Longmont resident Jane Hanlon still hears her father’s voice when her nerves surface, despite the man’s tragic death last year on a motorcycle trip in Mexico.
It is a voice Hanlon rarely heard growing up, as her father, Gary Clough, was absent from raising her starting when she was 6 weeks old.
But she rekindled her paternal relationship several years ago, and shared with Clough a love for the same movies, especially 2011’s “The Way,” which was directed by Emilio Estevez and centers around a character’s pilgrimage along Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago, following his son’s death on the same path.
Hanlon, who said she is in her mid-40s, has committed to leaving her Main Street apartment at the end of this month and quitting her finance position with an IT services firm to embark on the same 500-mile Camino de Santiago walk, a journey she and her father planned to take together.
Hanlon is now tackling the trek in memory of Clough, who was 69 when he died.
Apprehension still occasionally arises in Hanlon, however, about the prospect of giving up the security of a job that pays the bills for the unknown of bunking in hostels with strangers on the Camino.
But knowing that Clough would want her to take the leap out of her comfort zone and complete the journey has compelled Hanlon to stick to her plan of starting the excursion in early September.
“It is very scary, and sometimes I get a little nervous, and sometimes I just keep hearing my father’s voice, and I know he’s so proud of me for doing this,” Hanlon said. “They say the Camino provides. I’m not worrying. I don’t need to bring everything, there’s shops in Spain, there’s a whole community of people.”
The history of the Camino de Santiago intertwines with the Christian faith and stretches back more than 1,000 years to the rumored discovery that the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia is the burial site of Saint James, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Over the past 10 centuries, the journey to the famous church has been made by pilgrims on foot and horseback every year from across Spain and western Europe.
Hanlon will be far from alone on the path.
Last year, more than 300,000 people made the trek to the cathedral, according to the Confraternity of Saint James website, which helps users learn about and plan for the Camino de Santiago.
Hanlon’s aunt, Christi Hydrick, said she was saddened by Clough’s death particularly because of the ephemerality of the bond he had finally made with his daughter.
“For her, like for anyone, (Clough’s death) was a terrible shock. In more ways than just losing someone that you love, it is just a deeper shock of loss that just in the last few years they have developed this great relationship, and now we don’t have any more opportunity to strengthen it and develop it even further,” Hydrick said.
Clough’s death, which Hanlon said involved a fall off a cliff while on a motorcycle trip in Guerrero, Mexico, went unreported to his daughter for a month, until the executor of his will informed her.
“The horrible thing is I was down there in Mexico, arrived the day after he died, and didn’t know he had died until a month later,” Hanlon said. “…Before he went on his trip to Mexico, he was at the end of a call, and (said), ‘I love you kid,’ and I was like, ‘I love you.’ I paused, because we had never said that to each other before. I feel so blessed that we got to reconnect, that we got to say that to each other, that we got the time to fix what went wrong early on.”
Kimberly Kerr, who became friends with Hanlon about four years ago while they lived near each other in Washington state, said Hanlon has always had an intrepid personality, but her journey on the Camino will represent a step forward in seeking a long-term foreign foray.
“She’s always had this adventurous kind of gypsy, nomad way about her, but she has never acted on it too much,” Kerr said. “Life is too short, and that’s what she concluded.”
Hydrick anticipates Hanlon’s 500-mile tour from the western edge of France to Spain’s northwest coast will be healing.
“She got thrown very many curveballs from a very young age, and she has successfully navigated that. This is another piece of the puzzle that will fill her soul,” Hydrick said.
For Hanlon, 500 miles might not be enough.
“I don’t want to be 80 years old and on my death bed and regret not going to do this… Honestly I don’t want to come back. I don’t know if I’ll have a job when I come back. I want to find my tribe over there and make some friends and decide to keep going. Maybe cross the strait of Gibraltar and head into Africa. I want to go and experience the world,” Hanlon said.
Sam Lounsberry: twitter.com/samlounz.