Departure of Sadanandi Dasi
Posted April 10, 2011
At the hospital bed of Sadanandi dasi I reflect on the life of my dying secretary, while trying to assist in her final journey.
Oh eternal soul
That is about as far I came in my little address to Sadanandi. I had just entered the emergency ward and stood before her bed. It was obvious: she was in her last stage of fighting with death. Then, overwhelmed by a hurricane of emotions and in the midst of tears, I broke down. Even in her state of coma, Sadanandi prabhu looked like an angel. She was breathing heavily, apparently not noticing her surroundings. But I could sense that she was still there. The soul was awake, even in her finished body.
The rest is quickly told: we sang the maha-mantra for eight and a half hours. After a quick bathroom visit I saw how two nurses took out the second patient, who had just died. His wheeled bed rolled by. It was good that he had heard the Kirtan.
Sadanandi's mother was there caressing her head and arm, crying and preparing for the final goodbye. "When will death come?" I asked the doctor as he removed the artificial life-prolonging machines, one after the other.
"Within the next 24 hours," he answered with a sad smile. Everyone had liked Sadanandi prabhu immediately. "There is nothing we can do for her any longer. The internal bleeding just can't be stopped. Her liver is dead, her kidneys don't work, and then there is this dangerous virus, and..... Only one strong painkiller is still being administered."
After seven hours of maha-mantra, the male nurse, Till, came and
spoke: "I congratulate you. What a wonderful atmosphere! I have never
seen this before. Most people who come here die alone. It is I who
has to be their
best friend, their lover, father, mother, brother, sister —
everyone in one — because there are not many people who dare to
confront the great unknown of death."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Most probably because they are reminded of their own eventual death, and then their whole present life is questioned. Death always puts one disturbing question, with three fat question marks, behind everything we do in our life: is it really worth it???"
I was surprised of the depth of Till's answer. He quickly added: "I wish, when my time comes, that people like you are around me, singing."
Dear readers, how can I write down what happened next? Who of you will believe me? Please try.
One kirtan was so wonderful that in my mind I felt inspired to leave this world and go to Goloka Vrindavana. There, under a wish- fulfilling desire tree, I entered the presence of the Divine Couple and presented Sadanandi prabhu's case: "Here is Sadanandi dasi, my wonderful disciple. She was initiated in the parampara where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared and where Srila Prabhupada spread Krsna consciousness. All her devotional life was filled with service, she was kind to all devotees, and she tried her best to increase her attachment to You. She loved Your own home, the sacred forest of Vrndavan, and....."
As I tried to find a point which best described Sadanandi, an idea came to my mind. "Yes, her most frequently used word was 'thank You,' referring to all the spiritual gifts she received. Kindly, kindly accept her."
At that moment the Divine Couple seemed to smile, and Srimati Radharani took a flower and handed it to Sadanandi. Then She said: "We are already waiting for you."
Please don't get me wrong: I am not claiming to be directly in contact with the Lord. It was in meditation only.
Yayoo, yayoo, yayoo..... I was quickly pulled back to the emergency room. One of the monitors suddenly made a noise to indicate that her heartbeat had accelerated. Maybe that was a good sign?
It was around 10.30 PM when we left the room. Something told me that Sadanandi dasi would prefer to start her final journey in my absence. It is known that those who die suffer great pain when they see people around them to whom they are most connected.
In the meantime, Gaurahari das and Rangadevi dasi had arrived to replace us. And at 12.30 a.m. — the beginning of the new day — the telephone rang in Gaura-bhavan: Instantly I knew; Sadanandi had just left.
Gaurahari was on the phone and described the last minutes of Sadanandi in these words: "As we were doing kirtan, Sadanandi's breaths became longer and longer. Her mother had for a moment fallen asleep, and her head rested on the shoulder of her daughter. All of a sudden I felt inspired to glorify Srila Prabhupada and her Deities with 'Jaya Prabhupada!' and 'Jay Sri Sri Radha Govinda!' and then I sang glorifications to Krsna-Balaram and different places she had liked to go in Vrndavan.
"Sadanandi's breathing became very peaceful, and all of a sudden she opened her eyes wide and looked at me. She must have felt: now is the time! I kept on singing 'Jaya Prabhupada!' 'Jaya Gurudev!' and 'Jaya Radhe!' — when she finally breathed her last. Right after her departure there was an amazingly loving atmosphere all around us, and we felt that Sadanandi had gone on her divine journey back home, back to Godhead."
In closing this little article I want to say a deep heartfelt thank- you first of all to Elfie, the wonderful mother of Sadanandi dasi, and then to our little team in Gaura-bhavan who showed such a wonderful example of the community of care: Gaurahari, Rangadevi and Bhanu-nandini prabhus. Now I want to also thank all the devotees who have visited her, like Gadadhar das and the devotees from the Dharma castle, Amara prabhu, Nrsimha-priya, Suzanne, Katja, Mr Klebig, Helmut, Marie, etc., etc.
And I want to extend a hearty thank you to all the devotees who have prayed, performed kirtan, etc. Really, I am moved. I think all around the world devotees prayed and produced a supportive atmosphere of blessings. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
At this time we are naturally grieving, but in our hearts of hearts we feel simultaneously happy. The journey went just like Sadanandi dasi always wanted her departure to be. Radha and Krsna were really with her all the time. And death lost its horror.
Let me end with a wonderful verse which comes to mind when I think of Sadanandi prabhu: "Though engaged in all kinds of activities, My pure devotee, under My protection, reaches the eternal and imperishable abode by My grace." — Bhagavad-gita 18.56
"To a devotee who is thus engaged in Krsna consciousness the Lord is very, very kind. In spite of all difficulties, he is eventually placed in the transcendental abode, or Krsnaloka. He is guaranteed entrance there; there is no doubt about it. In that supreme abode, there is no change; everything is eternal, imperishable and full of knowledge." (Srila Prabhupada's purport to Bhagavad-gita 18.56)
A personal word to the readers: It is natural that one feels an increased sense of renunciation and sincerity of purpose when a near and dear one leaves the body. I am aware that many of you know Sadanandi personally, so deep feelings will naturally move your heart, and lots of grief. But there is a wonderful dimension in all of this: Krsna's plan.
In addressing you personally, it is important for me to share one point which became very obvious to me: her whole departure was really under the care of Krsna. He kept His promise: that he will protect His devotees.
Of course, during the last year we were sometimes pained to witness the failing struggle of Sadanandi to regain her health, but now in retrospect it all makes sense: Some old karmic debts were used by the Lord to detach her from this world and attach her to Him. One of her last sentences to me was: "I think that I am ready to go now." And a little later: "Yes, I want to go. More service is waiting."
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