[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by Miriam Brown) 

Swamiji was extremely ill with double pneumonia and it wasn’t safe to leave him alone. He had a high fever and his lungs were so compromised I didn’t need a stethoscope to tell what was going on—I could hear from across the room. In the intervals between the coughing fits, he gasped for air.

A few of us had spent a long afternoon and half the night with him. He was so weak he could hardly get to the bathroom. Finally, at 2 a.m. Swamiji decided he wanted to try to sleep, although he was coughing so much, I didn’t see how he'd be able to.  Because I am a trained nurse, he suggested I remain nearby while others went home.

If the patient had been anyone but Swamiji, I would have taken him to the hospital. When I suggested it, however, he wasn’t interested and I didn’t insist.

His illnesses don’t always follow a conventional medical model. Many times I have seen him ill and weak, or in such pain that he finds difficulty in walking on his own. Then, minutes later—if duty calls—he’ll give a class or a ceremony or a counseling session, sometimes for hours, during which time he shows no hint of weakness. Then, when his duty is done, once again, he is debilitated.

Swamiji has a simple explanation: “Master gives me energy when I need it.”

We settled Swamiji in his room. The others left, and I went down to the basement guestroom. There was an intercom; all Swamiji had to do was push a button and no matter how softly he spoke, I would hear him.  His cough was so severe I could keep track of it from downstairs. I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but I guess I did for a few hours.

About 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning something woke me. Immediately, I raced upstairs to see if Swamiji needed anything. I assumed he would be in his bedroom since he could scarcely get in or out of bed without help.

I came into the living room, rushing as nurses do, when suddenly I was stopped by a wall of stillness. I felt unable to move. In the presence of that stillness, motion would have been not only an intrusion: it seemed to me impossible. Even the usual humming sound of the refrigerator and the ticking clock seemed drowned out by the silence.

It was dark and at first I couldn’t see much. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, however, I saw that Swamiji was sitting in the living room meditating. He wasn’t coughing, he wasn’t gasping, in fact, I don’t think he was breathing. I had heard about the breathless state of meditation, but this was the first time I had seen it.

Clearly, he didn’t need any help from me. I stood for a moment, taking in the wonder of the scene before me, then turned and went back downstairs.

About an hour later, I knew his breathing had returned, for I heard him coughing. The whole pneumonia cycle soon started over again.  

No comments:

Post a Comment