Judy Stephens

Meherabad, 1952


16 to 31 August 2009

Jai Meher Baba to you all!

Sunday, 16 August 2009. I got dressed and opened my door to go up the hill for early morning Darshan; the two little puppies Anne and I adopted were sitting there waiting for me to come out. We are keeping them as "outside" dogs, so they slept on the front verandah under a chair. After hugging and kissing them, I had to put them in their little enclosed yard so they would not follow me. They began yapping, but I had no choice but to keep going. I would have to think of a new way to deal with the puppies when I go up the hill so early. I don't want to disturb my neighbors.

After taking Darshan at the Samadhi, I came back to my room and let the puppies out. I then did a workout with one of my videos before getting ready to go to the MPR.

I picked up Fereshteh on the way to the Meher Pilgrim Retreat. She usually goes to Meherazad with her grown son, Hooyar, to show a Baba film. But, with four buses full of pilgrims going to Meherazad there would not be a program.

When we got to the MPR, I found two big buses parked in the way I enter the parking lot. So, I went around to the main entrance by the MPR compound gates and found I could not park there either; it was full of cars; so I parked next to the rickshaws.

When we went into the Reception Office, we looked at the arrival/departure information sheet for the day. Wow! Housekeeping was going to be busy! There were 112 departures! The 15th was India's Independence Day, so it was a very busy weekend. We had almost 160 pilgrims! Most of the pilgrims were from Mumbai and Pune, and they came for one or two day. We had about fifteen arrivals, so it was going to be a busy morning. When we got off at 1:30 PM, there was only one other car in the parking lot!

I went by the Page house to see what work had been done. I noticed the wrong tile had been put on the ledge between the bathtub and the wall; floor tiles were used instead of the wall tiles. The mason thought the floor tile matched the tub better. I said, "Yes, it did, but the wall tile on the shelf would match the wall." It is important to go by the house every day because mistakes can be made, and it is easier to fix before it becomes a bigger problem.

Monday 17 August. I went up the hill for Darshan at the Samadhi and then went home to get ready for my double shift at the MPR. On the way, I picked up Zahra; Fereshteh had other stuff to do. Shortly after opening the Reception Office, Jeff, the MPR garden supervisor, came in to inform me that we were in a serious drought and conserving water measures were in place as of today. We have had no rain for the past two months; the water shortage had reached a very serious stage. All showerheads would be removed from all bathrooms, and they would be capped. Pilgrims were to take bucket baths instead, and the baths were to be every other day, not daily. Later in the morning, James Fulgenzi (who works under Peter Booth in water management of all Meherabad) told me the water in Lower Meherabad would be on only from 5:30 AM to 6:00 PM. He also informed me the showerheads in all bathrooms had now been removed.

I wrote a sign requesting the pilgrims to please help Meherabad by conserving water. They were also informed about the bucket baths being every other day. I gave the sign information to Suresh, our office clerk, who then put it on the computer. He printed smaller ones for the bathroom doors, and an extra large one for the Dining Hall door.

It was a slow day, so I left the office a little early. I went by the Page house, and was happy to see the granite for the kitchen had been delivered. I stopped by Ashok's store to buy some yogurt before going home. At home, the puppies were in the little enclosure yard, so I let them out. I went to feed them, and realized there were no chapattis to put in their milk. I went to my neighbor's and I was given a bakuri. I mixed this with milk for their dinner; they sure were hungry. Anne and I feed them four times a day.

Tuesday 18 August. In the early morning, I thought I would try going out the back door instead of the front, then the puppies would not know I had gone anywhere. I went through my neighbor's gate and up the hill to take Darshan at Baba's Samadhi. I had to go this way so the puppies won't follow me, or yap if I put them in their "yard." Of course, I returned home the same way. When I opened my front door, the puppies where happily greeting me. I then did my workout with an exercise video.

It has been so hot and muggy the past couple of weeks. In the evening, I passed Becky Kent on the way up the hill for Samadhi duty. We commented on the uncomfortably sticky weather, and I told her it was just the kind of weather we usually have before a big rain. But, I did not think this would happen as we had been without rain for two months.

Before starting my Samadhi duty at 6:00 PM, I went to visit Jaloo. Just as the Arti prayers were over, I started to go down the hill. I usually don't stay for the singing. A few raindrops began to fall. By the time I got near the Dhuni, the raindrops were coming down harder. By the time I got near the Hostels, I was trying to wipe the rain from my eyes so I could see where I was trying to run to — using my flashlight.

