“The Way” often refers to the popular network of pilgrimage routes in Spain, the Camino de Santiago, that lead to the Compostela to Santiago (Cathedral of St James). That is more or less the subject of this series of posts.
Let’s start at the beginning. Have I walked the Way? The French Camino (about 700 miles) or any of the alternates like the English Way, or even any segment of them, like the shortest version from Sarria (115 kms approx.)?
300,000 people walked the Way in 2017, and I’m guessing a similar number in 2018, and I wasn’t one of them. So no, this post is not about my adventure on that Way, as much as I wish it was. I do lots of other walks and perhaps one day I will have the Camino de Santiago under my belt, but not yet.
Nevertheless, I am quite fascinated by the Way and the stories it has inspired. I’ve read numerous blogs, website and quite a few books too. To start with, I’d like to write about a film that I often show at my retreats, time permitting: The Way.
The Way is a 2010 film starring Martin Sheen that tells the story of a middle-class American whose son leaves home and heads off for adventure, which the father is not at all happy about at all. The young man has barely begun the Camino de Santiago in the Pyrenees when he has an accident and dies tragically. The father heads over to Spain to bring his son’s body home, but suddenly gets the inspiration to walk the route his son would have taken, using his son’s walking equipment, and carrying his son’s ashes.
And so his pilgrimage begins.
It’s a long trek. He meets all sorts of people, has ups and downs, and all along the way, he leaves little piles of his son’s ashes. He is walking with and for his son, who appears (in vision) to him at various points. Eventually he makes it – with his new band of friends – to the Cathedral, and then onwards they go an extra 90 km to the coast, where he scatters the remainder of the ashes.
It is poignant. It very much fits in the theme of “continuing bonds” with our loved ones. He walks and experiences and grieves and drinks and weeps and eventually laughs too. At the start he is quite closed about his son but eventually opens up and finds a way to talk about him. There is a lot there about living with grief.
It’s a long film and not everyone makes it to the end, which I think is a shame, as they miss the significance of the final scene. For me, this is the most important scene of all: We see him on another trip, walking through Marrakesh, Morocco. He is kitted out walking and adventuring.
Over the course of the pilgrimage, his life values have changed.
His son’s death has affected him deeply, but that’s not all there is to it. His son’s life has changed him. Instead of rushing back to carry on his job as usual, he is exploring. He is experiencing life.
Partly he is doing it in his son’s place, but I think he is also doing it for himself. He is changed.
We are all changed by the deaths of our loved ones, but it can be so much more than that. We can also be changed by their lives.
What a tribute to them!
In many ways, the best tribute we can give to the deceased is to allow them the impact of permanently changing our lives.”
Although the film is fiction, thousands of people walk the Camino every year for a variety of reasons, and some of them walk in memory of a loved one. In the next post I’ll write a bit more about some of the characters and books that tell their story.
- The Way (the film)
- Watch “The Way” on YouTube
- Interview with Martin Sheen on how and why the film was made
- The Camino de Santiago
P.S. If anyone reading this has walked the Way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
THE MAKING OF THIS FILM (from Wikipedia)
The film was inspired by Emilio Estevez’s own son, Taylor. It started in 2003 as a project when Taylor, at the time 19 years old, and Sheen traveled the pilgrimage route. Taylor, who served as an associate producer on the film, had driven the length of the Camino with his grandfather. On the way, he met the woman who would become his wife; thus, the Camino held special meaning for him.
Aside from the main actors, those seen on-screen are real pilgrims from all over the world.