Mani's Remembrance Submitted By Steve Myhro
Mani's Remembrance Submitted By Steve Myhro
The last time I saw Mani was the 21st of March 1996, my birthday. The women had come to perform Arti and prayers at Beloved Baba's Samadhi. Every time they come it is unique - the sacred flowing of love individual to each visit. This time I had a feeling inside that I couldn't quite get in touch with, almost one of a coming importance, which I assumed was because it was my birthday. Usually, songs and poems are shared with the women, but due to the large numbers of people who wanted to participate and the shortened time the women were to spend at the Samadhi because of Mani's health, I was unable to sing a song. This was disappointing because it was my birthday.
As usual, the women said prayers and sang Arti inside the Samadhi. When they were finished each bowed down to Baba's tomb and then went outside to bow at Mehera's tomb shrine. Normally, I watch this from a distance but this day I felt compelled to go in the fenced area where the western and eastern women are buried. At my first glance of Mani, as she approached Mehera's marble, I was shocked by a deep heart felt intuition that in this life I would never see her again. Filled with immense sadness I tried to negate what I was experiencing by thinking other thoughts, but each time there was an overwhelming awareness that my hearts conviction was true - I would not see her again! From that point, on everything I viewed took on so much more importance.
Standing directly across from her, I watched Mani's every movement and expression with intensity as I just couldn't believe that this was the last time I would see her. As she placed Baba's flower garland on Mehera's marble, every gesture and word she spoke carried profound emotional weight for me. She had been told it was my birthday so I was called forward to help place a garland. As I approached and looked into her eyes, I didn't see her usual vibrantly dancing and loving eyes; I saw distance in them. A distance I had never seen before. A distance not in years or time but of the truth - what is the importance of one birthday compared to lifetimes of service and suffering laid at the feet of the Beloved? I stepped back and let this lesson sink into my heart.
I felt dazed throughout the placing of the other garlands, yet all the time I focused on Mani's every movement and gesture, comprehending the significance of what I felt. To those gathered around at the end of garlanding Mehera's tomb, Mani always delivers Mehera's own words - "Baba help us all to love you as you should be loved and to please you as you should be pleased". This time those words had taken on much more meaning for me. Those two thoughts conveyed the whole understanding of the lover's role in relation to the Beloved.
After the garlanding and as the women greeted people, I still couldn't shake the thought that this was my last opportunity to see Baba's most wonderfully sweet and loving Mani. Mani, whom I had come to know and love. Still wrestling with what my heart had so clearly shown me, I felt filled with a respect for her as I saw the sweetness that she shared with others and the joy of her life; her unconditional acceptance of everyone, her willingness to share the love that her life of dedication and service to Baba had taught her.
Their car was parked at the back of Mansari's room on the hill and as they made their way to it, I moved down towards the south compound wall gate to where they would go on its way down the hill. Normally, I would stand near and as the car passed me I would touch or lovingly slap Mani's outstretched hand as the car slowly drove off. This day as I reached out towards the car I noticed that Mani wasn't eager to put her hand out to me, so I pulled mine back, out of respect for her wishes, but still feeling heartbroken thinking that this was my last chance to touch Mani. My emotions were quite heavy, when in an instant, I noticed Mani reaching out with much effort to lovingly caress my hand.
In this last touch I felt profound sadness and a deep sense of loss. My heart and mind were overwhelmed with memories of sweet moments shared with her in everyday familiarity and love. Loss flooded into my heart as I realized that those special moments both public and private would be lost to me forever.
After the car made its way out of the compound I followed on my bicycle to the bottom of the hill, where I would always wait by the side of the road to wave good-bye. In anticipation I waited. As the car approached I had a feeling that everything was happening in slow motion. The car seemed to be moving ever so slow. I was reminded at that moment of a Baba film shot in the 1950's where Baba is seated in a car and it moves also as if in slow motion, with sunlight creating an unusual reflection which seems to capture Baba's divine light in a timeless moment.
As the women's car drew near, I strained to see inside for a sight of Mani. I raised my hands in a good-bye salute. Then I saw a solemn hand slowly raised in farewell as the car silently glided by. In that timeless moment I had the strong impression and feeling that I saw Baba pass in the car and it was He giving me this last salute of farewell. I stood watching the car slowly disappear from sight.
Seeing that last wave of farewell and also having a strong sense that it was also Baba waving, I knew I had been given a gift, a special birthday gift! My heart was touched by the thought that Mani was truly Baba's and Baba is always with everyone - especially his dearest sister Mani.
