BY: SRUTAKIRTI DAS
I was so busy taking care of her for the last 18 months I never had time to contemplate on what was happening right in front of my eyes.
May 09, 2010 — UK — It has been two weeks since my wife left this world under the protection of Srila Prabhupada. I have wanted to write my offering, my homage to her, but I haven’t been able to do it. I was so busy taking care of her for the last 18 months I never had time to contemplate on what was happening right in front of my eyes. I haven’t been able to think very clearly. My entire life was turned upside down in a moment.
Feelings of emptiness embrace me at every moment. Besides her leaving I’ve had to deal with more than a few devotees telling me she has visited them since her departure. Many would be skeptical, some may not. I have always been a skeptic myself. I have never felt mystical experiences, “beings” around me or anything like that. I don’t doubt it could happen, that someone might see her silhouette, hear her speak, or feel her presence. I know that anything is possible. Once, Srila Prabhupada was asked if there were any ghosts around. He answered, “wall to wall.” I even believe she did visit these fortunate devotees but that makes me more upset. What about me, your husband, who has taken care of you and nursed you 24 hours a day. I know I’m dull headed but damn. I have been talking to her and pleading for a dream, a voice or a breeze next to me. Anything! I have been so lonely.
On Tuesday, May 4th I left our home in the UK. I spent the next 3 days at my sister’s home visiting my eighty-seven year old mother. I wanted her to know I was okay and going to survive this trauma. She lost her husband at 30 and had to raise three of us on her own. She remained unmarried and never wavered in her duties since then. She drives to church every morning, still.
This morning at 4:30 a.m. I left my family and drove to JFK airport in New York. When I put my bags in the car I felt like it was a new life in front of me, but had no idea what it was. I was on my own now. I thought at least the time of the day was auspicious. I thought I am being forced to have complete faith in Guru and Krishna. It was a 100 mile drive from my mother’s house. I was taking my next flight to a quiet place to chant and hopefully write. I was going to be staying with devotee friends there for the next few weeks. While driving, every now and then I talked to Amekhala, out loud. This is not my style, but everything has changed. I prayed to her, to please give me some sign she was still with me. I really believed it was possible she could comfort me. I have just been thinking that I don’t deserve it because of my many sinful activities and offenses to devotees in this life.
The flight was at 8:45 a.m. Amekhala and I always left early for the airport, rather than rushing and being in anxiety about not being on time. I dropped off the Hertz one-way rental and asked a few people to help me find my way onto the train that whizzes around to the eight different terminals. I don’t know my way around JFK at all. I know Heathrow Airport in England very well. I checked my bags at Jetblue Airways. With plenty of time I went through security and then stepped onto the moving aisles headed to the main departure area. With my rolling hand luggage I stepped off the moving ramp and walked a few steps. I looked up. There was a large triangular shaped center area with three levels, some cushions and outlets where you can plug in your computer. It was the hub to all 30 gates. I thought that was great. I’ll plug in my computer and try to find a wireless signal. I took a few more steps and looked straight into her youngest son’s bright blue eyes. It was Vrinny! We couldn’t believe it. Impossible! It was a real live miracle for both of us. Since the day before I left the UK we hadn’t spoken a word. He was not in the house the morning I left the UK. Neither of us had any idea where or when the other was going. The day before he missed his connecting flight to Florida because it arrived late from Heathrow so he had to stay in New York an extra day and leave this morning. How cheeky of Amekhala to arrange it for us. It was my miracle, at last! We hugged and laughed both knowing this was no accident. Out of all airports we both could have been in and in one of the biggest airports in the world I walked right up to him. Ten minutes later it would not have happened. If I were him I would have already been at the gate because his flight was leaving in 45 minutes. He said he always waits to the last minute to get on the plane. I’m the exact opposite. I got there early and wanted to be on my flight first, but because I had plenty of time I didn’t walk to the gate.
