Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Passing Of A Camino Angel

I met Geneviève five and a half years ago. I passed her going down the hill into Roncesvalles on my very first day but we didn't introduce ourselves until the end of the second day in Zubiri.  We started planning our walking days together somewhere around Torres del Rio.

My Camino Angel.
Over the next three to four weeks, except when separated due to health issues, we walked the Camino together.  By the time we reached Santiago de Compostela we'd grown quite close.  After I got home I friended her on Facebook and we talked about our Camino.  Soon afterward she told me she was doing it again in two years.  I asked if I could tag along.  We started planning our second Camino.  We were never apart the almost seven weeks of the second Camino.  Over the two Caminos, a combined total of sixty-six days walking together, Gen developed feelings for me.  I have to admit that I too had some feelings for her but mine were tempered by my love for the Wife and our marriage.  Gen knew how I felt, respected my feelings, and, I'm certain, was disappointed.  She wanted to meet someone to love and take care of.  She wanted children.  She got me instead and I couldn't give her what she wanted.

After we returned home I realized that continuing our communication would be hard on Gen.  Some of her Facebook posts were full of melancholy and depression.  I chose to distance myself.  I kept any communication between us brief.  We still 'liked' each other's posts and we left comments at times but you could feel the distance grow.  I found out recently that she too had consciously decided to distance herself from me at nearly the same time wanting her image of me to be unchanged from what she had on the Camino.

Over the last three years we often went months without exchanging more than a 'like'.  I lost myself in the infernal game and preparation for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Gen made new friends centered around Big Brother fandom on Twitter.  We both distracted ourselves.  Even so, she was always on the periphery of my life and I imagine I was there on hers.

This summer we started talking a little bit more.  She would leave comments about the South American trip.  Early in September, as she prepared for a trip to Germany and Iceland, we talked about the AT.  We always had planned to meet up somewhere along the trail.  We settled on a preliminary plan for her meeting me in Maine.  She would hike the last ten days with me.  Four weeks later, only a few days after returning from Iceland, she went to the hospital.

Five days later, Gen was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer.  She was given a 10% chance of survival.  A few days later I flew to Montreal and visited with her at the hospital.  During the two days I was there most of the news went from bad to worse.  She was told, on average, she should expect to live another three to four months.  The cancer was aggressive.  A few days before Thanksgiving Gen was told that she had two ... maybe four weeks tops.  I'd planned to visit her again in early December - I had the plane tickets - but this bad news sped things up for me.  The day after Thanksgiving she moved out of her parents home into hospice.

On Tuesday morning, the day before I was planning to fly to Montreal, I received the dreaded email.  The hospice nurses did not expect Gen to survive the day.  Gen's father gave me his phone number and I was able, between tears, to say my goodbyes to her.  She was too weak to speak but they said you could see in her eyes that she heard me.  She passed away late Tuesday night.  😢

Gen and her parents - she was an only child - did not deserve this.  She was only forty years old.  She had so many years ahead of her.  There were so many places she had to visit, so many people to meet, and so many things to experience.  Not a day has gone by since all this started that I haven't thought about her.  Every little thing reminds me of her.  Anything remotely Camino related - walking, sunrises, sunsets - takes my thoughts to Geneviève.  Everytime I see something of beauty my only thoughts are: "Gen will never see this.  Gen will never experience this."  She deserved so much more.


Geneviève
January 9, 1976 - November 29, 2016
(Turn on sound)

 I once thought the Camino had changed me but I was only half right.  Geneviève was my Camino.  Meeting her made me better.  I miss her, I always will, and I will never forget her.  Goodnight Gen.  Pleasant dreams.

6 comments:

  1. Bruce,

    So sorry and shocked to hear this. I will always remember Gen for her amazing happiness (and laugh!). You guys were one of the highlights of my second Camino. Thank you for your beautiful words. Be strong.

    Love,
    Matthijs (from Noor and the Camino Aragonés)

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    1. Thank you Matthijs. You and Noor made out Camino Aragones very special.

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  2. Montreal.

    Thank you for this, Bruce. I have known Geneviève since she was 5 years old. It is very hard to think of a world where she isn't anymore. But I'm glad she lives within you as she does within me, all of us who had the chance to know her. I'm sending you a virtual hug, even though we never met. Your tribute is bringing tears to my eyes, but I can also imagine the radiant smile of Geneviève, thanks to you.

    Lyna

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    1. Thank you Lyna. I am not able to count how many times I cried putting the post together.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post Bruce! Gen and I were the best friends on earth in our early 20s before I moved back in Saguenay. We kept in touch over the years and she talked to me a lot about your Camino and, of course, about you... thanks for sharing your story. May she stay in our memories forever. I'm sending you a hug xxx
    Marie-Karlynn

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    1. Thank you Marie-Karlynn. She has so many people who loved her and who will keep her alive in their memories.

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