Santiago de Compostela in Southern California

It is with deep sadness that I share the sad news that Wolfgang, my pilgrim friend who walked the Camino after he was given six months to live, passed away on Friday night.

His friend Kurt sent me an email early Saturday morning:

my friend Wolfgang has reached his “fin de Camino” and died in the arms of his wife Bärbel last night…

Kurt wanted me to share this photo of him and Wolfgang:

Taken on May 21, 2012, the morning we started walking together on the Camino… less than a year ago.

R.I.P dear pilgrim Wolfgang.

Kurt and Wolfgang

Kurt and Wolfgang

Coincidence or Synchronicity?

On Saturday morning Mr F and I joined a group from the Southern California Chapter of the American Friends of the Camino on a hike which started at Santiago de Compostela Catholic Church in Lake Forest (about sixty miles south of Los Angeles) and ended at Mission San Juan Capistrano twelve miles away.

Santiago de Compostela Church in Lake Forest, California

Santiago de Compostela Catholic Church in Lake Forest, California

Some background info on the Camino:

The Camino de Santiago (“The Way of Saint James,”) follows a thousand-year pilgrimage route west across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where “it is thought” the remains of Jesus’s Apostle Saint James (Santiago) are buried.

A hermit who followed a star (stela) shining on a particular spot in an open field (Compo) found what was believed to be the coffin of St. James buried there, and a shrine was built on the site.

In 1189 Pope Alexander III made Santiago the patron saint of Spain, and declared Santiago de Compostela a Holy City (together with Rome and Jerusalem), which meant anyone undertaking a pilgrimage to Santiago would be pardoned from their sins.

Thus Pilgrimages (from the Latin ‘pereger‘ for “one who traverses a region”) to Santiago de Compostela became very popular in the Middle Ages.

Granite crosses were placed along the many pathways to guide the way.

Hundreds of years later stones inlaid with scallop shells, and the yellow arrow marked the route.

We can thank Don Elias Sampedro (1929-1989) a parish priest living along the Camino for thinking of marking the route with the yellow arrows.

Camino kilometer marker and yellow arrow

the shell and yellow arrow which mark the path along the Camino

The parish church in Southern California was named after the Spanish shrine in 1979.        I didn’t photograph inside the church out of respect because there was a funeral service while we were there. Another coincidence?

The first Galician Granite Pilgrimage Cross in the United States, which stands outside the Californian church in the center of the fountain, was a gift from the mother church in Spain.

we walked with some Pilgrims from the Southern Californian

Our group of pilgrims at the starting point in front of the cross.

I walked for Wolfgang.


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58 Responses to Santiago de Compostela in Southern California

  1. dadirri7 says:

    so touching rosie … sending love and blessings to wolfgang 🙂

  2. I’m sure that Wolfgang will be very missed. To have walked the Camino as an ill person impresses me very much. Santiago de Compostela Catholic Church sounds like a wonderful place for you to renew some of the inspiration that came to you on your walk along the Camino. What a special occasion!

    • dearrosie says:

      Wolfgang was such a gentleman Debra, and when you met him you would never have known he was so dreadfully ill. He walked much faster than everyone in my group!

      There’s so much fascinating history in California. I had no idea there was a church called Santiago de Compostela in S. California and I hadn’t been to the Mission before.

  3. What a love tribute. You never know what is going on inside the lives of people you meet along ‘life’s trail’.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Renee. We were all suntanned from a very early heat wave and when I met Wolfgang I was so impressed at how “healthy and fit he was…!” I was so shocked when Kurt told us how sick he really was.

  4. shoreacres says:

    Even though I expected to see this post, in some form, at some point, it came much sooner than I expected. Thank you for letting us know, and for giving us a glimpse into “our” Santiago de Compostela.

    Clearly, Wolfgang touched many people, and inspired some deeply. What wonderful memories of him you will have!

    • dearrosie says:

      I believe Wolfgang was given six months to live when he walked the Camino, so walking gave him a few extra months. I feel fortunate that our paths crossed.

      I didn’t know there was a church in California named Santiago de Compostela. I congratulate two women who lead the Southern California pilgrims association for finding such perfect places to begin and end our walk.

      Thank you for your thoughtful message Linda.

  5. aFrankAngle says:

    I recall your previous mentions of Wolfgang. Although the news is sad, cheers to his view of life and to your synchronicity in walking for him.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Frank. I believe he was in much pain at the end, so his suffering is over.

      Was it a coincidence that he passed away a few hours before I was going to walk with a group of pilgrims from a catholic church called Santiago de Compostela, and that there was a funeral in the church when we got there?

  6. munchow says:

    Very touching. I do remember your mentioning of Wolfgang previously. How sad that he has passed away now. May he rest in peace.

  7. So sorry to hear and thank you for the update. I do remember your story in meeting him. What a fitting day you had to carry him and his wife in your thoughts.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Georgette.
      The coincidence that he passed away on the day I walked with a group of Camino pilgrims from a catholic church called Santiago de Compostela is quite eerie. If you read that in a book you’d say “Not believable!”

