A father and son are in a car. The father is trying to talk the 40ish son out of this grand adventure he is embarking on to see the world and live the cultural anthropology he has only studied.
Son: If I don’t have your blessing that’s fine, but don’t judge this. Don’t judge me.Father: My life here might not seem like much to you, but it’s the life I choose.Son: You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.
“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”
This is from the beginning of the movie – The Way by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen. The son dies in a freak accident and the father goes to claim the body. When he arrives in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, he decides to continue the journey for his son who was walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James, when he died. The father is leaving the ashes of his son along the way. As the father begins this journey, he is determined and walks quickly and is rather grumpy and out of sorts. He doesn’t want any companionship and yet people begin to attach themselves to him. There is a Dutch man who loves to talk and is on the journey to loose weight in order to fix his marriage, an Irish writer with writers block who pontificates and wants inspiration, and a Canadian woman escaping an abusive relationship and an abortion, and this father who is now alone with both wife and son dead. The way is not easy. They walk for between 10 and 15 miles a day from one small village or hostel to the next, following the yellow arrows and the shells. They run into odd people. Along the way this father begins to see his son in the unexpected: drinking and laughing with a table of strangers, beside a tree, spreading incense with the monks. The father begins to learn what it means to live a life. The task of putting one foot in front of the other provides the time to let go of the pain, to ask for forgiveness, and to learn to experience the joy of faithful, if annoying companions.
During the summer, we often spend a lot of time walking. As we walk, we can turn the time into our own little pilgrimages or ways. We can use these times to pray and let go. Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk suggests a simple prayer that anyone can pray from the youngest child to the oldest person. As you walk say yes, yes, thank you, thank you. He tells you to smile while saying: thank you. Your breath, your footsteps, and your words begin to flow together. This can become a time of peace and happiness. As the thoughts come in of what is worrying at your soul, return to your breath and your steps. Allow the steady rhythm to help you to release the troubles and allow gratitude to enter. May you take time to choose a life and walk the way.