Walking the Camino with Janice

Boots.  Check.

Backpack.  Check.

Trekking poles.  Check.

Little collection of “things” like socks and leukotape piling up that I’ll take with me to Spain this fall.  Check.

Yes, that’s right… this fall.  My plans were to go to Spain this May, as in next month, and walk the 500-mile pilgrimage called the Camino del Norte (there are many routes to Santiago, Spain – this one follows the northern coast of Spain from Irun to Santiago).  But plans have changed and instead, I’ll be heading to Spain in September.

Plans have changed.  Boy howdy, have they ever!

Teensy bit of background here: I’ve wanted to walk this pilgrimage for years but “things” have kept me here in the States.  Late last summer, those “things” changed when my traveling girlie, Dinah Dog, passed out of her physical body and left me unattached to anything that would keep me here on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year after Dinah Dog died, I started making plans to go to Spain in the spring of 2014, like April, May, or June – I was going to go by myself because no one else I knew was interested, and/or they thought I was crazy to want to walk 500 miles, and/or they wanted to walk the more crowded Camino Frances, and/or they didn’t have the time/money/interest in taking 5 weeks off to go on a walk.  Janice and me and her new carThen, at the beginning of March of this year, Janice, a friend of mine who lives in British Columbia, expressed an interest in going with me. She’s had some physical challenges over the past couple of years, including a broken leg, and she thought that planning a trip like this might help her, as she said in her own words: “Maybe if I set it as a goal, it would kick start my leg.”

We began to explore what it would be like for the two of us to do this pilgrimage together, both of us being independent spirits with timelines and interests of our own, and we decided it would be a workable thing for us to do.  We continued to chat and plan and talk about this trip to Spain – and then we both ordered our boots at about the same time.  That meant we were really going to do this thing!  I went for the ones with a turquoise trim and she went for the lime green.  We were set to go now!  The trip was ON, baby!

She messaged me one day with this comment: “Some people are laughing at me while others are sending me info! Lol!”  I asked her who was laughing at her and she said, “Some of the people who see my condition at the moment! Then they say well go big or go home. They know me!”  Yep.  That was Janice.  Go big or go home.  We just kept right on with our plans, talking about backpack sizes and what kind of socks we were going to wear.  And laughing about wheelchairs on the Camino!  Laughing because she thought she might have to do her camino in a wheelchair and we both thought laughing was a good thing to do when faced with something that looks like an insurmountable obstacle.  (Did you know that 66 people “walked” one of the Caminos and received a compostela in Santiago in their wheelchairs last year?)

Well, then at the end of March, I had to let her know that, due to some things happening on my end, I needed to change my start-date to September.  I hated to disappoint her but her response was just like everything else she did: she said this gave her more time to prepare for the trip.  So we continued to plot and plan for the fall; I sent her my list of favorite books and she ordered some others to add to her growing collection, calling it “research.”  She said she’d let me know which books were her favorites after she read them.  In between our Camino talk, she’d send me little pictures she thought would brighten by day, or a quote she found that made her think of me.  I suspect I was not the only friend she did this for… she was just that way.

Her physical birthday was April 12th, and on that day, she changed her name to Sparkling Joy, complete with a renaming ceremony and everything!  Janice, uh, Sparkling Joy always knew how to brighten up a space, no matter where she went!  And joy?  Well, why wasn’t that her middle name already?  Sparkling Joy was such a perfect fit for her!  Like a no-brainer, if you ask me.

Trailer artworkLast Wednesday, she sent me this pic she had found on Facebook of a trailer like mine that had some artwork on the side; isn’t it awesome?  I loved it!  My trailer would look so fine with this on the sides!  (I don’t know who to credit for the photo; if you own it, please let me know so I can give you proper credit!)

And then, two days later, Sparkling Joy left her physical body and returned to the spirit world; so the plans have changed again and instead of her body in a wheelchair, she’ll be going with me in true Sparkling Joy spirit!

I will miss your smiling face, Sparkling Joy.  I’ll miss the positive, up-beat happiness that you brought with you everywhere you went.  I’ll miss our conversations, those revealing dialogs that always seemed to step below the surface of what was apparent.  Camino bootsAnd perhaps more than anything, I’ll miss laughing with you.

Sparkling Joy, even though you won’t be with me in the physical, your spirit will walk every mile of the Camino with me, my friend.  Thank you for your friendship, your smiles, your joy, your constant non-stop enthusiasm for life on this Planet.  You rock, my friend!

I now wear my boots in honor of your sparkling spirit.   Rock on, Sparkling Joy!

