I have been graced with countless experiences in life that have given me absolute faith in God’s constant love, presence, and guidance. Recently I experienced the miracle of His grace and presence during the passing of my father.
My husband Keshava and I are directors of the Ananda ashram in Delhi, India, and we’ve been living there for over 14 years. Both my parents are still living, and sometimes I’ve prayed that I would be present at the time of their transition, and help them in any way possible.
Last December we learned that my 86 year-old father had been diagnosed with cancer in both his brain and lungs. I made the quick decision to go back to California where he lives, for Christmas.
Following a nice, but quiet, Christmas holiday with my dad and other family members, my father contracted pneumonia, and was checked into the hospital. He was a Christian Scientist and didn’t like going to doctors. The hospital environment was alien to his nature. He was rarely sick, and now he was very sick with several serious multiple issues, surrounded by an environment in which he wasn’t comfortable.
Although he needed rest and had been trying for 5 days to get it, the noise and nurses of the hospital made rest difficult. He was anxious, uncomfortable, kept trying to remove the wires from his heart monitor wires, tubes from the oxygen mask and in general moving restlessly.
On what turned out to be the last night of this life (but none of us knew it yet), I was alone in hospital room with my father. He was trying to rest, but couldn’t. Suddenly the words of the 23rd Psalm from Bible came to me. My father had recited it often when I was a child, and at some point made me memorize it. Sitting with my dad now, this gem of timeless scripture bubbled up into my consciousness, and I recited the beginning of it to him: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”
Suddenly my dad got quiet and still. This favorite scripture passage, engraved in his heart and permeating all levels of his consciousness, came and uplifted him when he needed it most. He slept. At times he’d wake up, become a little restless again, and after helping him, I repeated, “Dad, the Lord is leading you beside the still waters, and He’s restoring your soul.”
During the times he was still, I opened my heart and mind in prayer, asking that God and Master take my dad’s hand and guide his soul upward in freedom, divine light and peace. (I actually visualized Yogananda holding my dad’s hand and soaring upward.) I could feel God’s, divine mother’s, and my guru’s presence with us in the hospital room. “I am with you always, all is well.”
Peace filled the room and entered my heart. I was smiling in the dark, almost hugging myself in love and joy. I knew a sense of deep soul bliss. I believe my dad’s soul was experiencing a taste of bliss and freedom from limitation, that his soul was communicating, I’m at peace, I’m free, I’m with the Lord, and He’s restoring my soul.
The next morning it became clear that my dad was going to leave his body soon. I now repeated the entire 23rd Psalm in his right ear:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I also sang one of his favorite Christian Science Hymns into his right ear, an excerpt from the first verse being:
I know no death, O Father, because I live in Thee; Thy life it is which frees us from death eternally.
My dad took his last breath peacefully, with my family and I surrounding him.
In retrospect I understand that I’ve been given an incredible gift. Not only was I able to be with my father during his transition, I was also able to experience an incredible, timeless moment of deep soul bliss with him. My guru answered my prayer.
I am reassured that every day of my life is guided by God and Guru, and that I can never step out of His presence and His grace.
How best to be aware of that presence, guidance and grace? Still your restless thoughts, gaze upward, open your heart, and feel for His presence in every situation. You will find Him there.