For two weeks Gopinatha has to accept the cold wintery mornings here in Melbourne.
This visit is special. It's family business [rather than temple activities] that highlight this week, for my mother turns ninety in two days.
Tomorrow night we will give her an unforgettable evening of candles, flowers, a specially prepared prasadam dinner, and of course the darsan of Sri Sri Radha Ballabha.
Time really flies. I can still recall first taking my parents to meet Srila Prabhupada in 1972. At first they were quite reserved, until he told them how fortunate they were to have a child who had become a devotee. When they were about to depart, Prabhupada removed the fragrant carnation garland he was wearing,and told his servant.
"Give this to her"
His servant delivered the garland into my mothers hands. She kept it very carefully for a long time.
Soon after I left for New Zealand to see Srila Prabhupada install Radha Giridhari in Aukland.There I told him how much my parents had always helped me. He replied:
"You are fortunate to have your mother,and your mother is fortunate to have you."
During the years that followed, Prabhupada would often ask me about the wellbeing of my parents.
The last time we saw Prabhupada together was in 1976. My father received a very affectionate greeting from him in reciprocation for the crimson rose petals he had sprinkled on the steps before Srila Prabhupada as he entered his quarters.
Sadly, I was brought to Melbourne in mid - 1977 to assist my father with his final weeks.Before my return to Gita Nagari, with my daughter, my mother wrote and sent a "get well soon" card to Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavana. She was aware that he was also experiencing ill health. A reply, written by his servant, offering her Srila Prabhupada's final blessing. Soon thereafter both my father and Srila Prabhupada departed from this world.
But Prabhupada lives on in his blessings.So it is that my mother now chants daily on japa beads. Especially when she is anxious. She often reminds me of a gift she received from a devotee:a photograph of Srila Prabhupada with this advice printed below:
"All our ailments are due to the external body.
Although we have to suffer some time from
bodily inconveniences, specially in the old age,
still if we are God conscious, we shall not feel
the pangs. The best thing is therefore to Chant
the holy Name of the Lord Constantly. I would
request you to chant always God's holy Name."
I hope to be as fortunate as she, in my ability to chant nicely [nan often tells us she's a good chanter] and tolerate the inconveniences, which await, as graciously as my mother.