Grandfather making good on promise by walking 800 kilometres
Terry Wilson's eyes are pink and glassy as he talks about Maddy.
His 17-year-old granddaughter, who had cystic fibrosis, died suddenly.
She was gone too young, he said.
Just days before her death, Wilson, 68, had joked with her about one day walking the Spanish Camino Trail.
He had brought up the idea at Palmerston North Hospital, before Maddy Stuart was sent to Starship children's hospital in Auckland.
There, she was placed into a coma, and it was hoped this would give her lungs and body a rest, he said.
"It didn't work out and she drifted away."
Although people with cystic fibrosis have shortened life expectancy, Stuart's death still came as a shock to her family.
The bright, forthright teenager loved life and lived it to the full, he said.
Even at her best, Stuart would not have been able to handle the walk that starts in France and goes across Spain. "But the thought was there," he said.
More than a year later, Wilson is making good on his promise of walking all 800 kilometres of the trail in her memory.
Wilson is walking about 25km a day, starting this week.
He will do 700km on his own, and then complete the last 100km with his wife Cathy by his side.
Before he started training, the furthest he had walked was to the letterbox, he said.
But if little old ladies and young teenagers could walk the popular trail, so could he, he said.
About 250,000 people walk the Camino each year, he said.
The first day would be tough, climbing from 200 metres above sea level to nearly 1500m in the French Pyrenees.
"Almost everybody that comes back says it's changed their life," he said before the journey.
Wilson said he was walking for charity, for Stuart and for himself.
"In one way it's turned out just fine because she couldn't come before. Now she can.
"I know the spirit of Maddy is always with us and I know she will enjoy the Camino just as much as I will."
He aims to raise at least $10,000, which will be split between Cystic Fibrosis NZ and Cure Kids NZ.
A givealittle page has been set up to help fundraise.
Donating to a cause was a good way to help others, and could help those who were also grieving, he said.