Soon after this I went to America to spend time with family and friends. News would come regarding Mani's health and how people hoped she would get better with the proper drug therapies. After my experince in India I knew that she was completely in Baba's hands and if God desired, Mani could have a complete recovery. It would be his grace. Then news came from India that Mani had cancer and that there would be no intervention. And my deepest fears were confirmed.
Despite my intuitions when I returned to India I carried a secret desire that I still might be able to see Mani. But I was told that she would see no one as her health was too fragile. All around me was an atmosphere of alarm and uncertainty as to what would happen. We all felt deep concern for her welfare. At the Trust and on Mehera's porch Mani's presence was sorely missed. Everyone was affected by a state of confusion and sadness. There were moments of optimism but these were overshadowed by the reality that Mani might go to Baba very quickly. The days of August's beginning were felt by all to be ones of impeding loss.
On the night of August 6th while attending Arti at the Samadhi, I was beginning to sing a song when I had this wonderful buoyant feeling that Mani was present Her presence was so dear and strong I even looked around to see where she might be seated. I felt the appreciation and sweetness that she had shown before while listening to my songs. I was filled with waves of joy. This was a special moment for me as I had had such a strong desire to sing for her and had been unable to the last few times that she had come to Meherabad. I felt she was responding to all the heart connections of those around her. I experienced her presence throughout the night and felt that her love was now being given to everyone as she was becoming free of all earthly attachments. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned so I got up in the middle of the night to compose a poem in appreciation and remembrance of her extraordinary life of love that she shared so freely with all.
The nightingale's singing reaches beyond all earthly bonds this night.
Lost in loves plaintive call her soul soars to heavenly heights,
Gone are moments of laughter and her gift of song,
We say farewell to dear sister Mani, now gone.
What a bright and beautiful life you lived,
spent in love and service to God Brother Meher Ancient One.
We shall always remember your sweet song
The melody of your life and each heartbeat forever in rhythm keeping "Babatime"
We collect your precious memories in reflections of time;
and savor them as a Connoisseur Recalling the vintage of the world's finest wine,
such a grand bouquet rarely found on earth Cultivated personally from God's own vine,
Sweet scent of life's blossoms brings Remembrance and reflects in Mani
The treasure of love Divine.
August 7, 1996
Thoughts of Baba's Mani kept me awake that entire night. The next morning we received news Dr. Goher had called at about 2 AM to let people know that Mani's condition was worsening. A few who received the message decided to go directly to Meherazad to see Mani as she was expected not to make it through the night. Upon their arrival they were told that Mani's crisis had passed.
Days were spent in anticipation of the event that all knew would soon come to pass. Uncertainty and grief surrounded everyone as each felt Mani's suffering. Pilgrims would come to Meherazad, talks would continue in Mandali Hall and on Mehera's porch, but the air was infused with a hush and filled with concern for Mani. To be so close to Mani's room and not be able to offer anything to help ease her suffering, we were left helpless. I felt it was so kind of Mani to allow all pilgrims to share in her presence and feel the close family feeling at the Beloved's home. This mood was felt for days as only relatives and care givers were allowed to see her. Grief and emotions started to swell as Mani began to slip away from us.
On the 19th of August, just before 8 AM we at Meherabad were informed that Mani had gone to Baba at 7:01 AM. The message was that she lay in a coma and while breathing rapidly had opened her eyes then closed them and went to Baba.
Though I knew it was coming, I felt shock: to actually hear the fact deeply touched my heart. My own relief was that she was no longer suffering but this created uncertainty and a void in our lives. I wanted to go immediately to Meherazad just to be there near her. We received another call that pilgrims could come to Meherazad and a bus was leaving at 9:15. I decided to go immediately.
The atmosphere at Meherazad was a mix of immense sadness and deep sacredness. Spending time alone in Mandali hall in deep reflection, I saw the women carry Mani's body into the hall and place it in front of Baba's chair. Their tired faces were suffused with the intensity of grief that accompanies the death of a long-time and dear companion.
Prayers were said and songs sung as people filed in to pay their last respects. I was struck by the variety of people; pilgrims and workers mixed with Mani's dose companions in her life with Baba. Eurch placed photos of her on Baba's chair. Each captured Mani brimming with life. A steady stream of lovers filed past; each in their own private thoughts and emotions, giving a final good-bye to Mani who had touched their hearts so deeply. I was deeply moved to see Mani's long-time friend and companion Korshed Irani, full of emotion, lovingly reach down two or three times to touch her beloved friend for the last time. From childhood their lives had been dedicated with love and devotion to Beloved Baba.
