Symbols of the world's religions

               

SOME THOUGHTS FROM A PILGRIM

Jeff Maguire

 
Arriving in Ahmednagar on August 19th, we were met by Bhau who had visited Mani that morning. "She no longer exists for the world," Bhau told us. "She exists only for Baba."

For the next nine days, pilgrims and mandali waited helplessly, wondering how long Baba would have her linger. During visits to Meherazad we would gather on the veranda not far from where she lay unconscious and inquire about her in hushed tones.

There was sadness and concern to be sure, but there was also humor, which of course is how the Lord's ebullient sister would have wanted it. Reminiscences about her inevitably result in smiles and often hearty laughter. As Ted Judson remarked, "She was the life of the party."

The seven women who served as her care-givers were referred to as the seven dwarfs, guarding over Snow White asleep in her glass case while she awaited her Prince.

"She was not in a coma," Bhau would later say. "She was with Baba. Baba was coming closer and closer in order to bestow His final kiss."

On the day of His final kiss, events happened quickly. At the Samadhi, Ted had just sung the last song of morning arti when Alan Wagner arrived to announce Mani's passing. Appropriately, the last song had been "Happy Tails."

There was a unique atmosphere at breakfast, a mingling of sadness over our loss and joy for Mani's moment of triumph and reunion with her Beloved Brother.

At 10 A.M. the buses took us to Meherazad where we filed past Mani who lay on a stretcher in front of Baba's chair in Mandali Hall. She was covered by garlands, wrapped in a yellow and pink flowered cloth, with a deep rose-pink chiffon scarf about her head. She looked radiant, her face luminous and white like marble. There was no trace of the illness which had caused so much discomfort to her in recent months. Some noted the hint of a smile. I half-expected her to sit up and laugh, eyes twinkling, as one by one we knelt and bowed our heads at her feet while Ward Parks and others offered songs.

After an hour, Aloba herded the pilgrims back onto the buses. (Yes, even for an occasion like this, Aloba was loudly adamant!)

The events of the afternoon and the lighting of Mani's pyre are described beautifully in Heather's account, "Mani's Reunion." Many of us stayed up late that night to sit by the fire. It had been a long and extraordinary day and we could only wonder about its significance.

In the days that followed, a trench was dug on the east side of the Samadhi (the opposite side from where Mehera is buried). Alongside Mani's place beside Baba, the ground has been prepared for the eventual interment of Goher, Meheru, Katie, Korshed and Mansari, the work being done now so as not to disturb the area in the future.

Throughout this time, I kept thinking of a story Mani told us on the veranda at Meherazad three years ago. She was remembering her 1952 flight to the U.S. Baba had told her that this one time she could drink whatever she liked on the airplane. She knew the names of two drinks: a bloody mary and a martini. Since the former sounded rather crude, she ordered a martini (which she knew of from the Nero Wolfe books she'd read to Baba).

"It came in the most beautiful glass," she sighed, raising the imagined vessel in her hand and describing it so vividly that we all saw it clearly. "Like a stork standing on one leg . . ." But her delight turned to revulsion when "I noticed there was this strange green thing in it. I thought it was a bug! I called the stewardess over: 'Excuse me, but what's this in my martini?'

"'Why, that's an olive,' the stewardess replied.

"'Yes, of course,"' Mani responded with as much savoir faire as she could muster. At this point, we were all in hysterics, for Mani's gift of narrative had brought each detail of the scene to wonderful life and now we all laughed along with her.

"Did you like the martini'?" a pilgrim asked.

"I loved it," she said. "It was delicious."

"Did you have another one?"

"No. Just that one," she smiled contentedly. "But I've tucked the memory of it under my pillow where I'll keep it always."

What memories of Mani there are tucked beneath pillows all over the world. How lucky we are to have drunk from that glass.

LOVE STREET LAMPPOST, p. 21-22
1996 © Avatar Meher Baba Center of Southern California

               

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