I was soaking wet when I reached my room. The puppies had been put in the yard enclosure, and there was a tin cover. But, still rain came into their "yard" through a small open space (later we closed this space with plastic). I put my stuff in my room and quickly took the puppies onto the verandah. Just then, the skies opened up and we had a huge downpour — a real monsoon rain!

I fed the puppies and went into my room to have dinner. After eating, I went out on the verandah to check on the puppies. There had been thunder and lightening with the downpour. One puppy was under the chair asleep. I took my torch and looked all over the verandah for the other puppy. She was hiding behind a chair and a stone enclosure — for protection. So, I took the pillows from my chair and put them around the chair in front of Anne's door — where the puppies usually sleep. I enclosed it so the scared puppy would feel safer.

My neighbor, Marge, had seen a cobra on her back door step. It went around her house and out the gate I took to go up the hill in the morning.

Wednesday 19 August. I was up early and once again went out the back door. I was very careful to use the flashlight in a wide sweep, making sure no cobra was in sight. After taking Darshan at Beloved Baba's Samadhi, I once again came around the back way to avoid waking the puppies.

I had the morning shift at the MPR. I picked up Fereshteh on the way. This was the anniversary of Mani's interment. I was not able to attend, but there was an unannounced Arti with Meheru coming. Meheru had asked Erico & Heather to sing a song Mani especially liked. I heard it was sung so beautifully. I wish I could have heard, as Erico rarely sings anymore at the Samadhi, he and Heather sound so beautiful together, such wonderful voices.

Scott Himmelsbach came on duty in the afternoon with Becky. He will take over Becky's shifts when she leaves in a few days. I dropped Fereshteh off at her home, and went to have lunch. In the afternoon, I stopped at the Meherabad Trustees office. One of the workers from our farm had a bunch of coconuts from the trees there; I took two coconuts and gave a donation to the Trust.

Dr. Gus & Rada are back at Meherabad, as they had been out of the country. They had been treating me, and were glad to hear I was stronger. They wanted me to have new blood test to see the improvement, and we set an appointment for the following Wednesday afternoon. They would prescribe different homeopathic treatment, depending on the blood test results.

Thursday 20 August. I tried to go out my back door in the morning, but was met by the two darling puppies. So, I gave them each a doggie biscuit and put them in their enclosure before heading up the hill.

When I got back home after taking Darshan at the Samadhi, my hired car to take me to Pune was waiting. I had a hair appointment, and some shopping to do. The owner of the salon was in, and she did a wonderful job with my hair.

On the way home, I was in for a pleasant surprise. As evening came, so did loud music played from different streets in the villages near Ahmednagar. I saw dancing men and children paraded their cows. This was the holiday of Pola, the day to honor the cow. The animal has the day off, no work. They are given a special bath; painted designs cover their hide and horns. Colorful bells and tassels and other decorations hang from the horns, around the neck, and elsewhere. It is quite an amazingly charming scene. Pola is a unique Maharastra State holiday, not celebrated in other Indian States.

Throughout the night there was a big storm with lots of rain.

Friday 21 August. I didn't go up the hill early because the path was so muddy. I did my workout and fed the puppies. Marge, my neighbor, had our bhai show me where she just saw a snake. We have these thick plants that are a place the snake likes. So, we will have to remove those plants.

Becky and I drove into Nagar to run some errands. We took a rickshaw into the bazaar. I was having a blood test to see the improvement from the last time I went. It started raining on the way home. We passed a lot of cows whose horns were still colorfully painted from Pola.

After a nap, I drove to the Page house to see what work had been done since Wednesday. I was so happy to see the granite had been put on most of the kitchen counter. I gave one of the women workers a ride down the hill to where I turn to the Samadhi. She got out and I drove to the Samadhi. I went in and no one else was inside. It was so wonderful. Cool weather inside and Baba to my self. The feeling is so powerful! I wonder if it has always been so powerful, the presents of God inside the Samadhi. Or, is Baba opening the door to His divinity a bit more?

The puppies greeted me when I got out of the car. I had not seen them when I drove into the carport. It scared me a little — where were they? Next door? Would they know to not get under the car wheels?

I picked flowers for the next morning — this is the season when there are not as many. As I would pull one flower from a bush I would get a shower from all the water on the leaves. Then, a big storm came and it poured! We are finally getting monsoon rains! It rained most of the night.

Saturday 22 August. I went up the hill early to take Darshan at Beloved Baba's Samadhi, and then cleaned Baba's Cabin Room. After removing the old flowers, I found some of them still looked fresh and pretty, so I put those outside against the two doors. It looks very pretty to see the flowers there. Then I put flowers on the Gadi and Samadhi threshold.

