Symbols of the world's religions

               

TEARDROPS OF JOY

Mani Irani

 
As therapy for her aphasia, speech lessons were instituted, and Mehera's one-pointed attention in trying to relearn simple words was very touching. As Heather describes it: "She would concentrate so fixedly on trying to say 'cup' and then come out with 'How extraordinary! I just can't get it!' In each attempt invariably the word she would get first would be Baba! With tenacity, Mehera did manage to relearn a few simple words, which pleased her very much and she would look forward to her lessons." Many Baba lovers entertained Mehera at this time with their singing on tape. We played tapes of her favourite Baba songs, and also Indian favourites like Mirabai, Begum Akhtar, and others. Simple games like Ludo won giggles and smiles from her; and we would play animatedly, with Mehera taking her turn and watching the others' progress with much interest. In the evening, the trip across the garden to the TV room for TV sessions was a favourite event of the day — most favourite being the arti sung together on the porch. Which is why at feeding time when we wished to arouse her from deep sleep we would resort to calling out "time for arti" — she always responded to it!

Later the picture kept changing quickly as though Baba was snapping his fingers to say "Hurry, hurry." A couple of instances will give you an idea of these startling changes in Mehera's condition:

Dr. Goher, sick with anxiety and responsibility, was so relieved by Dr. Arvind Chopra's daily directions by phone and his personal visits from Poona. The morning of 16 May, Tuesday, was a surprisingly good one when Arvind arrived and Mehera greeted him with a charming smile and said, "I am happy to see you." That same evening, Mehera closed her eyes to all external objects for all time and did not open them again till the final moment when her Lord and Beloved came to receive her.

Two days later, on Thursday 18th morning, when our Poona team drove over, Mehera clearly responded to Gulnar's greeting with a sweet smile and slight raising of eyebrows, which showed us she was aware of what was going on around her. Whereas the same evening, when the welcome medical team from Bombay and Ahmednagar arrived to help care for Mehera — doctors and nurses who had been with Baba as children and closely associated with him from the early years — Mehera was entering a light coma.

We strove to hold her back from slipping into a deep coma. I kept talking to her, pleading that she see us — "Mehera, open your eyes, Mehera darling please, open your eyes, see I am holding this beautiful picture of Baba before you." I would speak in Gujarati, and in Irani (Dari) which her much loved grandmother used to speak. But although a couple of times Mehera acknowledged my plea with the slightest movement of lips and brow, she did not open her eyes. As she would not or could not open them of her own volition, I tried to help her by lifting an eyelid, raising it with my little finger. Doing it to both the lids revealed eyes that were seeing but not looking at anything. When I let go of her delicate eyelids, they came down clumsily and haltingly over eyes now reserved for seeing only her Beloved, eyes which had thirsted too long for a sight of him.

The night of Friday 19th gave some very anxious moments to the ones keeping vigil with her, but this fleeting experience did not in any way prepare us for what was to happen the following morning.

It began as a morning of "normal" activities. We heard no ringing of bells, felt no brushing of angel wings, to announce her dawning reunion with her Beloved that morning; but simply for a moment Welcome to My World bubbled over in my heart as I watched Mehera being given an alcohol rub and mild massage. Could I but see, he was surely standing beside her with open arms.

But we were not aware of the Moment's arrival until it was upon us. We were around Mehera, together singing the Beloved's Name as we often did. I was sitting by her side holding her hand, with the others of the women mandali close by. Through the waves of his Name-Song I could see the anguished face of Dr. Goher, and heard Dr. Meher Desai softly declare, "Her pulse is rapid and blood pressure is dropping." The signal was clear — I pressed to Mehera's forehead her favourite picture of Baba, as well as his sandals, while with one voice we all kept loudly singing Meher Baba, Meher Baba. And with one heart we decided that when the Moment arrived we would resonantly call out seven times "AVATAR MEHER BABA KI JAI."

With the great sense of urgency now upon us, we sent for our Meherazad men mandali to come over. They streamed in and stood with folded hands, joining the old faithful servants who were quietly gathered by the door, and Dr. Arvind whom Jangu had driven over from Poona in perfect time to be by Mehera during her last moments.

We who had shared in the miracle of Baba's love through Mehera, did not anticipate any unusual revelation to happen at the last. When it happened, it was as a brilliant flash of lightning that we were totally unprepared for!