We both knew it was special. Not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of the Supreme Lord. We talked for almost an hour. We both knew Amekhala was with us laughing and smiling. I told Vrinny how much his mom had protected me over the last seven years and how since she left she has become my “guardian angel.” I know she will always help me. From the beginning of our relationship she has been what I wanted and needed. Vrinny also now understood she will always be there for him as well. We were both so happy and both needed this so much. I still can’t get over walking right into him. That “little” sign gave me so much.
Separation is not the same as lamentation. That one moment will carry me for a long time. I know there will be others. Every moment I make a choice to see Krishna or not see Him. He is always there. Amekhala will also be there with her look of approval, or disapproval. At this moment I am happy. Right now on my flight the seat next to me is empty but I don’t see it that way. I have to learn how to relish separation. That’s the purpose of this human life–to develop love for our Guru and Krishna, and in our separation, to want nothing else except to render devotional service and go back home, back to Godhead. There we will be together with all of Srila Prabhupada’s followers.
While I was taking care of Amekhala many devotees would tell me what a wonderful service I was doing and ask me if I was okay. I could only think of her condition. She was disintegrating before my eyes. She never complained about it and simply accepted it as her karma. She never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. She said that she felt sorry for everyone else because she was almost finished with her suffering, but others would still have to go through it. That made her sad. Her strength and conviction always amazed me. This never changed throughout her painful ordeal. It was one of her most attractive qualities. She always remained positive in her life despite many very difficult circumstances. She used that experience to try and help others with their own hardships in the most caring way.
On January 20, 2010 she developed septicemia (an infection in the blood). Because of the chemotherapy session her immune system was extremely poor. Her temperature went up to 107 degrees F (42 degrees C). She was in a very blissful state at the time, in and out of consciousness. She kept telling me that the trick was to realize that we are not the doers. She kept emphasizing that Krishna was in control. Once she said, “But I am stubborn.” She said she understood that Krishna loves us because if He didn’t He wouldn’t put so much effort into trying to help us.
At that time she saw Srila Prabhupada with a dozen beautiful gardenia garlands around his neck, looking very regal. She said she always thought he was disgusted with her, but now she knew he loved her. She was worthy of being loved. Twice she saw Mayapur dhama. Each time she saw a very young boy she thought was Lord Caitanya. Each time He ran away laughing saying it wasn’t her time yet. Then she saw a little blue boy who also laughed and ran away. She said, “I have relevance! I deserve, only because Krishna loves me.” Then she said, “I am nothing and I don’t want anyone to think I am anything.” Then in her typically positive fashion said, “The cancer is not going to kill us. We are going to kill the cancer. Krishna has more power.”
She ended by saying with pride that even with a temperature of 107 degrees she still recognized everyone around her. At the time, over fifty devotees had rushed over to the house to see her because we thought she was in her final hours. Even in such a physical state, she gave all of her love and a blissful smile to every one of them. She stayed with us for nine more weeks, barely eating or drinking during that time.
Srila Prabhupada exhibited unalloyed love for Krishna. Amekhala exhibited to me her unalloyed love for Srila Prabhupada. She showed me the same undeviating love in our relationship. She wouldn’t settle for anything less for herself. She taught me so much in a short time. As the months passed by I realized she wasn’t my wife. She belonged to Krishna and was Srila Prabhupada’s daughter. I was being offered the opportunity to serve her. As the cancer progressed throughout her body she became weaker and the pain increased dramatically. I had to take care of all her needs. My only focus was to try and relieve her suffering. I was engaged in devotional service. I had no choice. I loved her.
I have been given more mercy than I deserve in this life. I want to learn to be grateful. I don’t want to spend my days filled with lamentation over “my” loss. I want to appreciate all I have been given. I had over seven wonderful years with Amekhala and have had forty years of association with devotees. I know I will be on a roller coaster of emotions for quite a while. However, I am happy knowing Amekhala devi dasi passed her final test and has given me tools to help me pass mine.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Amekhala who freely gave her loving care to so many devotees for forty years. Her example will be appreciated by so many for the rest of their lives. I am one of them.
Your servant, Srutakirti das