The San Antonio Mission Trail is one of those no-brainer must-dos on every Texan’s Bucket List. The Alamo is just the head of an entire trail that includes 4 other Missions.
I didn’t end up embarking on such a trail until I had long since reached adulthood. We got our start a little too late in the day, just about an hour and a half before they closed for the day. So we only got to see Mission Concepción and a little sneak-a-peek at Mission San José (which is actually sort of the godfather Mission, even more so than The Alamo).
All of the Missions are beautiful and decently-preserved. Mission Concepción doesn’t particularly stand out. It’s not as legendary as The Alamo, nor is it as comprehensive as Mission San José.
But it will be forever etched in my mind.
And it will forever hold a special place in my being.
I’m not Catholic. In this life, I’m not even Christian, in the contemporary sense of the word.
But the Missions are Catholic, and thus, I must have been at one point, too. “One point” meaning long before this life, but not too long ago. Of course, “long” depends on who you ask, and very quickly, things can become very…relative.
That day, sometime back in 2010 or 2011, the last time my sister had come this far south from the Maple Leaf side of the border, had been my first time visiting there.
What I didn’t know is that it wasn’t exactly my First Time.
We took one car, the 5 of us–my parents, my partner, my sister, and me–and parked in the designated lot behind Mission Concepción. And we approached the beautiful-but-obviously-aged-and-somewhat-crumbling compound.
A feeling began to settle in. Two words popped into my mind: “getting warmer”.
Whoa! What was that?
I knew to listen to that little voice. But I didn’t quite understand what it was saying.
I kept up with my family, and we ventured inside. Although it was no longer a working church, it was quiet and dim, only ambiently lit.
From there, we didn’t exactly bother to stick together. It’s an unwritten custom in my family; nothing is over-structured, and everyone is free to wander.
I wandered into a small room that had a good replica of a wall sconce, a lantern that was obviously up to 21st-century building codes, but an admirable attempt at preserving the general vibe of the time period.
Almost instantly, the persistent whisper I had heard as I passed up the entryway with the gang reached a crescendo of magnificent intensity. A feeling I can’t describe rose up from the floor, through my feet, in what I can only call a shockwave.
I saw it coming but I never saw it coming, if you know what I mean.
Now, only one word popped into my mind: “home”.
The feeling was so intense, that that’s probably what makes it so hard to identify.
I knew instantly that I had Been Here Before. It’s just something you know, when you feel it. It was akin to a flashback, but not from post-traumatic stress. It was a spiritual flashback, across space and time, a matching up of two different lives, two incarnations of one soul reaching across the barriers of time and matter to say hi, even shake hands…
…at least, in a way.
But one thing was certain: I had lived here. This had been Home Base at one point.
My eyes filled with tears I could not explain. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t find the words; I wouldn’t have successfully gotten them out anyway.
I tried, and it was rather comical–at least, in a way. Moments later, I found my family, in the same hallway as the one shown below. By that time, tears were streaming down my face. Immediately, they became concerned, asking me what’s wrong. I didn’t want them to worry, so I tried to smile and I think I did, but it was very awkward, because other people were around, too–people unrelated to us.
I did my best. I had to whisper and mouth everything. My words came out in short, staccato, elementary sentences. It was all very Basic.
“No–this is a good thing. I’m happy.”
“I’ve Been Here.”
“…as in, Before.”
Luckily, my mom believes in reincarnation, and the rest of the family members present either believed in it, too, or were at least very open to the idea.
My family took turns putting their arms around me. I’m not sure they knew what to make of it, but they’ve come to accept me as I am. It has taken some longer than others. The latter have always accepted me, from the git-go.
I’m unsure of the capacity in which I served the Mission. I just know I had lived there, acting in some capacity, dedicating my life to something, and probably working hard, but loving it. And it was that particular room that must have served as the center of everything–at least, in a way.
The room itself was nondescript–so much so that I cannot find a picture of it on Google Images. Its layout and furnishings gave little away, and the time elapsed since that visit–plus my memory’s gradually-declining integrity–has only faded the mental images further.
But I will never forget the feeling. I’ll never forget the realization. I’ll never forget the cataclysmic combination of joy, discovery, overwhelm, and even relief that I felt. The relief component, I think, can be traced to the fact that I had finally discovered something about the cosmic past that I had wondered so much about and tried so desperately to uncover.
Ever since I was young, I had wanted to take part in past-life hypnosis, in order to discover a past that was rich and vivid. But there was always a heavy air of hopelessness surrounding the entire idea, for my brain is not one that would be easily hypnotized. It does not succumb to the power of suggestion. And thus, a road open to others would be barricaded to me. I would have to find another way. I would have to travel the world, starting with the places toward which I felt a sort of magnetic “pull”.
I had no idea that one of them was practically right here, in my backyard. And it really is only this one Mission–the Mission Concepción, and not just any mission, because I’ve been to all of the Missions in San Antonio (and El Paso, which has 3), and nothing like this happened at any of the others.
Well, maybe I did, a little. Moving here was, in a way, like coming home. The people were certainly different and the map had changed somewhat ( 😉 ), but the basic elements, especially in the city center, were the same, and had stubbornly remained so through the tireless efforts of an active tourism department.
I might not be fond of tourists, but I guess I’m fond of the financial incentive they give to the city, county, state, and even federal governments to preserve the past–a past that had suddenly become very personal.
After all, it’s not every day you practically come face-to-face with your own ghost.
…At least, in a way.