I grew-up in Armonk, New York – a small town about 45 minutes north of New York City, adjacent to Greenwich, Connecticut. In the 1950’s (well before I.B.M. established its world headquarters there), Armonk was chock-full of émigrés from New York City, all of whom were seeking a more livable existence, removed from the urban hub-bub, but close enough to commute to the city for work. My parents were two such people.
Along with many others, they became deeply involved in civic activities ranging from the overhaul and expansion of the school system to actively participating in a thriving community theater. Many of these activities were public in nature and, as such, required either publicity or public notice.
At that time, the most widely distributed newspaper serving the area was the Patent Trader, which had an office in Mt. Kisco, NY. My parents would frequently go there in order to submit press releases related to these activities, and I would go with them. I was a child then, but I have vivid memories of these trips and of my parents’ animated interactions with the person at the newspaper who handled these press releases. And that person was none other than Ann Conlon, the wonderful, original All (Baba) Things Considered columnist.
So frequent were the meetings that hers was a household name in our family. It is especially wonderful for me to remember these contacts because it was during these years that Ann made her first trip to India to meet Meher Baba.
About 20 years later, I came to Baba during a trip to Europe, which concluded with my first visit to Meher Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in January 1980. Ann was working at the Gateway; she was of immediate stature to me, with a deep smoky voice and was not what you would call a shrinking violet. I was on a Baba “high” at the time, experiencing one amazing coincidence after another and Ann seemed familiar to me . . . but in a vague sort of way.
However, I was struck with wonder when she asked me, “Are you Bruce Felknor’s son, from Armonk?” and then recollected that, when I was a small boy I would visit her office in New York with my parents. She remembered me and especially wanted to know how my parents were doing. They had had a mutual fondness and I remember that Ann made a remark that characterized my dad very well. She gave me a hearty “Jai Baba!” and a great hug.
This made me feel that Baba had mapped it out years before and that it was a matter of destiny — that he had done the work enabling us all to be linked with him forever and to each other. (Baba spoke about this in a Circular Letter issued on October 8, 1954 [see: http://www.theawakenermagazine.org/avol21/av21n02/av21n02p01.htm] which was prompted by the heartrending outcry of his lovers over Baba’s statements about his impending physical demise. [see: The Final Declaration http://www.ambppct.org/messages.php#final])
In the circular, he said:
There is no reason at all for any of you to worry. Baba was, Baba is, and Baba will also be eternally existent. Severance of external relations does not mean the termination of internal links. It was only for establishing the internal connection that external contacts had been maintained till now. The time has now come for being bound in the chain of internal connections. Hence, external contact is no longer necessary. It is possible to establish the internal link by obeying Baba’s orders. I give you all My blessings for strengthening these internal links.
I am always with you and I am not away from you. I was, am, and will also be eternally with you and it is for promoting this realization that I have severed external contact. This will enable all persons to realize Truth by being bound to each other with internal links.
Oh My lovers! I love you all. It is only because of My love for My creation that I have descended on earth. Let not your hearts be torn asunder by My declarations concerning the dropping of My body. On the contrary, accept My Divine Will cheerfully. You can never escape from Me. Even if you try to escape from Me, it is not possible to get rid of Me. Therefore, have courage and be brave.
The fulfillment of his words – his work – has become the essence of our lives with him.
A few years later, in 1983, I was in India at the same time as Ann. It was a long-ish visit – about six weeks; In those days, that was plenty of time to enter fully into the experience of “western stuff deprivation” – and we had both long since run out of American cigarettes. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional Gold Flake or Charminar (Indian cigarette brands), followed by a Thumbs Up! cola, but if you’re accustomed to a fine blend of Virginia tobaccos and that syrupy pride of the South, Coca-Cola, you don’t like to make a regular habit of them.
Ann and I then traveled from India together aboard a British Airways 747. In 1983 it was still slightly startling to board the 747 in Bombay, which in its way was heralding one’s imminent reunion with the fully modern age. Our first stop was in Dubai, UAE, where the airport was a brand-new, sparkling jewel in the middle of the desert. We wasted no time entering the terminal and finding a café, where we each purchased a pack of American-made Marlboro cigarettes and a Coca-Cola and raised our glasses in toast to our beloved Meher Baba.
We savored the moment; and these mundane enjoyments were suffused with the shared experience of being connected to Baba and each other, children of the one God.