Barwon, Part Two

barwon 2:

Mission Barwon is complete; we consumated yet another night of festive culinary delights and adventure.

There’s cyclonic winds and thundering rain tearing through the Bellarine Peninsula. I catch the 7.15 train back to Melbourne. Next stop Alice Springs, in the desert heart of Australia’s Northern Territory.

Barwon, Part One

barwon 1:

On Tuesday night we shared a wheat-free menu at our cookery class at the Ganesh Mandala Cafe in Barwon Heads, southern Victoria.

Wheat-free Vegetarian

Succulent Eggplant & Panir Cheese in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Iranian Saffron-scented Spicy Rice (Pollou)

Crispy Thai Noodles with Hot Sweet & Sour Sauce (Mee Krob)

Sesame Kosihikari Sushi Rice in Marinated Tofu Pouches (Inari-zushi) with Pickled Ginger, Soy Dipping Sauce and Wasabi

Warm Salad of Oven-roasted Cauliflower, Watercress, Feta Cheese & Lentils

Moroccan Broad Bean Puree (Bissara) with Indonesian Spicy Sago Crackers

Creamy Cardamom-infused Condensed Yogurt Dessert with Pistachios and Saffron Syrup (Shrikhand)

Kurma Kids

my son and daughter:

Thought I’d share this photo with you, taken at the funeral of my mother on Monday. This is my son Caitanya and daughter Joelene. My younger son Nitai is in Peru.

Moving On

My mother’s body has been cremated, and she, the soul that lived in that now-deceased body, has moved on to bigger and better things.

The traditional Liberal Jewish funeral went well. Then afterwards we held a function at my father’s place in Sydney, distributing sumptuous plates of sanctified food to 80 friends, relatives and well-wishers, in the memory of my mother.

I flew to Melbourne on the last flight of the evening, and will now move on to the final loop of my cookery tour, taking me to Barwon Heads in Victoria, back to Melbourne, then to Alice Springs, then back to Perth.

Moving on.

The Ultimate Beneficiary

flames:

My mother’s body will be cremated today.

vayur anilam amrtam

athedam bhasmantam shariram

om krato smara krtam smara

krato smara krtam smara

“Let this temporary body be burnt to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.”

(Shri Isha Upanishad, mantra 17)

The word beneficiary is an interesting one in this context. The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person who receives the payment of the amount of insurance after the death of the insured.

In the highest sense of devotional service to God (rather than the concept that God is just our order-supplier) our life is meant for His satisfaction, not the other way around. Thus He is the beneficiary of our lifetime of service.

This concept is very rare in the world of so-called religious life, but is the most exalted. I pray that my mother attracts the mercy of that Ultimate Beneficiary.

One Hundred Hours Meditation

It’s just after 5.00am on Saturday morning. I’ve been reflecting on the amazing events of the last one hundred hours of my mother’s life that I had the fortune of sharing in a most intimate way. These were the most intensely difficult yet wonderfully exquisite hours of my life.

Roles turned full circle. As my mother tended to me when I was a baby, I tended to her at the end of her life in the same way.

My mother ended her life unable to see, unable to move, unable to speak, and unable to eat or drink. She could still hear, and this was a great blessing.

In conversing with all her carers and nursing staff, and with her closest loved-ones, a constant theme was this: my mother never once complained about her condition in the 21 years of her wasting illness. She exhibited a perfect example of tolerance, a divine quality. The last months were too horrible to describe in writing, and more intimate than my mother would have wanted me to share with anyone except close well-wishers.

My mother endured terribly, but tolerated it with dignity and even humour. Her ability to laugh and make other’s laugh was amazing, even in the face of death.

Yesterday my family and I planned final rites, and for the first time since those tumultuous 100 hours began, I am alone to make sense of it all. There’s a few hours of quiet time left before the sun rises on the tumult this day will bring.

While I sit in the quiet chill of my room in my father’s house the body of my mother lies in the quiet chill of the funeral mortuary awaiting cremation.

The differences far outway the similarities. I, a tiny particle of soul, am still embedded and embodied, dwelling in the complexities of this life.

The soul who played the part of my mother in the most recent act in this drama of life has left the stage, slipped out of her costume and is awaiting a curtain call somewhere else, in some completely different role.

We strut our stuff for a few brief moments in eternal time that we call this life.

The Supreme Director has ordered a cast change.

Sarah Esther Gordon, 18 June 1927 – 24 May 2007

My mother passed away tonight at 10.25pm. Being a very private person (and as we expected) she waited until everyone had briefly left the room to make her exit.

Sanskrit prayers, sacred basil leaves (tulasi) and sanctified flowers and water completed the auspiciousness of the event.

Here’s a few favourite photos. No prizes to guess this day.

wedding day:

A warm day in Essex, 1962.

mum 1962:

This is my second last year of school, 1969.

the gang 1969:

Here’s the family, circa 1982. My father is wearing his sacred japa beads. My parents were fortunate to meet, perform a little service for, and hear from my spiritual preceptor A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

kurma and family 1982:

Here’s my sister Annie and mum, last year.

Annie and Mum 2006:

My thanks to all, and especially to my mother. Hare Krishna.

Thank You

at home in Essex:

I always wondered if my mother had made an unofficial, private vow never to say ‘Hare Krishna’ to me whenever I greeted her with those famous words. Whatever the case, she would always reply with “hello”.

With the onslaught of her terrible 20-plus years struggle with Parkinson’s Disease (she considered getting a job as a cocktail waitress to make use of all that shaking) came a decline in memory. Perhaps she forgot her ‘vow’. In any case, the very last time she spoke to me (in March) she said ‘Hare Krishna’. Now she no longer speaks.

Thank you for the many, many letters and messages of prayers and support for my mother. She has always been a very strong, private woman; so in keeping with her determination, she is still with us, clinging to life, despite giving up eating and drinking many days ago, like a true yogi.

No News is Good News

Sarah Esther Gordon 1:

I write this entry while sitting in my mother’s room in the Sir Moses Montefiore Nursing Home in Hunter’s Hill, Sydney. Rememberances of her almost 80 years of selfless, affectionate service flood through my mind as I count the seconds between her slowing breaths.

The CD player is on endless-loop, softly playing my Guru Srila Prabhupada singing Hare Krishna in call-and-response with his young disciples. An incense burner wafts healing aromatherapy oils.

I occasionally light morsels of Frankincence. My mother lies in her bed, the holy Bhagavatam beside her head, garlanded with aromatic chrysanthemums from the Radha Gopinatha Temple.

My mother wears a single necklace of sacred tulasi beads. I have a little bottle of water from one thousand holy tirthas in India, and a sandalwood and tulasi leaf mix for sanctification.

As often as I can, I whisper to her that it is ok for her to leave, whenever she wishes. Sarah Esther Gordon’s job is done. Now she is in the hands of The Lord.

“May my Lord, who is four-handed and whose beautifully decorated lotus face,
with eyes as red as the rising sun, is smiling, kindly await me at that moment
when I quit this material body.”
Bhagavata Purana, spoken by Sri Bhismadeva.