I came to Baba in the year 1979, just after the so-called “Jonestown Massacre”, which had provided an exclamation point for those who were concerned about “religious” cults. Many people, including myself, were wary about the subject and the just plain bizarre groups and activities that were often the subject of public discourse at that time.
I was traveling in Europe post-college graduation in the autumn and had planned to start a Master’s program at the University of Chicago in January, 1980. My personal experience of coming to Baba was exquisite – ineffably beautiful and all-encompassing. My Baba contact had told me about Meher Baba Oceanic, Pete Townshend’s place in Twickenham near London, and I made my way there in December, fortunate that it was still open and that I could stay there. After a week or so, I decided to extend my stay, postponing entrance to the university. I was a bit concerned about communicating that to my folks, not to mention telling them about Baba.
This was pre-internet and international phone calls were rather expensive in those days. My medium of choice was letters and postcards, which I sent home, stating as tactfully as I could what my “plans” were . . . and telling my parents about Baba; that he was God in human form – Jesus come again. My parents were very level-headed people and, while whatever I said in that letter was quite earnest and sincere, I can only imagine the great concern and worry my statements must have aroused in them.
By January of 1980, I had found my way to the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, my Baba honeymoon in full swing. One day I was hanging out at the Original Kitchen when Dennis McCabe came in and we started talking.
“Where are you from?” asked Dennis.
“Chicago,” I said.
“I’m from Chicago. Where in Chicago?”
“Actually, I’m from Deerfield,” I said.
“I’m from Deerfield,” says Dennis.
It was a good ice-breaker for me, since I’m shy meeting people for the first time. Dennis mentioned that his mother, Peggy, worked at the Deerfield Public Library. I said, “my mom is a volunteer at the Library. I wonder if they know each other?”
Dennis became my most frequent Baba contact in Chicago after that. As he is now at Meher Center, he was then the film master of the Chicago Group, and once a month was film night. On those nights, I would go to Dennis’ apartment, have dinner, then the two of us would drive downtown for films.
Some time later, I don’t remember when exactly, I learned the following story. One day, my mother and Peggy McCabe were having lunch together. They had been good friends for many years, it turns-out. My mom says, “Peggy, I’ve got a story to tell you,” and proceeds to tell her about me, having learned that I had become involved with Meher Baba. She was worried and anxious that followers of Baba were a cult, and she was concerned about her son. Peggy allowed my mother to pour her heart out and then said, “Well, Edith, now I have a story to tell you!”
And she proceeded to assuage my mother’s concern, telling her, among other things, that Dennis was not a weirdo and that his association with Baba had not ruined his life. It was a great relief to my mother and I know it changed her feelings and thoughts about Baba.
Dennis and I did a reckoning and came to the conclusion that our mothers were having lunch at the same time Dennis and I were first becoming acquainted at the Original Kitchen. So typical of Baba, not only to have such care for all involved, but to have already worked-out the answer to my mom’s concerns before she could even express them.
My parents did not become Baba lovers, however, they kept a beautiful postcard of Baba on their refrigerator for 20 years. They became comfortable with my connection with Baba, similarly for many of my Baba friends they met – and, of course, my spouse! A few years ago when my dad passed-away, Jeanne and I brought my mom the news. The three of us went to dad’s room for good-byes and we all recited the Lord’s Prayer – something which mom and dad had been doing each night when they parted company. I told mom that Jeanne and I were going to say the Master’s Prayer, in case she didn’t want to stay for that. But she did stay.
Afterward she said, “That’s the most beautiful prayer I’ve ever heard” and she asked for a written copy.