  8. Linda Rena Goluboff says:

    Hi Rosie,
    I am very sorry to hear about Wolfgan.
    He was a special part of your life.
    I am sure it does not matter that you
    already knew he was going to pass on,
    It really happened. But, you have all
    These wonderful memories. These
    Memories no one can take away.
    These memories are Yours!
    I wish I could do magic and make you
    Feel better! Love to you,
    Linda Rena

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Linda. Its true that no one can take the wonderful memories from us. I’m sure your kind message will also be very comforting to Wolfgang’s wife.

  9. E fullstop says:

    So sorry to hear the sad news, but what an honor to have crossed paths with him in such a meaningful way. May we all serve as such inspiring examples as Wolfgang in the twilight of our years!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hey e fullstop,
      What a lovely comment. It was an honor, and I feel so fortunate that I met Wolfgang. He was the most unassuming person on the Camino. I thought was he was a very “healthy and fit man…!” and I almost didn’t believe Kurt when he told us Wolfgang was so ill.

  10. He looks so full of life in the picture! He died with a full heart, I am sure. And it seems he gave much to those who knew him, too. What a life! I feel very inspired.

    • dearrosie says:

      He looks healthy and fit in the picture. I think that’s the magic of the Camino.
      Wolfgang was such a modest man I’m sure he’d be amazed to know he’d inspired so many people all over the world.
      Thanks for commenting finelighttree.

  11. nrhatch says:

    Wonderful tribute . . . he looks quite vital in that photo.

  12. Kathy says:

    Tears in these eyes for Wolfgang who is now walking another pilgrimage…somewhere…and I know he’s smiling at your tribute and dedication to his life.

  13. So sorry for him. A beautiful and sad post about a dear fellow traveler.

  14. I think it’s rather inspirational to know that Wolfgang was able to realize a dream before he died. That is a happy ending to me. I probably said it before, I wish we could all be so lucky as to be able to send ourselves off in such a way. There is that hypothetical question often posed – “If you had X number of months to live, what would you do with your time?” We know Wolfgang’s answer.

    You do him a lovely honour by carrying his memory with you 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for your great comment Tara. We can all be inspired by Wolfgang. After his doctor gave him six months to live he didn’t go to bed and feel sorry for himself but fulfilled a dream to walk – not just part of the Camino – but the entire 750 km route, and although so ill he did it alone.

      He was one of those quiet dignified people who didn’t need to speak for others to feel their presence.

  15. So sorry to hear about your friend’s death, Rosie! But what a beautiful tribute!

    Sorry,also, to be so out of the loop recently. But, Sara and I have arrived safely in Ecuador, and I’m trying to get back into the routine of blogging.

    Hang in there, my friend..


    • dearrosie says:

      What a lovely surprise to see you here Kathryn. Welcome back. Good golly are you so settled that you’re already blogging? I’m on my way to your blog to catch up on your news.
      btw I loved everything about your wedding 😀

  16. So sorry to hear the sad news about Wolfgang… My heart goes out to those who loved him and will miss him. It’s been said that what matters is not how many moments we have had in our lives, but that we’ve lived those moments to the fullest, as Wolfgang did. You’ve written a touching and inspiring memorial, dear Rosie.

    • dearrosie says:

      “…what matters is not how many moments we have had in our lives, but that we’ve lived those moments to the fullest…”
      oh gosh Barbara, thank you so much for sharing this quote. It’s so true and yes he did.
      Enjoying life to the fullest right to the end is what we all hope for.

  17. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Rosie, many coincidences here OR is the Universe in sync with your friendship for Wolfgang and with your grief? I would think the latter, that from wherever Wolfgang is now–with the Holy Oneness of All Creation of which you and he are a part–he is sharing with you the12-mile walk yu did and remembering the joy of his walk with his friend Kurt. Life is, indeed, mysterious an wonderful. Peace.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for joining the conversation with such beautiful sentiments Dee. I do feel the coincidences were more than “coincidences”… The synchronicity of Wolfgang passing away the night before I walked with the American pilgrims was a gift from the universe for both of us, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he walked with me along those hot streets last weekend…

  18. Doris says:

    Rosie so sorry for your loss this is so touching, what a beautiful thing to do, I bet he is smiling right now.

  19. adinparadise says:

    A very brave man, Rosie. Wolfgang died doing something he really believed in and enjoyed. Condolences to his wife and to you as one of his friends. It’s so amazing, the people we are privileged to meet, and who touch our lives in a special way, isn’t it?

    • dearrosie says:

      I feel so privileged to have met him Sylvia. The Camino a challenging walk when you’re healthy and he did the whole 750 odd kilometers and did it alone with a “six month to live” sentence hanging over him; and there was no “you’ve got to feel sorry for me” coming from him, in fact my first impression when I met him was “here’s a very fit healthy man”. I was shocked when Kurt told us how sick he was.

