In recent months, we have seen several dear friends in the Baba community pass away. Feeling their loss, and seeing the continuous pictures of war so prevalent on the television each day, my thoughts have turned more and more to the spiritual meaning Baba gives to suffering and death.
In some ways, I find death easier to accept, as I grow older. Even in my sadness and attachment, I take some comfort in knowing the person has been released from their suffering. The main reason for this change in awareness in me is that I have been privileged to be in the room with a few close ones at the moment of their passing. Those experiences have had a tremendous impact on my understanding and acceptance of death.
One of my most precious memories is being with Kitty Davy the night she went to Baba. I was sitting by her side on a low stool by the bed, holding her hand, repeating Baba’s name aloud. Her eyes were closed and I thought she had slipped into a coma. A little while later, to my astonishment, Kitty began repeating aloud, in a very clear voice, “Abba, Abba, Abba, Abba.” I continued saying Baba’s name and we began taking turns. She would say “Abba”, and I would follow with, “Baba.” Soon I realized Kitty was taking the lead, not me. This went on for a while, back and forth. Suddenly, there was a change in the rhythm and Kitty began repeating “Abba” so rapidly, that I could no longer keep up. Suddenly, she stopped and there was a profound silence. Her eyes opened wide, then closed on a big sigh and her hand released in mine.
Baba’s presence was so powerful that I, as “Wendy”, completely disappeared. It was just Kitty and Baba. Kitty was so clearly letting go of her form, reaching out to her Beloved, and Baba was so clearly waiting for her with such happiness.
Six years would pass before I realized in giving me that experience, Baba prepared me for my mother’s passing. That’s another beautiful story, for another time.
There’s a wonderful account in Kitty’s book, Love Alone Prevails, of an occasion whenBaba spontaneously spoke to them about the illusion of death. In an excerpt from her diary, Kitty writes:
“One afternoon, several close ones were sitting with Baba on Meherabad Hill when a cable arrived from Margaret in England informing them that Mable Ryan had passed on. (Mabel was Margaret’s partner in their dancing school.) A sadness fell over the group and Baba asked, “Why are you sad? Mabel has come to Me. She is still here, where else can she go? Only you do not see her, for being without her coat and hat on, you do not recognize her.”
In a letter to Delia, Baba said: “I know how you feel parting with dear Mabel, but Mabel has not parted from you. She is closer to you now that she was or could be before. Love knows no separation and because you loved her so much, nothing, even death as physical separation is called, can break that tie of love there is between you.”
Baba tells us one of the essential conditions of true happiness is complete detachment from desires and attachments. But, for most of us, both are ever present in one form or another. Whether it be one’s attachment to a parent or child, a spouse, devoted friend, a special talent, food, our home, worry, being right and, particularly addictive, power; all are equally binding.
Intellectually, I know the only answer is letting go by consciously making the effort to remember Baba and surrender it to him. However, even with my inner conviction that Baba’s Truth is the only Reality, it is no easy task. And of course, it’s not meant to be.
During many visits with the mandali, I could see their detachment in action. They gave and continue to give so much love to thousands of pilgrims, able to do it only because of their love for Beloved Baba and, as Baba would often remind them, His love for them.
I know Baba severely tested His close ones; as Kitty would say, “Suffering was Baba’s way of working.” But it was rare to catch a glimpse of their personal feelings and it always took me by surprise when I was given such a glimpse.
On one such occasion, I was sitting with Mani in her office at the trust compound, when word came about a particular problem involving a member of Mani’s family. It was clearly not good news. I saw an expression of deep sadness come in to Mani’s eyes. She looked up at me and held my glance. I felt such pain in that moment that I caught my breath. In the next moment, I watched Mani gather herself and let go of whatever it was. Her wonderful smile returned and we went back to our conversation as if nothing had happened.
I can only strive for that kind of detachment and hope, that in some lifetime perhaps, I will be able to surrender everything to Him.
Another example that comes to mind involves Kitty, who would find herself worn out at the end of the day by the constant flow of people wanting to see her. One evening, after a particularly hectic day, Kitty came onto the back porch of Dilruba and sank in her chair with a weary sigh. Buz and I spontaneously asked her if the suffering ever ended. Kitty thought for a moment and replied, “No, I can’t say that it does. It just passes more quickly.” And with that, she gave a little laugh, and in her usual light hearted way talked about her day.