31 July 2001, Amritapuri
Ordinarily, there is not even a single cubic foot of empty space near Mother.
There is something so delicious about being as close as possible to Mother that if there WERE a cubic foot of space, someone would fill it.
But on Tuesday when Mother finished satsang and began to share lunch with Her children, there was a space near Her. It was on the men’s side, and it would have accommodated one young man nicely.
It remained empty throughout lunch. The young man who was always there in the past has passed away. He met his end in a car accident just as Mother’s last foreign tour began; Amit no longer sits right at Mother’s side, cracking jokes, imitating people, flashing his infectious smiles.
Was it thinking of him that made Mother bury Her Face in Her Hands while the ashramites chanted the fifteenth chapter of the Gita before lunch? Was it contemplating the suffering of the other three young men who had survived the accident, Sudeep and Virapan and Eswar, that called forth the tears that She had to wipe away before She led the blessing over the food? Those three men were sitting near Mother and near the empty space for Amit. Sudeep, with his neck in a brace; Virapan, once robust and stocky, now slimmer; and Eshwar, still smiling though he’s missing two front teeth. They spent the summer in the hospital, and are now able to come out and about on occasion. So of course they came for lunch with Mother.
Mother wanted to see Her healing sons eating. But one wasn’t. Sudeep, whose cervical bone was badly damaged in the accident, cannot chew his food well; he planned to take it back to his room, where a helper would mash it for him.
No! Isn’t She his Mother? She took his plate and mixed the rice and curry with Her Hand, just as any mother prepares her baby’s food. She mixed it the way She used to do on the North India Tour, when She would put a big vessel of rice and curry on Her lap and then mash it all together and form small balls which She would place into the mouths of Her children as they came for Her prasad. But this time She kept on mixing much longer than usual: mashing, squeezing, making of the firm food something softer so that Sudeep could swallow it.
Then She handed the plate back to him, cleaned Her Hand, and before eating took a little curry that had been kept for Her and poured it onto the empty place on the floor – Amit’s place. As if he were there. Perhaps, in some way, he was.
Perhaps in some way all Her children who have gone before were there. When She prayed for Amit, and for the three suffering boys, She was also remembering all Her children who suffer, or who have passed away. The libation, too, must have been for all those who have left this life.
Earlier, before lunch, Mother had talked about the departed son who had come to the ashram as a young boy. She had reminded people of how he was always so free and playful, bringing laughter and joy whenever he came into a room. She had talked about how loving and caring he was: if someone in the ashram was sad, he would go to Mother to tell Her, urging Her to pay that person some extra attention. She had praised his lack of jealousy, his warmth, his cheerfulness.
“Amit was like a rainbow. In his life he gave joy to others.”
A rainbow is there only for a short time, but how much joy we feel when we see it!
On the 25th July Amma had planted a small sapling at the ashram premises in memory of Amit. A sapling* which Amma said would grow into a shade-giving tree, under which many could sit and meditate. A tree which would bear fruits for others.
*Hindus usually cremate their dead. It is the local custom to plant a coconut sapling (or any other fruit giving tree) where the body has been cremated. If that is not possible, a little of the ashes and a piece of the bone from the body of the deceased are buried in a convenient place, and a sapling is planted at this spot in memory of the departed. In the course of time, the sapling will grow into a tree and bear fruit. The fruit and the tree itself will benefit many. This, it is believed, will confer merit to the departed soul.