The last 5 kilometers of el Camino de Santiago courses up a long hill, rising above the bay to the south and the ocean to the west and north like a turret on a castle wall. The road wraps around the stony outcrop such that you cannot see the lighthouse at its peak until you are only just there.
On the morning of our arrival 5 years and 8 months earlier, Evan and I strode up the gentle curve of road, sun-darkened skin carrying 500 miles-worth of dust in its crevices, cracks, and blisters. Miles behind us and mere meters to go, our spirits soared high against the broad blue sky. Even after 30 days together and hardly a moment apart, still we had tales to share, jokes to tell, and songs to sing. Only as the lighthouse came into view, warding off the great expanses of sea and sky, did our tongues slow, arms wrapping about each others’ shoulders in quiet celebration.
When I returned in mourning to Finisterre in 2014, I walked again with Evan up the road to the point known as the End of the World, one of the western-most points in Continental Europe. What I would give to have walked with Evan beside me again, instead of within my hands.
The Camino is many things to many people. Until recent times it was a Catholic pilgrimage. For many in modern day, it is a spiritual journey of exploration and connection, or simply a walkabout across the Spanish plain. For me and Evan, it was the greatest adventure of our lives together; a physical manifestation of our deep brotherhood. Our own epic quest.
The paths of the Camino were walked even before the earliest Christians. An Iberian-Celtic death rite held that, as one’s life waned, they walk to the End of the World, the place where earth-bound souls soared and sank into the watery Underworld. If they reached the end and had yet to die, they took up a scallop shell and returned home. The shell would serve as a waymarker for their soul after death. It now serves as a symbol for all Camino pilgrims.
Upon reaching the tumbled boulders on the far side of the lighthouse, Evan and I cast the scallop shells we had carried with us across the country into the surging sea. We embraced, and sat on the stones.
Six years later, I returned to the spit of rock where Evan and I had sat together. I spoke to him. I heard him in the waves against the rock. I saw him in the gulls that cruised across the water. And, as I cast the dust of his body into the ocean, I felt him as a cirque of sun breathed through the overcast sky.
Before I left NY, I was given one of Evan's many Buddha figures that he had collected in his younger years. I placed it atop a small pile of ashes on that rocky shore, just at the edge of the ocean's reach. As I rose, a swell of sea rose with me, gently gathering the Buddha and ashes, and bore them out into the great expanse of the Atlantic.
Evan was my best and brightest friend. I have wept to the gods and cowered in fear, as it is told Gilgamesh did upon the death of his friend Enkidu. But a glow remains from the blazing earthly light that was Evan Bingham Scofield. It blooms within my heart. I will forever bask in it, even when my heart begins to break.
- Jake Lewis