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20

 

Here again I will interrupt Tod’s account briefly to give my experience with Baba when he was so ill on this evening before leaving for Assisi:

 

I recall that during the hours before leaving, Baba stayed with us all from midnight onwards. Tod and Kaka were trying to get a little sleep before starting. Baba began by being bright and happy and we played the gramophone for a short while. Then Baba left his own room, went into the next room and called us all to follow. He lay down on the bed and we all watched close by. Soon he was distant from us. After being with him a short while, one learns to recognize this peculiar state. All we have to do is not to touch him or to speak to him. This special night he seemed to want us all near. Every once in a while his eyes would open and he would look to see if we were all still near him. Delia and I had wandered to the window and he beckoned to us both to come nearer so that we were within touch of him. But both of us were in rather a peculiar mood and remained where we were. Baba appeared to sleep again, but not the kind of sleep we have. He was hard at work. Continually his fingers moved in the air. This he had previously explained to us. He sets his seal on certain work to be done and gives his approval to it. Between 12 and 1 o'clock, Baba sat up on the bed and then asked why we did not sit near him when he called us. He implied that it was because he was suffering so much that he wanted us all to be near. Again we had a lesson to learn. Had we known why Baba wanted us to be near, we should not have remained at the window looking out. Disobedience to Baba's wishes always leads to more suffering on his part. He once explained in Italy that it was only for the work that he must have from us all implicit obedience.

 

Baba was in great pain for one or two hours before starting. He said it was like the pain a mother has before her child is born. To us who stood by, he had the same expression as one sees in the face of Jesus in the paintings of the Italian artists, in the pictures known as the Pieta.

 

They left very early that morning for Assisi. Returning to Tod 's diary, we read of this episode:

 

"We left at 2:30 A.M., going by way of Rapallo and Sestri Levante over the Baracco Pass to La Spezia. Pavese is a very nervous and not very good driver, so we did not make good time. The road winds in and out and is rather dangerous, but even in the faint light of dawn we could see what glorious scenery we were passing through.

 

"About 5:30 A.M. we descended into La Spezia as the sun was rising and it was a most glorious sight. We arrived at Pisa about 7 A.M., passing by Viareggio and breakfasting at the Nettion Hotel. Although none of us had slept, everyone felt quite fresh and well except Pavese who had driven. He went to bed for two hours. I took on Baba's pain at La Spezia and Kaka at Pisa, but by the time we arrived at Siena, we were all right. We started again at 9 A.M. and reached Siena at midday. Here we stopped for half-an hour and had ices at a cafe. We left at about 12:30 and decided to lunch in the country enroute for Perugia.

 

"Finally we arrived at Assisi at 5 P.M. to find a rather agitated Herbert waiting for us, because we were three hours late in arriving. After a rather restless and depressing week, he had made most successful arrangements for Baba's retirement (which he tells in much better words than mine).

 

"Several kilometers from the town, up in the hills on the slopes of Monte Subasio, lies the famous Hermitage of Carceri built by St. Francis and his fellow monks. Below in the woods are several small caves or retreats where people go for meditation. Herbert discovered one of these half-protected by an outside wall. He had hidden this with branches so that it was difficult to find.

 

"This was one that was actually used by St. Francis himself. At 6:30 P.M. we had a light meal at the Windsor Hotel and drove in a car most of the way. The last part we walked on foot and, finally, scaled a low wall and plunged into the woods led by Herbert down an intricate winding path.

 

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