Remembrance of Mum at Avatar’s Abode
Remembrance of Mum at Avatar’s Abode
by Michael Le Page
Over the weekend of Saturday September 29 to Monday October 1, 2012, Baba lovers gathered at Avatar’s Abode for our Spring Sahavas. Our special guest was dear Shridhar Kelkar from Meherabad, who, along with his daughter Mani, delighted us with stories of the Talati family’s lives with Beloved Baba over a number of generations.
Throughout the weekend, many people, knowing that our dear mother Joan was in hospital with pneumonia, asked lovingly after her, and shared stories of their special times with Mum. She was very much in our thoughts and our hearts.
On Sunday night I got word that our darling mother Joan had passed away.
This morning (Monday morning, October 1) the morning Prayers and Arti naturally evolved into a remembrance of Joan.
As I was picking a rose to put in Baba’s Room for Mum, Geoff and Tian walked by. Tian waved cheerily. She later told me that she did not know that Mum had passed but when she went into Baba’s Room, she felt that there was an especially strong feeling of love in the room.
The Prayers, the Gujarati Arti and the Australian Arti had a beautiful soft but strong resonance this morning. Each word of the Prayers seemed especially vivid.
After the Prayers and Arti we began singing songs for Joannie in Baba House. People suggested songs that they thought Joannie liked or would like. We sang “Welcome to My World,” “Open Up the Door,” “Satchitanand,” “Mehera, Can You to Tell Us How You Love Him,” “Mehera’s Song,” “Tonight,” “Victory Unto Thee,” the “Meher Baba God Is Love” round, “The Moon Was Low” and other touching songs.
I shared my experience of coming on occasions to the doorway of the Big Room (Baba’s Room), looking in and seeing Joan dusting Baba’s photos and sacred objects. Not wanting to disturb her, I would watch her for a few moments. To me, Mum looked like one of the women mandali as she so carefully attended to her holy task. She had a cloth for the glass over the photo, another cloth for the frame, and another cloth again, for the bust of Baba, and so on. It is no wonder that when Meheru came to stay at Meher House many years ago, she commented that Joannie did not need any training from her in how to look after Baba’s sacred items.
In response to a few questions I mentioned that Joan’s mother Eva had come from a well-to-do farming family in the Western District in Victoria. Eva’s maiden name was “Page.” Her father Alfred was a civil engineer, responsible for irrigation works and road construction in Victoria. He was the president of the Victorian Bushwalkers Club. Joan had two brothers, John and Ralph, who were jazz musicians and conscientious objectors in the Second World War. One of Joan’s nephews, Jeffrey Burstin, is a professional musician. Joan had a beautiful singing voice, played piano and had, I believe, perfect pitch. She was majoring in Philosophy at Melbourne University and close to graduating when our dear sister Maree came along. Mum put no stock in formal education, and seemed to have no regrets at all about not graduating.
Joan and Bill met at a Sufi meeting at the home of Dennis and Joan O’Brien in Melbourne. As I understand, Joan was brought to the meeting by her sister-in-law, Betty Burstin (wife of bro John, who changed his name from Burston to Burstin). Bill was brought to the meeting by his sister Laurie. I am guessing this would have been in 1946 or ’47. Mum told me that at these meetings, Inayat Khan’s discourses would be read out, followed by a meditation of about 45 minutes. Each person would, each week, send a letter to Baron Von Frankenberg in Camden, describing their experiences in the meditation. The Baron would reply to each letter every week.
Curiously Mum lived at only three homes in her life: all at No. 12! — 12 Osbourne Ave, Malvern; 12 Jellicoe Street, Box Hill; and 12 Kalianna Crescent, Beacon Hill — Meher House, where she lived for 58 years.
I remembered, as did others, her great inner and outer gracefulness. She moved gracefully and with great balance and refinement. She was a very graceful swimmer, and good at sports such as table tennis and badminton, although her self-effacing nature and dislike of competition meant, it seems to me, that she often shied away from sports.
A number of people this morning spoke of the ways in which Joan was important to them; how she welcomed them to Meher House so warmly. I know how much she appreciated people appreciating Meher House. People spoke of her gentleness and her strength. I mentioned that her touch had the same extraordinary softness that was so noticeable in the touch of Dr Goher, Baba’s physician and mandali member. Several people mentioned how Mum was a loving mother figure to them, and Joanna reminded me of Mum’s self-described role as “Mother Duck” to her children and the younger people in the Baba community.
Beneath Mum’s striking gentleness, great refinement and sensitivity lay an iron will, which led me to claim, with absolutely no justification, that she was the reincarnation of Queen Victoria. She did not like this at all, nor did she appreciate me calling her “Vickie.” What is not in doubt is that our dear, gentle Mum was the only person who I know to have resisted Eruch Jessawala’s extremely charming, persistent and persuasive efforts to get them to tell their Baba story in Mandali Hall! Cherie Longo still remembers vividly the stand-off between Eruch and Joan so many years ago.
I had told the story earlier in the weekend of how, at the East-West Gathering, Mum had not gone on the group excursion to Mahabaleshwar because she stayed with me at the hotel, as I was sick. When Baba was informed of this, he said, “Look at the love of the mother for the child!”
The feeling throughout the morning was so loving and heartfelt.
Kris Hines said: I was recalling how when I first came to Baba in 1988 Meher House held such a powerful link for me with Baba. I would phone up at all sorts of times and say to Joan, ‘Can I come up to Meher House later today?’ and she was always so sweet and welcoming, coming to the door with her lovely smile. It always felt like a little mutual Baba darshan that I shared with her.
Marilyn Hopkins remembers: I know it might sound corny, but I always thought of Joan as my Sydney Mum and used to love being in the kitchen with her and watching the way she did things and the care she put into doing everything, even making a cup of tea. I was alone in the big smoke and here was this lovely warm lady (this was in 1974-75). I used to love just sitting beside her and absorbing her energy — her peace and calmness.
Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!