Maybe it was because there was too much autism and too many awful repercussions for me to handle, that I went on a pilgrimage with the church. I went to Europe, for the first time, not on vacation but to find something, something spiritual. I visited many incredible places that echoed with history and hope and memories and dreams and longing, and thousands of prayers from centuries past: Fatima, Avila, Barcelona, Paris, Lourdes, Lisieux! Cathedrals and Churches, places marked by ancient stones and dark high ceilings, filled with shadows that were pierced by shafts of dusty light and the colours of stained glass. I sat on historic pews of undefined age, I tread under exhaulted dreams and architectural wonders, lost and overwhelmed, listening to the whispers that spoke inside sacred places, and feeling the current of those who sat there before me. I felt the rhythm and sway of the words of the Catholic mass, even in unknown languages. Beautiful sights mingled with the sounds of ancient music, they filled me up, and they defined something I could never articulate. I was affected by the pilgrimage in some huge and indescribable way. And I came home with something I could not explain, but it made me capable, it made me able to carry on. I am grateful to my family who allowed me this experience.
There are so many memories of that pilgrimage that live on within me. A big tree in Fatima, Spain near a place of worship with glass walls. Lourdes, sitting by a turbulent river across from a contrasting peaceful candlelit grotto where Mary once appeared long ago. Paris, where on the last night, I took the subway after supper to a destination called Montmartre, a place where I climbed up all these stairs to get to this incredible church, Basilique du Sacre Coeur. There I attended a French mass, after which I lit candles to honor family and friends. I emerged from the church to a breathtaking sunset over Paris. The steps of the church by then were crowded with people of all ages. For the first time in a long time, I felt belonging, something that I treasured. The scent of marijuana and the sound of guitar music and the singing of voices was heady and inviting. I could have lingered there on those steps, I could have stayed there, but I had to leave, because I had a ticket to return home the next day. Yet nothing was really lost, because my reality needed this, it needed all these memories, everything that I could bring back with me, if I was to survive.