There was a small group waiting at the MPC for the Tour of Meherabad Historic Sites. When we went across to our farm, the brahma bulls were still decorated from Pola. They had colorful decorations around their necks, and their horns had different designs. It is such a sweet holiday.

In the afternoon, a Baba film was shown in the Music & Arts Center. Tea and snack were served at 4:00 PM, and then at 4:30 PM the film was shown.

Sunday 23 August. I woke early, but I didn't go up the hill because of all the mud from the rain. I did a workout with one of my videos before getting ready to go to the MPR for my morning shift. I went into the Lobby and noticed the newly upholstered couch and two chair. The Lobbyman said they were just returned Saturday. They look so nice. The ugly green is now a soft blue, and the broken springs have been repaired. It makes the Lobby look so much better.

Jeff, the garden supervisor, said we have had 6 to 8 inches of rain since the monsoon rains started last week! He said we could now take down the "water shortage' sign from all the bathroom doors in the MPR.

The Cataract Eye Surgery camp had their operation today. It is a three-day camp that is held at our Meher Hospital six times a year.

I tried to get rickshaw to the Trust, but none were available. I don't want to drive my car at night here until I get some glasses that will prevent the headlight reflection from cars. It is too hard to see at night and dangerous to drive in traffic.

When I was reading my email in the evening, I saw a notice from the Meherabad Library Hill committee saying it was the 50th anniversary of Baba giving the "Beloved God" prayer on Monday. Bhauji was present when Baba gave out the prayer, and so he would give a special talk about it in his Monday talk at the MPC. I immediately called Fereshteh and asked if her son, Hooyar, would video it.

The sky opened up for another downpour around 6:00 PM. The puppies seem to be okay on the verandah during the storm. They don't freak out from the thunder and lightening — but they do try and hide under something.

Monday 24 August. I slept a little longer than regular before getting ready for my double shift at the MPR. When I picked up Fereshteh at her home, I gave her the video camera that holds a two-hour tape, which she left for her son.

When we got to the MPR we were amazed that there were only 15 pilgrims in the whole building. It had been so long since we had that low number. It will give us a chance to rest before the number of pilgrims climb once again for the rest of the pilgrim season.

One of the residents called to say Bhauji would come to the MPC at 3:45 PM instead of his usual time of 4:00 PM. So, I called the Meherabad Trustees Office to ask if the bus driver would leave at 3:15 PM instead of the regular 3:30 PM. I next informed the kitchen to send the tea and popcorn earlier on the bus.

Bhauji talked about Baba giving the "Beloved God" prayer. This was the 50th anniversary of that auspicious day.

Tuesday 25 August. I did my morning workout with a video, and then took a quick shower before picking up Fereshteh. There was a Receptionists meeting in the Staff Room of the MPR. Heather, Fereshteh, Scott, and I worked out a temporary schedule. When David Bowling from Australia comes in October, we would then rearrange our shift schedule.

We did not know that our meeting would be the last time we would see Heather again for a long time.

Wednesday 26 August. This was the day our dear Heather & Erico were savagely attacked, and in less than two weeks, Erico's death.

I heard Dr. Anne leave in the early morning hour around 4:30 AM. Being a doctor, she often gets a call to go somewhere, so I didn't think about it. At around 7:00 AM, she called to ask if I would go to the Meher Hospital and see if she locked the side door. She said she was at the hospital in Ahmednagar with Heather and Erico.

I asked why she was at the hospital with them? That is when I found out about the devastating news of their vicious, barbarous attack. No words could describe the horror of that news! There was absolute shock to such an unnecessary brutal beating; absolute shock to the awareness that they may not survive. Dear God, no! No! No! No! Baba, not Heather & Erico, no!

Just before I had to leave for the MPR, Anne called to ask me to wait a few minutes until she got home — she didn't have her house key. She came to get her suitcase; she was going in the ambulance to take Erico to Pune. When she got back to the hospital, Erico was already in the ambulance and they were ready to go. They picked up Alan at the Kinetic Chowk on the way.

I had the morning shift at the MPR. I picked up Fereshteh, and on the way I told her what happened. News of the horrific attack spread quickly in the Baba community here in Meherabad and in the village of Arangaon.

The official ceremony of the Meher Baba Garden at the Ahmednagar Train Station was to take place the following day, Thursday. I thought "how can we celebrate the ceremony when our hearts are mourning?" I called Mehernath's office to ask if he would postpone it, as I wanted to be near Heather and Erico. Raj, Mehernath's wife, said Mehernath was talking with the police. She and I talked for a while, and I asked her to have Mehernath call me. Later, I got the call that the ceremony had already been postponed.