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26 Responses to Walking the Camino with Janice

  1. Nancy Senn says:

    Lois, this story about Janice (aka “Sparkling Joy”) really stunned me. I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful spirit. ~Nancy

    • Lois says:

      Nancy, Janice was such a free spirit – her presence will be missed by so many people. You would have loved her! Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Debbie says:

    When I started to read this, the last thing expected was saying goodby to your friend…I am SO sorry about your loss, dear friend.
    Sparkling Joy will forever be near you in spirit.
    with love
    Debbie

    • Lois says:

      For the last six weeks, Janice and I have been having such a delightful experience – planning and plotting our Spain getaway… the last thing I expected to wake up to last Friday was Janice’s departure from Planet Earth! Thank you for your love.

  3. Shelley says:

    So sorry your friend has suddenly and unexpectedly made her transition. Life is forever surprising us.
    I remember seeing that photo of the little camper on FB.
    If I see who owns it I will let you know.
    In the meantime take care of yourself with the loss, sadness and disappointment you must be feeling.
    I am just down the road if you want some tea and sympathy.

    • Lois says:

      Shelley, I am constantly surprised by the little things – it’s a brilliant reminder that the moment we have right here, right now, is the only one we really have. I’d love to see you if you’re back from Baja! Thank you for your thoughts…

  4. Linda May says:

    My condolences for the loss of your friend Sparkling Joy.
    I couldn’t understand why someone would want to walk 500 miles. I just finished reading 1,000,000 Steps, great story. I’m beginning to have some understanding.
    You’re my 3rd. friend today who has lost a love one.

    • Lois says:

      Thank you, Linda. The Camino sneaked up on me… when I read my first book about it, written by someone who’d walked it in early 2000, I never suspected that it would get under my skin in a way that only walking it would make it subside. Now, I can’t wait to get there!

  5. Cindy Hydrick says:

    Lois good to hear from you, but a very sad story about your friend. Blessings to you

  6. Adam says:

    Oh Lois, I’m so sorry about your friend – she sounds like an amazing woman. You’re doing an awesome thing by continuing on – thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Heather says:

    I am so sorry for your losses. I know they’ll both be by your side as you walk.

  8. Lynn Jennings says:

    Oh Lois, I am so sorry to hear about Sparkling Joy, and what a disappointment it is to not go with her physical person. But, ever the optimist, you will carry her in spirit along with Dinah dog and you will have a wonderful trip and I will be with you in thoughts and prayers as always. Your journey is what motivated me into living full time in an RV. i thought, if Lois can do it, so can I and I am ashamed to say, I am doing it with so much more. You are ever an inspiration. Keep on keeping on. Love and hugs xoxoxxoxo

    • Lois says:

      Lynn, you are an inspiration to others who thought they could never do what you’re doing because here you are doing it! And doing it with gusto! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers – they mean a lot to me.

  9. Marilyn says:

    Lois, what a shocking ending to a beautiful story. I’m SO sorry you have lost your friend. But you are obviously ever the person to turn lemons into lemonade. You are definitely my inspiration. My back hurts just thinking of that trek but you GO girl. Love the painted trailer. From BC, Marilyn.

    • Lois says:

      Thank you, Marilyn… Janice was a true inspiration to so many people – I’m blessed to have known her. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  10. Lesa says:

    My dear friend Lois, what a lovely and sad story to add to your experience. And what a strong woman and survivor you are.

    I was at the Grand Canyon the other day and have been encouraged to reconnect with my hiking self. Love the new boots.

    Would you please share with me, the book about yyour Spanish trail. I would love to read it.

    Hugs,
    Simply,
    Lesa

    • Lois says:

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, Lesa… I have a whole list of books I’ve enjoyed reading – I’ll send it to you by email.

  11. Cyndi says:

    Wow Lois! What a year it has been for you! I know how much you are looking forward to your walking trip, even though now it will be with Sparkling Joy’s spirit and not her physical self. You are a strong willed woman who has the courage, determination and motivation to complete this trip and have Sparkling Joy complete it with you.

    • Lois says:

      Hi Cyndi! Thank you so much for your comments – I appreciate the thoughts :) Not only Sparkling Joy but you all go with me… every day!

  12. Linda Barton says:

    wow very unexpected story ending. I am sorry for your loss. I am also happy for the joy your friend gave you and the wonderful memories she left for you to hold to your heart you. Peace to you.

    • Lois says:

      Thank you, Linda. Yes, it was an unexpected thing but you know, as trite as it sounds, life does go on. I know Janice is laughing out there in her spirit world – ‘cuz one just never knows… she’s going with me, one way or another!

  13. Sarah Smith says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story Lois and for everyone’s kind responses and condolences. Its amazing to get to hear all the stories of how my mother has touched so many lives. She is definitely not gone and I have been hearing lots of stories of her continuing to impact the lives of all her friends and family. She is truly an amazing soul. I look forward to reading about your journey in Spain and wish you the best of luck on it. She will be by your side for sure.

    • Lois says:

      Thanks, Sarah! Indeed, your mom’s reach was far greater than her physical body and she’ll continue to impact people in a positive way for a very long time. Blessings to you and your sister <3