Mani was so radiant and beautiful lying peacefully next to Baba's chair. She looked angelic, with her face translucent and lovely. I was told by a few that her skin looked just like Baba's did when he lay at Meherabad in 1969. She appeared to be,made of the finest translucent marble with light and radiance reflecting such vibrant life. In all her beauty she seemed to be only resting. The air was charged with her presence and sustained by a divine sweetness which felt like a gift from Baba to his beloved sister. Looking at her I was seized by memories of the bright eyes, charming wit and deep love that had once animated her lovely body.
I returned to Meherabad to see if I might be of help in the arrangements for her cremation which was to be held later in the day. There was a threat of rain so it was decided to place Mani's remains under the covered platform to the south of the Pilgrim Center. The rest of the day was spent in the preparations for the arrival of the body. Which arrived at about 4 PM.
I She was brought up the hill in the van and then taken inside Baba's Tomb Shrine to shouts of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai". Close family members were inside with her as she paid her last visit to Baba's Samadhi. She was then taken outside between Mehera's Tomb shrine and Baba's for a final meeting between her dearest companion and her Beloved Brother. In excitement the crowd rushed forward to be near the Samadhi and close to Mani. She was then moved through the crowd and placed on the Sabha Mandap platform near Baba's Samadhi where she would lie for about two hours so lovers from Arangaon village and those arriving from distant places would be fortunate to see Baba's sister for the last time. There was a large crowd of people forming a long queue down the hill, many holding flower garlands and offerings to be placed on Mani's body. This created a huge mound of flowers that almost covered her whole body. The atmosphere was charged with heightened emotions, anticipation, and longing by those participating in this great event. Sometime after 6 PM Mani's body was finally brought down the hill to the cremation site where her consecrated body would rise to Baba. Crowds gathered respectfully as family members placed her body gently beside stacks of logs that were soon to be ignited. Until this point, my experience of this day was one of movement in a timeless void; awareness of hours and minutes nonexistent. There was a fullness to the events that had transpired, from first hearing about Mani's passing to her resting in Mandali hall at Meherazad, to Baba's Samadhi, and now to this last resting place - this final resting place which would consume the last remains of this body that was once so animated with the joy of love in serving her Beloved.
As I surveyed the whole scene, I found myself lost in reflections: the nature of her smile, her charm, her dramatic vitality. I stood wrapped in these thoughts transfixed for minutes. I happened to glance up to the sky and remembered the day had begun with the gathering of clouds and hints of rain. Now the late afternoon -early evening sky seemed to open as light delicate white clouds parted allowing the golden setting sun to break through. A soft rim of golden color lay upon the horizon to the west. Emotions intensified as family members and close companions allowed us to witness their grief. Together Easterners and Westerners were feeling the pain of losing a dear one. The preparations took some minutes as Mani's Body was placed upon the platform and people formed a queue to be able to bow down one last time and offer pieces of sandalwood with a prayer to Mani.
Then the family members were handed torches to light the funeral pyre. Our emotions reached a crescendo. Shouts of " Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai" filled the air; cries from our hearts ushered heavenward on Baba's name. With the flames visible we silently watched the final consummation of dear Mani's remains, watched the flames. burn matter releasing energy towards the heavens.
The flames danced in the wind. We could see the many faces of Baba appear. The fire's intensity would then strive to consume Mani's body more and more. This left me with the truth that all we hold onto in life is so transitory. After spirit is released what is left of this body? - Only ashes.
There was singing of Mani's favorite songs and much reflection seen on the faces of all, seemingly lost deep in their own thoughts or memories. After a couple of hours most people began to leave, going back to homes or the distant places from which they had come. The remaining crowd seemed transfixed by the fire as if lost in time with no thought of self. This night certainly seemed timeless as had the whole day. This whole experience seemed so unfathomable - watching Beloved Baba's sister's body lie before our eyes and realizing that this scene would not be repeated again for hundreds and hundreds of years. Such a sacred softness and quiet pervaded around the fire occasionally punctuated by one of Mani's favorite songs.
I left the fire about 2 AM the 20th morning to get some rest as I had worked most of the day. The atmosphere was so comforting as if all of Mani's life was being released into the air, her dedication and love, all her devotion to her Beloved seemed to have been released into the atmosphere near the fire and was flowing into our hearts.
I returned early the next morning for a watch as it was important for someone to always guard the still burning embers. Young people from the Myrtle Beach Youth Sahavas lovingly volunteered to take shifts to guard the pyre and be next to Mani. They selflessly spent hours upon hours guarding the fire. Songs and silence still prevailed throughout the entire next day and throughout the next and then the next - The fire burned for 3 days, which is highly unusual in India. There was always a peaceful, sacred atmosphere with deep feelings of reverence around the body that lay consumed there.
