Thank you, darling blogsters, for all the prayers and kind words.
We didn´t know how draining it was, just having a newly bereaved person in the same house. Trust me: you don´t have to have ever met the deceased, or know or care for or love the one who´s lost his partner. Just the rawness of pure loss generates its own mad horror, with or without words or language.
We really did not do much to help Antoine, the man mentioned in the last post. He only stayed here one day and one night. We treated him like just about any other pilgrim, only gave him a bit more affection and attention and food than the usual. On Sunday morning he was gone off to Palencia city with Esteban, where Antoine´s son and brother-in-law were to meet him at the mortuary.
Once the car pulled away, I let myself cry. I have no idea how funeral directors and morticians and hospice ministers handle the strain of that kind of shock and loss so near, so often. Paddy and I were pretty well exhausted by less than 24 hours!
We haven´t heard any more from them, but for one abortive attempt, in rapid French, for road directions. We don´t even know Antoine´s last name, much less his phone number or email. But Antoine has our contact info. I hope he will find this blog, because it´s important he know what people all over Spain and the world are doing for him, and for his wife. Her name is Marie-Claire, he told me. She was a great singer, a lover of Russian choral music. She belonged to a choral group in their hometown. It was a Russian Orthodox hymn the two of them sang at the Capilla de San Roque on Saturday morning, just before they set off from Finisterre. She didn´t sleep well the night before. She was tired. She should not have been driving...
Antoine said he´s not a Christian, but Saturday night he asked if he could spend some time in our parish church. Oliva gave us the keys. Milagros gave him a candle to light, and she made sure the place was locked up after he left. Someone asked Don Santiago to say Sunday´s Mass for the soul of Maria Clara, and the comfort of Antonio. And so he did.
Saturday night, Federico was at work, too. Fred´s an orthopedic doctor back in Wisconsin, but on Saturday morning he was at the accident scene in rural Palencia. He helped pull Marie-Claire from the car, and tried to stabilize her while waiting for the ambulance to come. He went over the checklist and signed the certificate once she was gone. He spent his afternoon with Antoine at the hospital afterward. He delivered the man to our house, then shifted back into his Camino Guitar Impresario Mode. He got a Massachusetts guitarist to Villacazar de Sirga just in time for the scheduled concert at Sta. Maria la Blanca, and had the evening´s Mass said for the sake of Marie-Claire and Antoine. (Fred is amazing.)
And once the blog below was written, my friends at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela got to work. They looked up the pilgrim credentials, they hustled over to the cathedral office, and the Monolithic Catholic Institution everyone rails against worked like a well-oiled machine to celebrate a beautiful memorial Mass for "la peregrina Frances."
Here´s the email I received from a member of the Archconfraternity late Monday evening:
Don Jenaro celebrated Mass at 7.30 this evening in a full Cathedral. There were seven priests including one bishop concelebrating, all from Ourense. The Mass was the Mass of St Jacob and therefore in the liturgical red vestments of the martyr. There was a magnificent floral decoration of Madonna lilies in front of the altar, as there had been a large society wedding at the Parador yesterday. The perfume filled the transept. Joaquin was at the organ and at his best, while the Cantor a young man of 30-35 yrs of age lead the assembled with a strong yet gentle voice. During the communion he sang very softly "Soul of My Saviour" to Joaquin's accompaniment. It was a peaceful and moving pilgrim's Mass.
Soul of my Savior sanctify my breast,Body of Christ, be thou my saving guest,
Blood of my Savior, bathe me in thy tide,
wash me with waters gushing from thy side.
Strength and protection may thy passion be,
O blessèd Jesus, hear and answer me;
deep in thy wounds, Lord, hide and shelter me,
so shall I never, never part from thee
Guard and defend me from the foe malign,
in death's dread moments make me only thine;
call me and bid me come to thee on high
where I may praise thee with thy saints for ay.
We are with you in the suffering of this family. May they find consolation. "
Hey. With these kinds of benefits, maybe being an Archiconfradia member isn´t so bad!
Add to this all the prayers, thoughts, energy, and kindness offered near and far, and this dear departed pilgrim can (hopefully) marvel from her present position the decency of the pilgrim family in specific, and humanity in general. Meantime, don´t stop "holding up Antoine to the light." I think he´s going to need a lot of brightness in the coming days.
And pray too for Fred. He´s been through all kinds of hell, and he just keeps rolling along in that time-honored yet deadly American Way.
Oh, and just so you know: This morning we found a 10-Euro bill in the donativo box. Apparently left by Antoine, even after washing-up the evening´s dishes and sweeping the kitchen, he still left a contribution toward his keep. A pilgrim indeed.