|On Sacred Ground|
In Meherazad one day in the early 1950s Mani was alone in the bedroom she and Mehera shared. Quite unexpectedly Baba strode into the room and stood before her. He held out His palm and gestured, "Promise me!" Uncharacteristically Mani hesitated and thought, "To what am I about to promise?"
Then Baba continued, "When I go, will you look after My Mehera?" Immediately Mani said "No," inwardly praying, "Baba please, don’t ask me that. How could You possibly go before we do?"
Suddenly Baba became very serious. This time when He offered His palm to Mani she immediately placed her hand on His and said, “Yes Baba.” And so it was that after Baba dropped His Body, Mani looked after Mehera with unparalleled tenderness and compassion.
Deep in grief, Mehera did not know if she could live without Baba, without serving Him, and without His physical presence. She wondered, should they live in Meherabad? Stay in Meherazad? And poor Mani did not know what to do either. Unbeknownst to them, 10 years prior Baba had sown the seed that would give His beloved Mehera the comfort and courage she would need to go on without Him.
It was November, 1958, and a New York Baba lover named Joanna Smith was travelling in India. She wrote to Baba requesting to see Him and He agreed. Joanna was due to arrive and Baba told Mehera that He would be taking her on a walk through the garden, along with Eruch and a few men Mandali. Mehera knew that with men present she would not be able to join Baba as He strolled through their garden. However, she did mention that Joanna might like to see the beautiful jasmine bush that was in full bloom out behind her room.
|Baba standing by the jasmine (in partial bloom) behind Mehera’s room, 1954.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)
Never wanting to miss a chance to see Baba, Mehera readied herself to catch a glimpse of Him as He came through the garden with Joanna. By standing behind the curtained windows and doors in her bedroom, she could peek out as Baba showed the beautiful jasmine to Joanna.
On the way back to Mandali Hall, Baba's route took Him past Mehera's east windows, and to her surprise, He stopped right in front of the umar tree growing there. Deliberately He placed His hand on the tree at about shoulder level and gestured, “Of all the trees, this tree, this tree I like.”
Then Baba left and Mehera turned to tell Mani what had happened. They were both mystified. Why did He single out this tree? Not only did it block her view, but there were many more beautiful trees in the garden.
Later, when Baba returned to the house, Mehera and Mani expressed their surprise as to why He'd singled out that particular umar tree. Baba innocently gestured, "Later on you’ll see. Later on you’ll know."
Ten years passed and in 1968 Baba and the mandali were planning a public darshan program in Poona for thousands of Baba's lovers, many of whom had not yet met Him. Heartbreakingly, Baba dropped His physical form shortly before the program was to begin. To honor their appointment with God, from April to June of 1969 His lovers came from all over the world to bow down to Baba's Love. These three months provided a great diversion from grief for Mehera. She, and all the mandali, felt Baba's presence in His Lovers and witnessed the effect of His Work.
However, in June of 1969 when the Great Darshan was over, coming back to Meherazad without Baba was extremely difficult for Mehera and all the mandali. Mani and the other women had to encourage Mehera to eat and sleep. They would read to her and try to distract her, but her grief was inconsolable. She didn’t even have the heart to go out into the garden.
Instead, Mehera would walk inside the house just as Baba had done for exercise after His hip accident, walking back and forth between the west windows of the dining room and the east windows of Mehera's bedroom. Caught between her intense grief and her sweet memories of Baba, Mehera walked back and forth, back and forth.
Then one day in July she stopped at her east window to look at some of the flowers she’d grown for Baba and her gaze was drawn to the umar tree. Mehera could not believe her eyes. There, on the tree, was a life-sized image of her Beloved Baba's face—so beautiful, so alive. Baba was right there, comforting her with His Presence, telling her that He'd never left, that He was still with her and always would be.
|At Mehera's request, Mani took this photo of Baba's image on the umar tree a few days after His face first appeared. On seeing this image, Mani finally knew that Meherazad was where Baba wanted them to stay.
(Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)
Mehera's unbounded relief touched everyone. How she must have felt when she remembered Baba placing His hand on that very same spot on that very same tree ten years earlier. Such is the Love that our Beloved Baba had, has, and always will have for His own beloved, Mehera.
|Every morning Mehera would spend quiet time with Baba at the umar tree. His image remained very clear for over seven years. (Photo from the early 1970s by Cindy Ceteras)|
|Click here to watch a video of Baba's tree with Mehera at her window in 1971, filmed by Mani. (Video footage courtesy of Meher Prasad and Sheriar Foundation. Used by permission.)|
——Kacy Cook for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 13 October 20
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