When we arrived at the monastery of Samos we took the 3 euro tour, which was money well spent. A young woman showed us around the five storied cloister and the huge chapel with its statuary and relics and vast spaces. At the end a little monk in his Benedictine habit admired my staff, joking that it looked like a bishop´s crozier. I then showed him a photo of myself in the full rig, looking very episcopal indeed. "Oh", he said in Spanish, "you are a bishop! And you", he said, turning to Clemency, without the slightest hint of embarrassment, "you are the bishop´s amiga?" His reading of the situation was plain: some foreign bishop touring the world with his floozie. I responded quickly "¡Oh no no no! Yo soy protestante! Esta es mi esposa!" and we laughed it off, but I was very surprised at his lack of surprise. It set me thinking for the rest of the day about marriage.
Later we checked into the albergue, found a bed and had a shower. I was just undressing for mine and heard a crash and a terrible wailing. It was Clemency. The door to the showers have an unmarked step a good six to eight inches high. After dressing, she had opened the shower door and stepped out into thin air and fallen onto the hard tiled floor with all of her weight on her unprotected hip. She was in considerable pain. I and the hospitalero helped her to her bunk, but after a half hour it was obvious that she needed medical help, so an ambulance was called.
The shower in the Samos albergue. Note the definitely non OSH step.In another half hour the ambulance arrived from Saria and we set off. I loaded Clemency´s hastily packed bag into the front and sat beside a driver who bore an uncanny resemblance to Robbie Coltrane. Clemency was in the back with a paramedic. Neither of our companions spoke any English. After some to ing and fro ing on the radio, we took the road not for Saria but for Lugo and we made a very rapid trip of about 50km. I have never, ever moved so fast in such a large vehicle: about twice the legal limit, I´d guess from the relative speed of other motorway users. At Lugo Clemency was wheelchaired into a large, airy, light, clean, soulless modern hospital and we were parked in a waiting room with various Spaniards in a range of disabled states. No one spoke English. I was 50 km from my wallet and credit cards in a city I had not even heard of until an hour ago. I was utterly out of control of my life at that point and it was time to rely entirely on God
We were processed quickly. There were x-rays and a consultation with an intern of some sort, chosen I suspect because she knew as many words of English as I did of Spanish, ie not many. We were left alone and we had that "what if" conversation. I suspected a broken hip or at the least a crack. Clemency said she could bus to Santiago and I would walk this last 130 km on my own, and it was in that conversation that I had one of those insights that are the gift of the Path of Miracles.
I could not conceive of walking on without her; the very thought was ridiculous. We had started this track together more than three years ago, and shared all of it, walking side by side, usually in step with each other. Every glorious vista and every gut wrenching uphill slog, every broken albergue sleep and every deep conversation around a multinational table we had shared. The long walk together was a sort of metaphor for the shared journey of our marriage.There is a mystery about what binds a couple together in the first place, but in the end what really counts is not so much the ability to share joys as to face difficulties together. After almost 40 years lived in each other´s shadows we are very aware of each other´s strengths and weaknesses, but somehow I think it is our weaknesses that are the most important. Nobody knows Clemency´s failings in as much detail as I do. Nobody knows my failings in as much detail, nor bears them with such compassion and generosity as she does. And it is in dealing with each other´s failings that we are forced to deal with our own, which is probably the reason, ultimately, that God hath joined us together.
Despite the language difficulties we were treated with great compassion and gentleness by everyone. The young intern managed to tell us that all was well, nothing was cracked or broken and that with a day or two of rest we should be able to walk to Santiago. We were put into a taxi and charged nothing for the kindest, friendliest medical service anyone could hope to receive. We made a slower trip back to Samos, and were welcomed back by the hospitalero and the other peregrinos. We will rest here today, and possibly tomorrow. Then, no matter how we actually manage it, we will go on together for the small portion of this camino that remains to us and for that portion of our larger journey that remains.
The Chapel of the Cypress, Samos, built c. 900AD. The tree is about the same age as the chapel.
Interior, Chapel of the Cypress