Sunday, 22 August 2010

Dark Fiesta

It´s a bittersweet fiesta this year in Moratinos. We celebrated a new Santiago in our church, but the camino brought us brokenness, too.

Fiesta weekend in Moratinos is an anniversary to us. It was at the fiesta of 2006 we first saw the neglected farmhouse that became The Peaceable. Two years later, we opened up our house on fiesta weekend to welcome all the neighbors in to see what we´d done to the place. Last year, Moratinos fiesta was the debut performance of what´s become Camino Guitars, a concert series that´s going on now in three locations on the Camino Frances.

This year´s fiesta Mass was extra happy, because our little Santiago statue took his place up front at the Iglesia de Sto. Tomas. Throughout the week I biked back and forth between the church and Segundino´s carpentry shop, choosing the wood and drawing pictures and demonstrating just where on the church wall we might put the little shelf with the saint on it. Segundino delivered, above and beyond what I could have expected -- a triple-arched pear-wood perch that´s securely bolted onto the wall, with Santi himself safely bolted down, too. Milagros brought in two little vases with carnations, to stand on either side. I put a beeswax candle, (sent from California by Kathy) by his elbow, and he was good to (never) go. Don Gaspar duly sprinkled him during the big Mass. Santi himself looks a little embarrassed at all the fuss.

Milagros says this is the first new saint installed in a good thirty years. He makes her happy, she said, because a new saint means Moratinos is going to survive. You just don´t see new saints in dying towns. 

But while the procession and prayers and music were going on, something else happened nearby.

Out on the N120 two-lane, a French couple from Lyon were zipping down the highway. Inside the backpacks in the trunk were two fresh Compostela certificates, dated Thursday. They´d finished their long pilgrimage, a trip they´d done over several years, one two-week chunk at a time. At dawn they´d held hands in a little church in Finisterre and sang a hymn. They got into their rental car and headed east toward France and home.

Hours later, along the Meseta road between San Nicolas del Real Camino and Moratinos, their car veered off the road and rolled over. The woman died. The man was not hurt.

Fred (aka Federico the Mad Guitarrero), stayed with the man from the moment he came upon the accident scene -- it was Fred who brought the couples´ belongings here, and drove the man along behind the ambulance to the hospital. Fred made sure the man was checked-over by a doctor. Then they went to the Tanatorio, the mortuary, and got Antoine started on the mountain of paperwork and decision-making that awaits him. Then Fred brought him back to Moratinos.

The man, Antoine, is here with us now. He is numb, red-eyed, eating everything we put in front of him. He´s keeping busy, clearing out his backpack and his wife´s, wondering what to do with her shoes, her walking stick, the things she packed herself this morning, but will never touch again. He´s washed the dinner dishes, taken the pills the doctor gave him, scrubbed the black stains off his shirt and shorts. He´s made the telephone calls. He told his five-year-old granddaughter what happened, but she doesn´t understand, he said.
His son will come tomorrow from France.

The neighbors were upset that we didn´t tell them sooner what was going on -- but we didn´t know, not til much later, after the accident when Fred brought Antoine here. Nothing much can be done on the weekend. There was nowhere else for the man to go, at least nowhere a compassionate person would leave him. It´s good he´s been on the Camino, and still has his full pilgrim flexibility. None of us speaks French. He has little English. His Spanish is about as good as ours, so we struggle along.  We try to engage him when he´s open to that. But we know he´s got to be left alone, too.

The neighbors, once they knew, were eager to lend a hand.
Oliva and Justi gave us the church keys so Antoine could go there and pray.
Milagros and José came over to offer whatever help the man might need. Later on, Esteban showed up too. He  offered to drive Antoine to Palencia in the morning. Esteban knows his way around that city, and it´s an offer Antoine may have to accept -- he´s got to be at the Tanatorio at 11:30, and we don´t know which of the several funeral places to go to.
Antoine couldn´t decide yet.

I took Esteban to the gate. "I can´t imagine," he said. "To suffer such a loss, in a land that´s not your country. In another language. The poor man."

Over at the plaza the Mobile Disco tells us "Tonight´s gonna be a good night."
This year we won´t dance. We don´t want to leave Antoine alone.
He´s asleep now. I think he will be alright.
Tomorrow is on its way.


CaroleH said...

Oh Reb . . . . this is so sad. Blessings on you and Paddy for being there for the poor man. . . . .

Camino hugs and love. Carole

Sil said...

How awful - for him, for you guys and for the village. He must be so grateful to have a safe haven.
Big hug,

Lynne said...

Very tragic and sad for all of you. I think this pilgrim will always remember your compassion and that of Moratinos.

Anonymous said...

prayers for Antoine and have been witness to all sorts of life tragedies, but this one is so hard...I'm glad you are there,


Laura said...

Praying for comfort for all involved and blessings on you and Paddy. Such a sad, sad story.

ksam said...

Will have all of you in our prayers here too. God Bless, Karin