I met my friend Mark on our way over the Pyrenees, on the Camino Frances. I could hear him before I saw him; his big attitude and Kentish accent were hard to miss. He and his walking buddies were having a conversation about Shakespeare (he wasn’t that big of a fan, and was saying that “Shakespeare” and “comedy” were an oxymoron). They came into view around the next bend, and I didn’t even stop, just remarked as I passed, “What about Romeo & Juliet – that shit’s hilarious!”. I could hear him laughing for a full minute as I walked on. The next time I stopped for a breather, he and his friends walked by and he stopped to chat with me. I adored him, sight unseen, and I adored him after that, too.
Later, Mark’s path coincided with mine, Natalie’s and Claire’s again and again, and we ended up getting dinner, having drinks, and sharing bunks on more than one occasion. After our darling Claire had to move on, one night Natalie and I met up with Mark for pints and had a pretty touching conversation about why people walk the Camino. He was one of those people who puts on a big show about being a gruff jerk, but as a fellow Scorpio it was easy to get a glimpse of his soft side, hiding just far enough away to not be too easily damaged by the folks outside of his safety zone. One night I made a quip about how tasty sharks were, and I remember how quickly he reacted, telling me that he was a diver and had great respect for the majesty of sharks.
I was bummed to learn that Mark’s blisters kept him from continuing the Camino. I was a few days ahead of him, but kept thinking that we could just meet up in Burgos, or maybe at the end in Santiago de Compostela. I sent him photos of a funny Rolling Stones shirt I saw in Burgos that made me think of him. He replied to say that he was heading on to somewhere where he could find some good kush and take a load off, lol.
Tonight I found out that my friend Mark passed away. He won’t be making it to Santiago de Compostela. He won’t be figuring out a better way to treat those poor abused feet. He won’t be sampling tapas with glee, or demanding a “large” when the Spanish bartender tries to hand him a regular pint. He won’t be diving, or telling people about the magic that is the ocean. I’m heartbroken, but I must believe that his goodness and laughter live on in me, and everyone else who knew him. He was a good man, a kind man, a hilariously funny man, and he could sure hold his lager.
Mark, I love you. And to the rest of my dear, dear friends from the Camino, please stay in touch and take care of yourselves. You’ve made my world a better place. ❤
In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.