I was dumbfounded. Four years ago Dharmadevi invited her mother to join us on a pilgrimage to India. Why was I taken aback? Jackie, Dharmadevi’s mom, was in the middle of battling cancer. At the time she seemed to me like the last person that could handle a trip to India. Divine Mother, of course, laughs at our logic. Dharmadevi had an intuitive feeling that it would be a blessing for her mom and us to have her join our pilgrimage.
And it proved to be true.
Two weeks before our trip, however, Jackie received word from her doctor that the cancer had come back and the treatment she was on was no longer working. Although this brought up feelings of uncertainty and fear, it did not stop her from coming on the pilgrimage with us. She met the challenge with cheerful courage.
To give you an example, she traveled all the way from Georgia on her own to meet us halfway, at the airport in Turkey. We had told her to meet us at the airport lounge. As we made our way to the lounge, we ran into her in the middle of the busy airport, with a pistachio ice cream cone in her hand! When we expressed our surprise in her wandering around a major international airport on her own, she said, with her characteristic joy, that she was sure that she’d be able to find us with no trouble.
Needless to say, there was a lot of walking on our pilgrimage. Because of her physical condition walking long distances was challenging for Jackie. But it did not stop her from exploring one of India’s most ancient cities, Varanasi.
Worship to Shiva is prevalent in Varanasi. Not only does the holy river Ganga run through the city but also the Kriya Yoga Masters. Those of you who have read Paramhansa Yogananda’s spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, may recall that Yogananda found his guru, Sri Yukteswar in Varanasi. Also, Lahiri Mahasya, the harbinger of Kriya Yoga, lived in Varanasi. And don’t forget that Babaji, the modern Yogi Christ of India, made his immortal promise – never to leave his mortal frame for the remainder of our earthly cycle – in Varanasi. Varanasi is sacred ground. An interesting aside, Yogananda called Los Angeles the Varanasi of the West.
While in Varanasi our group pilgrimaged to a special temple which holds some of Lahiri Mahasya’s ashes and massive Shiva Lingams that his family worshipped. Through meditation, chanting and inner communion we opened our hearts and minds to the vibrations of the Yogavatar, Lahiri Mahasaya. During her meditation, Jackie received a profound message from Lahiri Mahasaya. She inwardly heard Lahiri laughing while saying to her, “Death is immaterial.” They communed in blissful laughter. Her childlike smile and radiant eyes beguiled us as she recounted the story that evening.
Fast forward four years, and I had completely forgotten about her divine experience. That is until she reminded us about it this past Christmas. We had gone to visit her in Georgia because it seemed like this would be her last one in the body. While staying in her home, I enjoyed her many paintings. She painted landscapes in gold and purple, the Three Wise Men, crosses, astral seas of blue and gold, sacred hearts, and more.
Just after Christmas, Jackie’s health took a turn for the worse. She made the decision to forego any more radiation and entered into hospice to prepare for her passing. While we were attending her one day, I noticed a yellow painting by her bedside. It had words of inspiration painted on it.
“What is that painting?” I asked her.
“Oh,” she replied, “those are the words Lahiri Mahasaya said to me in India when we were there together…I painted it so I would not forget the message. Will you please take it and put it up in your home?” I was rooted to the spot when I read the painting:
God is One..
All that you wish for,
All that you desire will be fulfilled.
Death is immaterial.
There is only one path,
one way of awakening:
Before we returned to LA this past Tuesday, we traveled from Georgia to Maryland with Jackie via medical transport to bring her to Dharmadevi’s sister’s home. After returning to LA, for not even a full day, Dharmadevi’s sister called. Jackie passed peacefully in her sleep. As Dharmadevi sensed, she waited until we left to leave her body.
Dear Jackie Ma,
Thank you for sharing God’s love and light with us through the artistic landscape of your life. We hear you in our hearts laughing with Lahiri and rejoicing forever in the bliss of God.
Now your eternal life reminds us – “Death is immaterial.”