    • dearrosie says:

      What a lovely award – thank you so much Sylvia. I’m honored to be part of your blogging family.

      As I said on your post, I look forward to meeting you in person one day – and not just because I know you make delicious cheese cakes 😀 – but because I admire your adventurous spirit

  20. bronxboy55 says:

    In your posts about the Camino, I have been struck by how profoundly some people know how to live. That’s the impression I had of Wolfgang, and so while I am saddened to hear of his death, I am just as inspired by his enthusiasm for life. Thank you, Rosie, for another beautiful post. Keep walking, and please keep writing.

    • dearrosie says:

      Oh my gosh what a beautiful comment. My dear Charles I present you with “The master wordsmith award”. I just made it up specially for you, with my love 😀

      We are all saddened to learn he passed away, but I’m sure his courage in walking the entire Camino alone and with the 6 month death sentence hanging on his head has inspired everyone who reads this post.

  21. souldipper says:

    I’m sniffing, reading through blurs and trying to eat my porridge before it’s stone cold. I did pretty well until “I’m walking for Wolfgang.” The story causes me to ask if I would feel up to walking the Camino 6 months before the end of my life. I’d like to think I would and Wolfgang is a great example. XO to Rosie.

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m very sorry to be the cause of your eating stone cold porridge Amy. Even though I’ve never met you personally, I know you pretty well through your blog to feel sure you would definitely do something like walk the Camino with a 6 month death sentence hanging on your head.

  22. Robin says:

    I’m sorry about the loss of your friend and fellow pilgrim. Walking for Wolfgang is, I think, a wonderful tribute.

  23. Madhu says:

    What can I say Rosie, except ‘I am so sorry’? Thank you for sharing Wolfgang’s inspiring story and this beautiful tribute. Take care.

  24. Oh, no … I don’t know what to say. I am sad for your friend. May he rest in pease and may his family find comfort in the knowledge that he is doing well in the arms of angels.
    Namaste …

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for your very kind message Issie. By walking the entire 750 km of the Camino Wolfgang came out empowered and strong. When we met him we would never have guessed that he was so ill – he was glowing with good health and vitality.

  25. sybil says:

    Hi Rosie, sorry for the delay in reading and commenting. Been in a blogging funk. Not sure if I’m really over it …

    What a lovely way to honour your friend, Wolfgang.

    Consider yourself hugged. Sybil

  26. Kurt says:

    hello my dear rosie

    i just read all the comments to your wonderfull post
    it`s just the same to me – when i look at this strong, healty man
    on the picture, i can`t believe he is gone…
    it`s just like on our camino last year:
    do yo remember, we lost each other just on the last days
    in front of santiago?
    i felt very sad, because
    i thought, i will never see the “canadians” again.
    and what a surprise – just on my last evening
    in santiago – i was walking around in the beautiful city
    – of course together with wolfgang –
    and find the whole group sitting there!

    i`m sure – i only have to wait some time,
    to recognize wolfgang is sitting just arround the corner…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Kurt,
      I’m sure it must be incredibly hard for you to accept that Wolfgang has gone – he looked so strong and healthy walking down the road… You both walked so fast I couldn’t keep up with you so you reached Santiago several days ahead of us.

      oh gosh I also remember the wonderful reunion when we met up in Santiago. You suddenly appeared and said “massage for Rosie…” Such a happy occasion.

  27. Patrick Dazelle a fait en 1999 le pèlerinage (à pied !), de Lake Forest à New Orleans, et La Rochelle (France) à Santiago de Compostela. Il a publié son récit dans un livre.
    Son site web :

    Patrick Dazelle ‘s Pilgrimage 1999 (pedestrian !) from Lake Forest to New Orleans, and La Rochelle (France) to Santiago de Compostela. A book :

    Bernard 64 – delhommeb@wanadoo.fr

    • dearrosie says:

      Bonjour Monsieur Delhome,
      Merci pour votre message.

      I hadn’t heard of Patrick Dazelle’s pilgrimage across the United States to New Orleans and onto France to continue his journey onto Santiago de Compostela. Thank you for the link to his site. I’m going to enjoy reading more about his journey.

      I was very pleased to see that you’ve been part of the group trying to connect the pilgrimage routes. Last time Mr F and I were in Italy I’d hoped to hike along the Roman pilgrimage route but didn’t manage to do it. We did hike along The Cinque Terre and its one of my all-time favorite places to hike.
      I quote from your blog (I hope my translation is correct):

      “After five years of research we finally came to the realization of a dream: a journey that will unite the two major pilgrimages, Santiago de Compostela and Roma. By walking the path Chin-Sarzana, we’ve tried all possible paths, knowing that Liguria is built on the hills, and has many trails and paths near the coast, as an alternative to the via Aurelia.

      Thank you for sharing the news.

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