Amartithi has just passed and, as happens every year, I relived the day when we heard the news that Beloved Baba had dropped His physical form. Many years would go by before I realized just how significant that day was for me. It was the day when, unbeknownst to me, Baba turned me around to face Him from a different direction–He turned me inward, away from His form towards Him within. I’d like to give you a glimpse of my experience on that unforgettable day.
It was a Saturday morning. I remember well because I was at home making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Happy Club, something I did every Saturday. Happy Club was a weekly program held at the Center for children from the Myrtle Beach black community. In an unusual “twist of fate,” my mother happened to be away in Atlanta with my brother, Charles, directing a play at Emory University. My brother, John, was away in boot camp and his (then) wife, Margaret, had offered to stay with me until mother returned.
Suddenly, the phone rang and it was Kitty to tell me that Elizabeth wanted to see me. I said I would come by and continued what I was doing, taking my time. About five minutes later, the phone rang again and, again, it was Kitty. In a very serious, firm voice she said, “I thought I told you, Elizabeth wants to see you.” “Oh,” I said, “I’m sorry, Kitty, I thought you meant just before Happy Club.” (Elizabeth and I would always leave from Dilruba around 11:00 a.m. and drive downtown to pick up the children; I was seventeen and didn’t have a driver’s license at the time). Kitty paused and said, “There won’t be Happy Club today.” In that instant, I’m not sure how or why, I knew immediately that Baba had dropped His body. With a pounding heart, I ran over to Dilruba.
Kitty met me at the door. I took one look at her face and saw that it was true. I went into Elizabeth’s room and found her sitting up in bed; there were two tears rolling down her face. She looked up at me and in her calm, dignified manner said, “I awoke this morning at 4:00 a.m. and said aloud, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth.’ And I knew Beloved Baba had dropped His form.” At 8:00 a.m., Western Union called and the man said, “Mrs. Patterson, in all the years I have delivered telegrams to you, this is one I don’t want to give you.” Elizabeth told him it was all right, she already knew what it said.
As the day went on, my feelings of sadness and confusion deepened. I didn’t have a clue what would happen next or what to do next. All through the years, since meeting Him in 1958, our lives revolved around Baba in the physical body. I pictured Him in Myrtle Beach wearing His pink coat, enfolding me in an embrace that seemed to go on forever. I would see Him in the car leaving from Bund Gardens and me running up to the window hoping for a last glance. I remembered Him at the East West Gathering when He swayed happily back and forth to the quavali music He so loved. In between, our days were marked by the cables we received from Baba and letters from Mani, often containing messages from Baba or Mehera. And I remember the day our greatest prayer was answered when Baba called His lovers to India to be with Him once again in the spring of ’69. That Saturday I could not grasp the unfathomable–that we would not see Him again. I had no blueprint for what life would be or could be without the Beloved’s beautiful form, the only Baba I had known and loved.
I remember watching Elizabeth and Kitty that Saturday as they immediately began attending to urgent details, the first being to contact as many people as possible in the nearby community with the news. I remember being struck, in the midst of my sadness, by their poise. They didn’t let their grief stop them, even for a moment, from doing what had to be done. They seemed to know exactly what He expected from them and what would please Him.
It was years before I realized Baba had given me my first clue that day about what I was to do next. He had shown me, through the examples of Elizabeth and Kitty, that He hadn’t gone anywhere, that He was directing their every action. I have often recalled something that happened during one of our morning sessions with Baba in 1962. We were listening to music, when Baba suddenly stopped everything and very deliberately pointed to Himself, gesturing, “I am not this form that you see. It is only a cloak I put on in which I come to visit you.” He pointed to our hearts, saying, “Look within and see me as I really am. I am none other than the Highest within you.” It wasn’t until Baba shed that Divine Cloak, that I began to search for Him within.
Not having had the years of training with the Beloved these extraordinary women did, my journey to an inner awareness of Baba was just beginning and I would later recognize that this journey is the development of an inner relationship with Him.
I am still on that journey, continually discovering what it means to love and please Baba. My memories of being with Baba physically are treasures that are forever etched in my heart. But not a day goes by that I don’t thank Him for giving me the opportunity to find the real treasure within.