I flew suddenly to Berkeley from Toronto – right after Sabira had called. He had had a stroke. ….. I came the day after Joe Miller and Shahabuddin had sung the zikr with/for Shamcher. Stayed at Hayat's place, in Oakland, and went in to see Shamcher every day. We sat around together, in the living room, while he laid in the little bedroom. Sabira read to him from Tagore, which he had asked to hear.
On Friday, at 4 or so he was resting and suddenly I had to go in to him. To my surprise he was very alert and well. He said, "How long has this been going on?" I told him. "I seem to be something of a case," he said.” The children are here, everyone is here." He made jokes and talked very lucidly and clearly. It was such a shift. He asked me, "Well, do you think I'm more alive or more dead?" "It depends on your point of view," I said. And there followed a rapid dialogue. From this time on he seemed to me to be doing a gracious impersonation of a living man. Daphne fed him one strawberry. He began "lying in state" on the couch for most of the day, only going in to rest at 4.
Yes, Shamcher started “getting better". We would take him for short walks, which he seemed to enjoy. The first time, Evelyn and I took him almost to the University grounds – I know that was what he intended, but we only got as far as the driveway. This was Saturday morning. Daphne had managed the day before to get him to eat something. Ghani came, and we had lunch together – walking on air outside in the crazy Berkeley streets of heaven with Sabira and a friend. We talked of life and organization – spoken and unspoken meeting of hearts.
Sabira made a birthday party. Ghani was there too, Muhaima, Bryn and Linda, Daphne, Evelyn of course, – we ate chocolate cake or something. Bryn's photographs of the mountains were everywhere in piles (there must have been millions of them) and Daphne had brought old photos of when they were children. Shamcher couldn't see them but he enjoyed them all the same. At 4 he needed rest, and went to lie down. He had called Mansur an Assyrian.
Once, when I was sitting by him, passing between worlds and we were gone, Evelyn came in with some food. It was suddenly as if everything was reversed. The food was disgusting – it was intended to keep him dead and here in this land of death. The real life, shimmering, was not fed by such food. Then I shifted thoughts and felt grateful instead. Shamcher obediently ate a few bites.
I asked him, "Should I go tomorrow or stay?" My flight had been arranged for Sunday noon but I wasn’t certain if it was right to go. He thought, then said, "Go back to Gary and Rosie." It was a strong and subtle order.
All the while as he was resting, there was music from other apartments. Rock and roll guitar solos whirling down like demons. Once, suddenly, very loud The Beatles sing "Baby you can drive my car." And people arriving with flowers, mail to be answered, gifts of love. Someone brought him a black tulip, which looked very ominous to me. Someone came with a guitar and sang him a song.
Sunday was the day. Wadood and Judith arrived, and Judith and I took Shamcher for an early morning walk, then Sabira read him Blondie from the comics. Sitting there in the apartment suddenly became too much for me. The thought came – I can be closer to him away from him and I jumped up to go for a walk. The first and only thing I did alone in that entire time.
I was sobbing, in tears, very confused. I walked to the university grounds, to the place where we had been headed the day before. I felt all the times Shamcher and I had walked there before, and felt him with me and yet not with me. It was very big. I came to a spot, which he had pointed out to me:” There is a spot where a very dear friend of mine dropped dead." I had looked concerned, and he explained, "my car." I walked to that spot, past it to a place on the grass where I sat and sobbed. All the people coming to Shamcher at his dying, displaying themselves to him egos ablaze with their own glory and I thought, "Oh how can they?" Then I realized I was included in this parade, "Oh, how can we?" Then it changed – For we love him, and I knew that each one shows his or her best – and in fact from God's point of view it is a delight to see the children dance. And a blessing to the dancers. This is his gift: he has seen us, and loved us. And we have seen and loved him. I dried my tears and returned. He welcomed me back warmly, letting me know that he had been with me all the while.
Then everyone gathered: Jelaluddin, Sarah, Wadood, Judith, Evelyn, Sabira, Muhaima, Bryn, Linda, Daphne and me. Here were we all together and in harmony as Shamcher gave his discourse. We were in a circle on the floor as he "lay in state" and it was almost formal. We each heard what we needed to hear. For me it became most prominent at this point: "we are constantly being bamboozled as to what is the truth. The Koran, any scripture is only a version. Nature is the only scripture." And so much more – it was the same as Buddha's last words which he so often quoted. Depend on no one, nothing. Follow that which is within. No one can hold or contain it. Be it.
(He had also said, "Everyone here is named either Carol or Jelaluddin.")
When it was done, we all immediately dispersed for various places. I was first to leave, with Sabira taking me to the airport. I touched his hand, said a brief goodbye – everything was totally understood. "Go back to Gary and Rosie" he had told me. It was as I was going to the airport that he collapsed with the final stroke.
Back in Edmonton, I was under the impression that he was getting better. Then Wadood called me on Tuesday, I laughed and laughed – he was free. After that I was in shock until we had a simple universal worship service, the evening before Hayat's on the beach in California. And it was then I could cry in indescribable gratitude.
This is only a sketch, and only my little version, but I had to write it down. There are so many conversations and experiences I couldn't write – I'm wasn't ready for them yet. Many people, coming and going, all part of this passing, receiving the incredible light which he had restrained (in a way) for so long – it was rich perfume pouring without stop through all our beings – irradiating and forever changing us.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he had said to me.
– Carol Sill (from my journals)