Honoring a Hero
RSM’s Devon Maslyn describes his deceased mother as a “super hero.” To honor his mother, Devon and his father recently traveled to Spain – courtesy of RSM’s Pursue Your Passion program – to complete the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimage trails that ultimately lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James.
Read Devon’s story:
Meeting with my dad at LAX to start our journey to Spain for our trek of the Camino de Santiago was surreal. Before July 27, there had been dozens of phone calls, text, and Facetime conversations about what to pack, how to train, and other trip logistics. Seeing him in person with our bags backed released a wave of emotions: excitement about fulfilling the experience for my mother, sadness about my mother not being with us, and fear of the daunting unknown of the next two weeks. I booked our flights to and from Spain, our bike rental, a hotel for our first night, and a hotel for the last night - everything in between was undefined and uncertain.
Below are a few of my learnings from the experience:
- There is no way to mentally, or emotionally prepare for a 425-mile bike ride to honor the life of the greatest mother in the world.
- We averaged more than 50 miles a day along the Northern coast of Spain, through farmland, industrial cities, fishing villages, beach towns, and much more.
- There is a reason office chairs aren’t shaped like bike seats; 10 hours a day, eight days in a row on a bike is a lot.
- The Northern coast of Spain is extremely hilly – seemingly endless uphill’s followed by tiny downhills.
- The beaches of Northern Spain are cold and rocky; unlike the beaches I grew up with in California.
- The Camino de Santiago is marked with occasional official markers, but we were typically guided by faint, hand-painted, yellow arrows on signs, curbs, trees, and other objects. We did a lot of U-turns, backtracking, and detours.
- Riding on sunny days is hot and sweaty, riding in the pouring rain is cold and tough, and riding on overcast days is just right.
- Everyone has a unique purpose for walking or biking the path, and the Camino takes them just as they are.
- Flat tires are a nuisance.
- No amount of calories is enough to stay satiated on long bike rides.
- The side of a highway is a perfect place for a nap 50 miles and 7 hours into a ride.
- I absolutely could not have done this trip without my father at my side and without my mother motivating us.
- The long days together were so beneficial for our relationship; we were able to talk about life before and after my mother, settle some differences, grow as father and son.
- Riding a bike for a whole day gives you a lot of time to think about your life without distractions.
- Spreading ashes of a loved one is incredibly powerful, partially because it’s strange to hold what’s left of someone in your palms and partially because it is a stark reminder of their absence from your life.
The Camino de Santiago ends at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The cathedral façade faces a large courtyard of cobblestone, twice the size of a football field. It is situated in the historic part of the city where the buildings are hundreds of years old and the narrow roads only allow foot traffic. It’s a beautiful city where every corner is a piece of art and every courtyard tells a story. Pilgrims, tired from hundreds of miles of walking or biking, wander the streets, poking in and out of shops, while soaking in the climax of the trip. We were fortunate to have almost three days to enjoy the city and recuperate after our trek.
If you complete the pilgrimage, the government issues you certificate for your effort. We waited in line for our certificates, surrounded by fellow pilgrims. The scene was something I’ll never forget: at least five languages within earshot, taped ankles and knees, torn clothes, dirty hair, tears, and other signs of joy-filled exhaustion. We went to a pilgrims’ mass in the cathedral and sat next to the resting place of St. James. Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was simply laying on the cobblestone and staring at the cathedral along with other pilgrims who had just hauled themselves across Spain. The city was spectacular, it was beautiful, it challenged people to reach within and examine themselves, it listened, it drew a crowd, and so much more: just like my mother. I felt her in the city.
My father and I packed up to leave Spain, the same way we packed for Spain; but we were completely changed. We were challenged emotionally, spiritually, physically; we were not coming back to the United States the same as before.
Thank you to RSM for starting the Pursue Your Passion initiative. Thank you for believing in my passion. Thank you for enabling me to do this trip of a lifetime with my father to honor the beautiful life of my mother. Thanks to you, my mother is flowing down Spanish rivers, drifting through Spanish winds, and traveling the world in ways she never could have before.