Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Ursula at dinner. Ursula lives in Germany. She has been to Canada before, and would like to move there for a while, so we started out with some common ground.
During dinner we spoke of many things. But it was a story Ursula shared after dinner that touched my heart. I asked her for permission to share it with you here. Ursula said that she has been walking for weeks, but now is ready to share this story.
This is Ursula’s seventh time (!) walking the Camino. She says the Camino keeps calling her, and God teaches her new things each times. One of the reasons she loves the Camino is that her job has a lot of stress. Ursula works as a trauma responder, helping families who have been in an accident or lost a loved one. She is also a chaplain, meeting and praying with people in the hospital. For twenty-two years she has prayed for people in their joys and in their sorrows. She kept track of all these stories, all these people, in lots for work. They were kept under lock and key in the hospital. These notebooks represented the best times and worst times of people’s lives – babies born, parents dying, cancer, inoperable diseases, hope for recovery, miraculous healing, terminal illnesses.
Ursula is now taking a sabbatical, and she is not sure where she is going to be returning. She said that’s up to her boss and The Boss. She was sent off with a farewell party attended by the local police and firefighters, former patients, people she has counselled and comforted and prayed for.
Then she took her notebooks, those logs of twenty-two years of chaplaincy. She burned them in a fireplace. Some of the ashes she put into the Rhine. Some of the ashes she brought to Lourdes, a place recognized for healing. And some she has carried with her on this seventh Camino she is making.
Tomorrow we reach the highest point of all the Camino. The iron cross, the Cruz de Ferro, has seen countless pilgrims pass by, placing a small rock or token that represents different things to each pilgrim. There, at the cross, Ursula will pour out the last of the ashes of the people she has prayed for and worked with. Her Camino ends tomorrow. But her journey towards what God is leading her to next has only begun.