In the days that followed, the atmosphere was very peaceful. Most conversation was subdued as each resident was apparently coming to terms within themselves with Mani's passing and what that meant for the future. After some days spent in reflection, it was time to begin preparations for her tomb shrine. Up on the hilI the ground had to be excavated and then a foundation laid to house her ashes. Ted Judson, with his architectural plan, and our labor crew set to work. The base stones for Mani's shrine were already stored on the hill and others had to be brought up from lower Meherabad. Except for the passing date, Mani's marble slab had been prepared after Mehera.' s passing. To complete it Ted and I had to transport it to Poona where the stone carver, a wonderful old Christian man who has carved almost all of the marbles for Meherabad, would finish it. I sat next to it the whole trip and thought how fortunate I had been to be involved in the many preparations for Mani's final resting place.
We needed help lifting the marble in and out of the stonecutter's house. Alan Wagner had come from Meherabad to visit Baba's nephews, the twins, Rustom and Sorab. They joined Ted and me and together we managed to get the marble in and out of the stonecutter's house. As he worked, I watched his hands and thought - these hands have also carved the stones for Baba's parents, Mehera, and others on the hill. He told us that this would probably be his last carving due to his failing eyesight and bad health. He told stories of Padre, who as a child had lived across the street from him and would visit him often. Despite his age he was able to finish the engraving that day.
Riding back to Meherabad I would glance at the stone with its new date carved upon its face. I was struck by the many phases of finality that had come to pass; from seeing Mani's body laid before Baba's chair at Meherazad through the cremation to this moment of seeing the date fixed in marble. I too had gone through phases, phases of acceptance, each one brought a fresh awareness of the reality that, yes, Mani is gone and yet we are moving forward.
September 8th was decided for the day of Mani's interment. On the hill, preparing her tomb shrine I felt so blessed even while we worked long days, sometimes even into the night. I was deeply touched by the reverence of an those working so hard to complete it but Mani had always given so much to me and an who had met her.
The day the work was completed, all was in place except Mani's marble which was off to the side. Underground was a square cement box awaiting the placement of her ashes. I surveyed the work and realized that once the marble was in position she would finally take her place upon the hill. And her legacy would also finally cement itself in the hearts of those who knew her but most importantly those who would come to know about her. And it would be through the stories of her deep abiding love for her brother, Beloved Meher Baba, that her life of service and devotion would live on forever.
Through witnessing this process that had started on my Birthday I came to share in the true gift and blessing from Baba - that of service. Dear Mani's life so finely articulated this gift, exchanged between lover and beloved, and I know I will be sustained in my own journey with the Beloved by the example of her exquisite life of devotion to her dear GodBrother, Meher Baba.
Bells sound the end of watches lonely night
Days color brightens the landscape - mornings new light.
Gentle wind blows from the west as embers glow and dance.
Baba's face in flames appears to complete this sacrificial rite.
Gone are moments of laughter, sweet smile, bright eyes.
And charming wit, known only to a few.
Lost senses your memory flows through the wind As a cherished gift of love that i treasure so true.
Sweet moments captured in time, now released to me from you
As breezes blow the melody on air of sacred wind
Baba's dearest Sister Mani takes to flight.
The journey now begins as the nightingale soars to heavenly heights
Silent now, light fades as the dark appears, in the Embers last glow.
Mani's life has paid it's due.
Sister joins brother, God and lover, what is left
in this vacant dream for us to discover of your life lived so full and true
Life closes the eyes of sight but love opens the heart anew
The divine fragrance and memory of Mani flows throughout
The world as a gift of God's treasure so true
Memories cling to what is left of what i once knew
And are now released in remembrance in this gift of love from you.
MANI'S INTERMENT POEM
Oh Eternal Beloved Meher, Father In Heaven, Source of Light In our hearts,
Lord of Love.
Blessed rays of morning fill the air with color from your loving sun.
On this eighth day of September to this sacred hill your dearest sister Mani has come.
Her Life in service as a child had begun hand held tight in God Brothers hand,
his His every wish was taken as a command
True love in service to Meher was your earthly plan
Sacred moments now lost In time reflect in our memory
given to all exchanged so freely
What is there left to say of one whose fife was
lived for the beloved In total response to love's divine call
May we all join together on this sacred hill to pay tribute to a life given in love and service in his name
Dear sister Mani sought only his will, now these ashes
close to Meher in eternal rest shall remain Joined forever now In the Beloved's heart flame.
11:30 -12:00 PM
Sept. 8, 1996