the pilgrimage was incredibly profound. I knew even if I could walk, I could not walk the same path he walked and I could not rob him of the experience by worrying about me. God reminded me of the map, two yellow lines, one broken for the Camino hike, one that led parallel through towns along a road to Santiago. I could walk sidewalks and pavement, clear parts of the Camino path, not a direct line. I would experience the Camino my way, slowly.
Although I had no glasses and couldn’t open my eyes to put in contacts, the next day with my left eye partially open I began to walk with my poles. Each day was a new town. My destinations-always toward church spires in the distance.
I spent two weeks totally disfigured in which I saw the love and compassion of God through the expressions and acts of so many people. I felt immense love throughout the experience.
I began to get insight into many of the reasons God had this in store for me. I have never walked the same path as others. I attended 21 schools in my 12 years of public schooling. This felt no different. I did not want to walk and talk. I walked alone. I prayed to see the face of God. Every single person I met left no doubt about their concern and compassion.
When my vision improved, I could look over and see large groups walking the path while I walked towards the churches in towns, all of us headed to Santiago. Nothing in me wanted to join a group and be part of the herd. I felt no urge to “check that box.” Again, honoring my life path. Him first. Loving solitude.
I often forgot that I was so horribly disfigured and would catch my reflection in a mirror or window and gasp. I smiled inwardly when strangers became alarmed and crossed themselves in prayer as they got a glimpse of me. Several said, “Mama Mia!” Yes, it was that bad on the outside. But inside, I was feeling loved by God.
I apologize for the extra words this month (I always try to keep it under 800 words) but this part of my journey requires it. I kept running into my first responders, and the doctor. He continued to give me checkups. Strangers who figured out who I was, because I was disfigured, told me in broken English that hearing about my accident and miracles was a huge part of their ability to see God’s hand in their pilgrimage. I was glad that my default response to it was to give Him glory. It often took my breath away that I was an important puzzle piece for so many.
My new friend from Floyd, said it best when after walking hundreds of miles with her sons they left their room an hour later than they ever had before. When they walked out the door, they saw me getting ready to go into the next hotel. Split-second timing. She was amazed at the miracle of it. I told her about all the miracles that occurred after she saw me get in a cab and head to urgent care. Her words framed so much of the walk, “I wanted my sons to walk the Camino. I wanted them to witness miracles. On the Camino, when everything else is stripped away, you can’t not see the miracles.”
And there were so many.
I can’t wait to tell you more next month….

PS. I have been advised not to post pictures of me because they could be copied and misused. Suffice it to say Hollywood would have found my face to be too unbelievable for any horror or zombie show.

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  1. Diane E Tatum says:

    Wow! What a journey!

  2. Paula Saihati says:

    Thank you for sharing your miracle(s). I’m sure God will continue to bless you on your journey.