Sport has always made me cry. Be it James Hird’s goal against West Coast when he hugs the supporter in the crowd, or the winning shot in a tennis tournament when the player falls to the ground in joy, or witnessing efforts of sheer determination and strength – a marathon runner battling through great pain to continue metre by metre. Don’t even start me on the waterworks that occur when a sportsperson stops to help their opponent, John Landy style.
A sporting montage (especially with dramatic or inspired music) therefore reduces me to a blubbering mess. When the Olympics come around and every ad break is preceded by an amazing montage, or the One Day Cricket Season with those slow motion highlights – my eyes are welling up every 5 minutes.
Watching pilgrims arrive at the Cathedral Square is Santiago de Compostela is the ultimate sporting tear jerker. So, I know that completing a religious pilgrimage is not exactly a sport, but it is the final moment of a great feat – the Camino can be the most challenging thing in a person’s life – testing one’s endurance and strength, both physically and mentally.
I cried last time when I arrived at the Cathedral in 2007.
This time I did not.
At least not until I watched some other pilgrims enter the square. One large group came in clapping and cheering, some of them hobbling along, and then after this group (not on the video, I’m sorry!), one lady, being supported by two friends on either side of her, came in, crying.
And then I started.
(I even cried watching the movie about the Camino. The Way, 2010 – good movie).
Pilgrims you meet on the Camino don’t necessarily tell you their reason for walking. Some may not have a reason for walking. But there are many, many stories behind pilgrims’ journeys, and just hearing one or two gives you an idea about the motivation driving some people along The Way. Some walk in memory of people they’ve lost, some walk to get away from their ‘normal’ lives, some walk because they want to test themselves, some knowing that they are injured or sick, and will perhaps have to stop before the end.
So watching the final moments of the Camino, even those of someone you have never, and will never meet, is an emotional thing to see. Even walking the path between the Cathedral and our hotel while in the city, pilgrims would pass us, mere minutes away from the end of their immense journey. Even this I could not watch without some dust getting caught in my eye. (One day, an amazing Opera pair were singing under the archway at the entrance to the Square, turning the scene of entering pilgrims into a brilliant, tear-jerking, real-life montage.)
And who knows, when I walked into the square, with my beaming face and excited steps, and grabbed Troy for a hug and a kiss of congratulations, maybe, someone, somewhere in the square – another pilgrim, or a tourist on a guided tour – might have been watching, and reached for a tissue.