Symbols of the world's religions



Heather Nadel

In April of 1971, I fell headlong into Meher Baba's net at His center in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; in June I was in California, full of happiness and joy at starting a "new life" with Him. My home at the time was a converted barn on a hillside overlooking Palo Alto; I shared the upper floor with several friends, and the first floor was home to several horses, and lots of hay and straw.

On one fateful day in mid-June, a month and a half after I had come to Baba, I spent my morning preparing a "Father's Day" card for my dad, who lived a few miles away. This year I wanted the card to be really unusual — I was making a batik and I had just finished it and hung it out to dry, when I suddenly decided it needed one more color. Batik work requires melted wax and in the rush to finish it quickly, I did not reheat the cooled wax over warm water, as one is supposed to, but put the wax vessel directly on high heat and then ran out of the kitchen for a moment.

When I returned, imagine my horror to see that the wax had exploded into flame! In a moment I calculated the immense danger — the pot was on the stove next to a window; if the curtains caught fire, flames would shoot up to the low ceiling, the wooden barn would ignite like a matchstick, and the animals below, the straw, our belongings, the barn, the whole dry hillside would be set on fire! In spite of my panic I remembered that you cannot put out a wax fire with water. So I grabbed the pot handle and swung the pot away from the curtains. The force of the swing propelled the flaming wax out of the pot and straight into my face.

What a moment before had been an emergency was suddenly a nightmare — I was on fire! I ripped off my glasses (covered with cooled wax) and turned to see the flaming pot fall into a heap of newspapers in front of the doorway to the stairs down — the only exit was blocked. I turned and raced across the room to the huge plate glass window opposite. The wax, cooled on my skin, was sealing in intense heat, my hair was on fire, and I was in a complete panic — I banged on the window for dear life.

One floor below me, sunbathing in the mild morning sun was a friend of a housemate; I had just met him that morning and we were the only two at home. As I banged on the window I began screaming his name, "Fred! Fred!" It seemed incredible that while I had a full view of Fred leisurely enjoying his sunbath, he could not even hear me. I glanced at the house above our lot — perhaps someone there? — no, too far away — I tried to smash the window so I could jump out and escape the burning barn — the plate glass was too strong.

Suddenly, in the midst of my calling, "Fred! Fred!" a humorous thought flashed across my mind: "I'm going to die with Fred's name on my lips." I stopped calling out and saw myself as if from a great distance in a charred heap in the corner of the ravaged barn. In that moment I realized that nothing in this world could save me — no one heard my cries, no one could hear — every avenue of escape was blocked. At last I turned with all my heart to the only One who might be listening and cried out, "Baba! Baba! Help me!"

In an instant, I felt as thought a bucket of shocking cold water had been dumped over me from head to toe. I felt completely cool, strangely calm, and realized that my hair had suddenly stopped burning. I stood perfectly still, and heard a voice inside my mind commanding, "Turn around and go out the door." This was such an unexpected thought that for a moment I couldn't comprehend it, until the voice repeated "Turn around and go out the door." I instantly turned and went towards what I thought would be an inferno. What I found was that the pot had landed upright and was flaming away in the middle of the pile of newspapers and books without having ignited any of them. I rushed past it and went out the door.

As I raced down the stairs, I met Fred rushing up, calling "What's wrong?" He was not surprised to see my burned face and hair, but rushed past me into the upper room. The newspapers must have caught fire the moment I left, for Fred found a fire there that was now seriously threatening the house. He was hard pressed, but he put it out with calm and courage and then came to take me to the hospital. On the way there, he said that while he had been sunning outside, he had been suddenly prompted to get up and rush inside the house — he couldn't understand why, but he just felt that something was very wrong inside!

It was a morning for inner promptings; I had been putting on my contact lenses when I first got up that day, and for some inexplicable reason felt compelled to put on my glasses instead. I tried to ignore the feeling — I always wore contacts in those days so my glasses were buried away in a trunk — but the feeling persisted so I had worn glasses. At the hospital the doctors classified the burns on my forehead, arms and legs as second degree, and said that I would have to have skin grafts on my nose and under my eyes. They went on to say that if I had not been wearing glasses at the time, I would have been permanently blinded as the full force of the wax fell on my eyes. Unfortunately, in addition to the skin grafts, I would also have permanent scars all over my face.

It was, as I said, a morning for inner promptings. At the same time, a thousand miles away in Oklahoma, my closest friend, and husband to be, Erico, intuitively felt that something serious had just happened to me and he flew to California by the first plane. It was he who made me apply Vitamin E to my burns (a then unknown therapy) after my daily treatments at the hospital. Three months later, the doctors looking at my face, called mine a miracle cure — no skin grafts were required and I do not have a single scar from that accident. I was given strong painkillers for the first week, but I never took one as I never had any pain.

The moral of the story? Well, I suppose one can say Beloved Baba gives us trials by fire. But the rain of His grace and His help is like no other on earth — when in trouble, call on the One who is always listening! He never fails to respond.

OUR CONSTANT COMPANION pp. 35-37, ed. Bal Natu
1983 © Bal Natu


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