I turned to Baba's picture and began to pray for Heather & Erico. I could not stop the tears. How was it possible such a thing could happen to them? Here at Meherabad?

Scott came to the office at 11:30 AM. He said he felt strongly to come early, and on the way one of the pilgrims told him what happened. Scott said if I wanted, I could go and he would just start his shift early. I was so relieved, as I wanted to go to the hospital.

I picked up Marge and we went to Nobel hospital. We got lost on the way, as I had not taken the back road in years, and it had changed with a lot of built up areas. An hour later we reached the hospital. We did not expect to see Heather; we just wanted to be near her. Yet, in the ICU a nurse asked if we were for Heather. We said yes, and she took us to the room.

Two Meherabad residents came out so we could go in for a few minutes and sit next to her. How heartbreaking to see her whole head shaved, bandaged in one area. How it tore the heart to see her left hand so swollen, and bruised — knowing she must have used it to block a blow. I wanted to cry. Here was one of the sweetest, kindest, non-egotistical person I had every met. It tore the heart to see her so injured.

Marge and I were not allowed to stay any longer; our hearts were in pain for what happened. A short while later, we saw Harry and Sharon Muir. They had been at the hospital when Erico and Heather were brought in. Harry described the horrible scene, and the extent of the injuries to Erico. Sharon told of what was observed of Heather's injuries. Oh Baba! The heart prayed for them!

When I got home I began sending the terrible news to those I knew. Many had already heard from emails and phone calls. The Baba world is able to get news out quickly, and the praying for Heather & Erico had already begun.

I got a call later from one of our doctors saying Heather would be taken to Pune the following day. I decided to go on Friday, just to be close — though I knew I would most likely not be allowed in the special ICU hospital.

In the evening, I needed to be near the Samadhi and other Baba lovers, so I went to Arti. Many of us talked after prayers were said. All of us were feeling so shocked and helpless. Amrit lives next door to Heather & Erico. She said her dogs began barking ferociously around 4:00 AM. The dogs would not be quiet, and so she was kept awake.

Thursday 27 August. I slept late and then started to do my workout with a video. But, I was very restless. I kept thinking I didn't want to wait until Friday to go to Pune. I finally stopped the workout and call Tony Griss, a friend who was going to go with me on Friday. I asked if he would go now, as I needed to go. He agreed and we hired a car.

Since Anne was in Pune with Erico, I had to arrange for someone to feed the puppies in the afternoon. Sulu works for Anne and me in the morning, and for Rox in the afternoon. I called Rox to ask if she would let Sulu feed the puppies in the afternoon. She said yes, and would I take something to Pune for one of Erico's helpers. I was happy to be of use.

When Tony and I got to the hospital we asked the desk clerk what floor Heather was on. I asked about Erico. She said he too was on the same floor. There were security guards at the entrance of the hospital, but they let us in. Now, at the entrance to the stairs two guards also let us in. We walked up to the third floor. One of our doctors was surprised to see us and asked how we got in without a pass? We said they let us in.

Adair was there as one of the assistants. I asked how Erico looked. She said I would not recognize him, as the swelling was so bad. We just sat and talked until the guards said all but assistants had to leave. Though I was not allowed into the rooms to see Heather and Erico, I was very grateful that I could just be near.

Tony and I went to lunch and then later returned to the hospital to give Anne a ride back to Meherabad, as other Meherabad doctors were at the hospital.

Friday 28 August. I sat in the Samadhi for quite a long time. It was the only place I wanted to be. My heart felt at times like it was suffocating. Sometimes only tears reduced the ache. While sitting there, I had a deep realization that the only safety was in holding on to Baba. Anything, anywhere, anytime, something could happen. It was not safe in the world, only in God. I realized it was only to hold on so tightly to Baba, no matter what happens, because He is the only reality.

For me it was a profound realization. Before, I had felt safe in Meherabad, and I felt Baba kept us safe wherever we went. But, I now saw it was only holding on to Him that we are safe — not what happens to us in the world! When I went out of the Samadhi, I felt so completely drained.

Bhauji had arrived at the MPC ahead of the bus. He was very weak and was assisted in walking. When the bus got there everyone had tea and donuts. Janis (one of Bhauji's attendants) asked for the prayers to be said in the different languages, then for a number of songs to be song. Bhauji was very weak, so Janis requested more singing than usual; that way Bhau would have less time to talk.