Mehera was lying on her side, and my face was near to hers at the time. Suddenly, as though the shutters she had kept locked all these days were flung open, Mehera opened her eyes in a swift strong movement, completely and totally open, the circles of the irises fully in view. It was as if the heavens had opened to welcome him. Her bright shining eyes had an unfathomable look in them, with a drop of moisture on the outer corners of both eyes, teardrops of joy. Each of us witnessing this powerful moment knew she was gazing on the beauty and glory of her Lord and Beloved.

Then she let the lids down with an amazing ease, took in a sharp breath, and nodded her head in two graceful movements like a queen making a regal adieu to the assembly.

Mehera had gone to Baba.

It was 9:45 in the morning of 20 May 1989.

"AVATAR MEHER BABA KI JAI" called out loudly seven times by us all, was a song to Mehera's joy of Reunion, and a testimony to our tears of parting. In that fleeting moment, all her pain and stress, all her waiting and yearning, was wiped away by him. From then on, a gently happy smile adorned her face and joy streamed out from her slightly parted eyelids. This expression of her happiness was witnessed by all till our very last glimpse of her.

In the bedroom's privacy, Goher and I washed Mehera's body with rose water and dressed her in a dusky pink skirt and flowered blouse, framing her face with a soft mauve pink chiffon scarf. Mehera's smile reflected her ecstasy. Her face and hands took on the eternal youth of the Madonna as depicted in the holy images. She looked so young and sweet that I was reminded of the Mehera I knew at Nasik in 1932 — the year which began Mehera-Mani's continual companionship in a link unbroken for 57 years.

In Heather's words:

"Throughout the day, Mehera's body lay on her bed in her room, as Baba lovers from Ahmednagar, Poona, and nearby places came to pay their last homage. A most beautiful smile was on Mehera's face, an air of purity and deep serenity around her. The women mandali, whose grief can scarcely be imagined, received each one graciously — handling the situation with courage as they had when Baba passed away.

"It was Mehera's very strongly expressed wish that she not be photographed after she passed away. She wanted to be remembered as she was in life. I doubt if even a camera could have captured the radiance of her face in her last repose, the sublime peace and triumph of a supremely loved being!

"Ice coolers and fans kept the room cool throughout the day, despite the intense summer heat outside. Near sundown Mehera's body was transferred onto a stretcher and carried by a group of women to Baba's bedroom for a final darshan. Then she was carried across her garden to Mandali Hall, arriving there just at sundown, as the full moon was rising over the trees and bushes and flowers of her beloved Meherazad."

Mehera's stretcher was placed before Beloved Baba's chair, and there her body rested till morning, surrounded by large blocks of ice which gave an ascetic touch, a feeling of the Himalayas reflecting her supreme purity.

A Baba lover recollects, "A number of Baba people had gathered and were sitting quietly around Mehera. My heart skipped a beat because to me she looked alive and present; not like someone sleeping, but like someone resting fully awake with their eyes closed. Mani, Meheru, Goher, Arnavaz, Katie, were sitting by her side. Although in deep grief, they were generous to share with others an account of Mehera's last weeks. It was all so intimate, yet so informal, often there were tears but also there was laughter. Mehera seemed to be participating in all that happened. The vigil lasted all night, full and deep, like Amartithi at night. It will ever remain vivid in my memory."

The all-night vigil in Mandali Hall was like a darshan, filled with Baba's presence, vibrating with his beloved Name sung together in varied tunes, as well as other songs loved by Mehera. And there were the still silences, when the sound of the whirring fans seemed to say: this is goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. But above all, it was a reminder of words given by God, Meher Baba: "It is all a going forward, forward, always a going forward."

I had taken some rose petals from the Beloved's Body as he lay in the crypt of his samadhi at Meherabad in 1969. I had taken them for Mehera, and kept them with me all these years for just this moment in the galaxy of time. At one point during the vigil in Mandali Hall, I stepped forward and gently placed the rose petals near to Mehera's heart.

One of the close ones gazing at Mehera's face at the time, was overwhelmed with amazement to see it flush with happiness at the touch of these precious petals from her Beloved.

 

MEHERA-MEHER, A Divine Romance, Vol. 3, pp. 608-611, David Fenster
2003 © David Fenster

               

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