Remembering Vivian (1902-1999)
by Louis Agostini
Vivian was born Ida Losh in 1902 of Jewish parents in Russia. Her family emigrated to America when she was about six years old. Somehow the name Losh became changed in the Immigration Department into Lush, and that remained the family name thereafter. (At one time a lawyer and his wife had adopted her or invited her to live with them, and it was Mr. and Mrs. Watton who had given her the name Vivian, though she still retained Ida as her middle name.
As the eldest girl in the family, Vivian helped her mother with raising her younger brother and sister and the four children who were born in America. She eventually showed a talent for art with a love for sculpture. So, as she grew up in New York City, she moved from studio to studio of some of the best-known sculptors of the time. Once when she applied for a scholarship, she was turned down on the grounds that her work was so professional that to give her the award would be unfair to another who really deserved assistance. She continued her career and work with Robert Garrison, the chief sculptor on the Gothic figures which decorate the “Rockefeller Church” on Riverside Drive in New York City. She also worked in the studio of the Piccirilli Brothers at 142nd Street in the Bronx. This was the firm which had produced the Lincoln Memorial in the early twenties. She was the only female sculptor employed at Piccirilli Brothers, and eventually she married the boss in 1943 when she was 41 years old. The marriage lasted about 21 years, for her husband was much older than she. It was while she was working for Piccirilli that a long Time magazine article about this prestigious firm was published in the summer of 1936. There was only a small reference to her, but the reporter’s description of her always remained in my mind while the rest of the article faded from memory. At that time I was living in Trinidad, West Indies, and it was quite by accident (that the Time issue had fallen into my hands.
Then in 1947, two years after her husband’s death, Vivian travelled to Trinidad on vacation to see her oldest brother, who had a business there. One day she went to an art exhibition, saw one of my paintings, was attracted to it, and asked for an introduction to me. We met, I fell in love first with her art, then with the person, and in 1951, when I was by then head of the Government Printing Office with 200 men under my charge, I resigned my post and went to New York City, where we were married in the same year.
So after 52 years of companionship, she suffered an aneurysm in the brain, was sent to a nursing home, and passed away after three weeks, in 1999. I am glad, however, that on each visit I did have the opportunity to pour exhortations into her ear to remember Meher Baba who was waiting for her, and also to say the Master’s Prayer and the Prayer of Repentance and to sing her favorite Baba hymn, “The Ocean Of Love.”
Vivian’s meeting with Baba in 1962, recounted in Lord Meher 18: 5977-78:
Vivian Agostini accompanied her husband, Louis, but she was not yet prepared to accept Baba as the Avatar. She had agreed to come but vowed: “I will never kneel down before any man who calls himself God!” After meeting Baba, she announced her intentions to return to America, complaining to her husband, “Baba did not look at me. I don’t know whether he was even aware that I was presented to him. I feel as if I were treated by him as nothing!”
However, suddenly Rano Gayley appeared calling out, “Vivian Agostini! Baba wants to see Vivian Agostini.”
Vivian Agostini later recounted her impressions:
I approached Baba and knelt at his feet as his gestures indicated that he wished to give me a special embrace. No mother’s hands could have been more gentle as he held my head in his hands and gazed deep within my eyes. All I could say was: “Baba, I love you. I love you so very much.” He nodded his head as if to say “I know, I know,” referring perhaps to my genuine anguish of the evening before when I felt so forlorn and abandoned.
And, I had the strange feeling of melting into a vast and endless domain. Then the tears came pouring out as though a dam holding back a large expanse of water had suddenly broken, and the uncontrollable torrent poured down my face and over my clothes. If that was the edge of the cyclone of Baba’s love which I had just experienced, what must the very center be like?
Dazed by the experience, Vivian left and wandered into Baba’s room, where sister Mani greeted her. Instead of returning her greeting, Vivian could only say in wonder, “I never knew I would look into the eyes of a man and know that he is the Christ.”