Bhauji had Dr. Anne tell the pilgrims how Heather & Erico were doing medically. Bhau then talked for some time about the suffering Heather and Erico had gone through. He said the robbers had freed Heather and Erico from many of their sanskaras, and the robbers had taken these sanskaras upon themselves.

An announcement was also made about the meeting that would take place the following day with a representative of the US Embassy

Saturday 29 August. I went up the hill early to take Darshan at the Samadhi, and then clean Baba's Cabin Room. When I finished, I went down the hill to get ready for the Tour of Meherabad Historic Sites.

No one was waiting for the tour, so I went to the MPR. I had the notice from the American Consulate put on the Dining Hall door. In the afternoon at 4:00 PM, "The Chief of American Citizen Services, Nancy Biasi, from the American Consulate in Mumbai and her senior staff will meet with American citizens, and anyone else who wishes to attend, at 4:00 PM in the MPC Dining Hall." The regular program at the Music & Arts Center was cancelled.

Many of the MPR staff had wanted to know the medical condition of Heather & Erico. I told them the medical report would soon start being released with update information on Heather & Erico. I let them know a copy of the update would be posted on the Dining Hall door.

I stopped by the Page house and talked to the workers. They are from Arangaon and ask daily about Heather and Erico. One of the workers said Erico always bought cricket bats and balls for the village children to play with. The children are feeling sad about what happened.

The MPC Hall began filling around 3:30 PM. Hooyar set up the camcorder to video the talk. Most residents and pilgrims attended. Nancy Biasi arrived with her assistant. She said their security personal from the US Embassy were in Ahmednagar speaking with the Superintendent of Police and their investigative inspectors. They would report back what transpired.

Ms. Biasi told us the many services the US Consulate in Mumbai offers to its citizens. And, she explained how they would be able to help us. It was a very relaxed and informative meeting. We were happy to find Ms. Biasi's assistant is a Baba lover who has come to Meherabad many times. In fact, Ms. Biasi expressed a strong desire to come as a pilgrim soon, and stay at the MPR.

Before and after the meeting, Caren St. John sent around a notice inviting all to join in prayer at Heather & Erico's house the following day at 6:00 PM. Bhauji and the Trustees had given permission for the vigil.

Sunday 30 August. I went up the hill early to take Darshan at Beloved Baba's Samadhi — and remembering Heather & Erico to Baba. I then went home and got ready for my morning shift at the MPR.

On the third page of today's Sunday Indian Times there was a write up about Heather & Erico. Also in yesterday's DNA newspaper, the front page had a large article about Heather & Erico. Both articles mentioned Meher Baba. We were told news of the Nadels were on the Marathi language television and the radio, all mentioning that Heather & Erico were followers of Meher Baba.

I called one of the residents who is helping take care of Heather & Erico. She said it was so wonderful to see Heather walk a little, and talk a little. Then at lunchtime, Scott Himmelsbach — our new receptionist, came in and took over his shift at 1:30 PM. How lovely we all think these short shifts are.

At 6:00 PM hundreds gathered at Heather and Erico's house. Caren St. John, Mehera Kleiner, and Dr. Anne had arranged this wonderful opportunity for the Baba community and Arangaon villagers to come together in love and prayer for Heather & Erico.

The back verandah had a very large picture of Beloved Baba on a platform, surrounded by garlands and flowers. The three curved steps up to the verandah were lined with flowers, and the front entrance gate to the yard had three lovely garlands hung on it.

The prayers and Arti were sung. Then while Bhajans were being sung, two lines formed to go up to the beautiful photo of Beloved Baba, and place a flower. Several baskets of roses were provided. It was a very beautiful experience to send the light of love into their house, a place where evil had entered. Our hearts also felt grateful to be able to send this love to dear Heather & Erico.

Monday 31 August. I went up the hill for early morning Darshan at the Samadhi. Then got ready for my last day of double shift at the MPR. Scott Himmelsbach will start taking the afternoon shift — yeah!!!

I picked up Fereshteh and Zahra on the way. We talked about one of the lessons from the horrifying ordeal of Heather & Erico. One thing we learned was only God is safe, only Baba can we depend on. This world has no security, and we must not assume Baba is our security guard with a gun to protect us. He will be with us always, and he will support us through all we have to go through, but he is not a "rabbit's foot." We, and others in our community, have talked about the only true security is Baba. We are to hold on to him no matter what the world throws at us, because He will give us the strength to endure.

A family named Steve and Robin Slemenda and their son, Kai, said that what happened to Heather and Erico was the Baba community's 9/11. It had that impact of absolute devastation. Only, for us, we see Baba's love and compassion as our hope and strength.

In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy

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