Driving home from a doctor’s appointment and some errands in Wheeling this morning I was coming out on Route 88 south. This road would be familiar to anyone who has ever visited New Vrindaban as it is the normal way to get here. Although I have driven this road over a thousand times in the last 38 years I saw a sight as yet unseen to me, or, if seen before, not observed.
As I rounded the blind turn just before the view of the cemetery reveals itself the time of year with the sun in its almost southernmost low winter trajectory combined with the time of day to give me a unique visual.
This cemetery has no headstones, simply stone markers set in the ground so they can be mowed over. The sun was reflecting off every polished granite marker on the side of the hill facing me and they all shone with in a gridlike brilliance across a grass green canvas, like a hundred suns.
Just as the soul is a bit of Krishna, “Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor” (Bhagavad Gita 10.41) so all those reflections were a spark of the splendor of the sun. That the spark of the souls that had resided in the bodies now lying under those stones were gone, was contrasted by the transient beauty of that moment.
As I came around closer to the cemetery the sun was at a different angle and the reflections vanished. It just looked like a grassy lawn. A flash of beauty, then return to the ordinary.
A short distance later I met a funeral procession coming in the opposite direction. While that is less uncommon, I might see one several times a year, it was a reminder that in the end Death comes for us all.
“In due course of time, when the body becomes old and practically invalid, it is subject to jara, the sufferings of old age. There are four basic kinds of suffering-birth, old age, disease and death. No scientist or philosopher has ever been able to make a solution to these four miserable conditions. The invalidity of old age known as jara is figuratively explained here as the daughter of Time. No one likes her, but she is very much anxious to accept anyone as her husband. No one likes to become old and invalid, but this is inevitable for everyone.”
Srimad Bhagvatam 4.27.20
We may or may not have the opportunity to look back at our lives and hanker or lament what transpired at the time of our death but today I was anticipating that moment.
One thing I lament looking back actually happened in that cemetery. Kirtanananda wanted some flowers for a festival and didn’t have money to buy any so he sent out a team to steal flowers. I was part of that.
There was a row of hydrangeas in bloom so we went there in the dead of night. We opened up the side door of a van and started cutting like mad men, tossing the flowers into the van. We cut over ten bushels of flowers.
The Deities were decorated very nicely for that festival, probably a Janmastami, but I felt a lot of guilt over the method of aquisition, even thought it was “authorized”. After that I got into supporting flower gardens at New Vrindaban, pushing Vidya into it so we had had a lot of our own flowers and there was no more excuse for stealing flowers.
That I feel good about, though in recent years the flower gardens have fallen into under production and buying flowers has grown more prominent. If I do live a little longer I will put more energy into the Deity flowers and have spent some energy on it to that end already this fall, with plans to support those interested in flower gardens going forward.
Flower gardens are nice memories to flash by ones eyes at the moment of death, IMHO, much nicer than stealing flowers.