Bhaktin Constance: I read my daughter’s Muhammad Ali article a few days ago and was inspired to write one of my own. See, writing was my mainstay in many of the legal assistant & managerial positions I held over the years. Since my two only children both became devotees of Krsna close to four decades ago, being very close to them both, Krsna had to become a pretty big part of my life too. They each had devotees over to meet me in my Brooklyn home; Raga even brought her guru BT Swami over with some of his disciples with ice cream on my birthday one year. My son, serving as the Brooklyn tem-ple’s VP for 12 years meant, I was frequently going back and forth there to drop off things for him. On one occasion I even notarized an official letter written to Raga and Hladini by a famous Black leader Raga knew who decided to give Krsna and Prabhupada a glowing endorsement. Today, as a senior citizen, I’ve now retired to So Florida and the 3 of us still maintain close relations, talking by phone several times a week & sometimes visiting in person.
My biggest Krsna adventure occurred when I visited both of my kids in the Midwest where they had each settled. This was around my birthday (June 14th) which happens most years the same day as the New York Ratha Yatra. That year I flew to St. Louis where Raga threw a birthday party for me in the house she’d just bought & invited many of her friends. During that trip, we visited a museum, went to an EWF concert and I and some of Raga’s girlfriends dined out at Thai places & at Whole Foods. I was 80 at the time, and against a few warnings not to, I decided on a Sunday to take the 6 hour drive to my son & his wife’s house in Winfield, Ks. Before I set out, Hladini’s wife warned me about strict law enforcement on the highway. I’d also been warned that all of Kansas was a tornado zone but now to my shock, the radio was suddenly announcing a tornado alert, which I found particu-larly unnerving because I didn’t know where I was or any of the different counties they were mention-ing. Soon, all kinds of cars & trucks seemed to speed up. In my rear view mirror I saw two trucks racing down my lane & decided to get over to let them pass. Seconds later, an unmarked car signals me to move off the road and an officer jumps out asking for my credentials. I ask why he’s stopping me & he says for speeding and failing to signal. He keeps me a long time but finally accepts my lane-change explanation and lets me go.
My knees almost shaking now, I drive some more and come to an exit where the toll booth lady tells me I look frightened. “You’re damn right I am,” I want to say but don’t. Meanwhile, she offers to direct me to a shelter, goes a little distance then lifts up a metal cover that reveals a deep but narrow underground enclosure made of cement. There are 6 or 8 strangers inside, all looking as frightened as I am, but everyone welcomes me and all 8 of us stay there for a half hour, during which time, one of my cell mates lends me a phone so I can call Hladini & explain all the delays. That night I calm myself by sleeping in a hotel room, but you can believe all the day’s activity have been so stressful, I get very motivated to chant the Hare Krishna mantra I already know & start doing it much more seriously!
Even now, many years later, I still chant Hare Krishna with some regularity, especially when I feel endangered, but I admit on most mornings I do Transcendental Meditation like my son taught me to do years ago. I’m not ready to commit to doing a certain amount of rounds per day just yet, but what I have done devotionally is talk a lot by phone to both my children, who seem to be so stuck on Krsna they’ll hardly talk about much else for long. I’m also doing what I hear is called Sadhu Sanga by asking each of them questions, like for example what are the pros and cons of my continuing to chant, and what can I expect from doing it. I’ve also learned from talking to them both that prayer requests are permissible in the devotee community. It’s even stressed that the prayers of numerous devotees has more much impact, so this is my humble request.
My baby brother Richard Roger Melbourne (born one day before me but four years later) came to Florida years after I did. He relocated here just five years ago in fact, but very suddenly this year he developed a medical problem. He’s never been as careful with his health as I’ve been. As a retired engineer, he also does the couch potato thing, eats a lot of junk food, & won’t walk around enough to maintain his health. Richard’s not yet a vegetarian like I’m trying to be and probably won’t ever become one. Still, my prayer concerns are this. One Sunday morning 6 months ago I found Richard unconscious on his kitchen floor. After this, he was hospitalized for several weeks, then moved to a rehab center. Eventually an emergency guardian was appointed for reasons that are still unclear.
My brother and I have been nearby each other for 80 or more years straight. When he was healthier, he would always come by and help repair my & my daughter’s cars. He is a fine man but I now understand that like me and a whole lot of us, he’s an unfortunate resident of the material world. For all these reasons I’m mustering humility to request the devotees’ prayers.
Age wise, I’m obviously a little bit ahead of some of you all, but I hear that Srila Prabhupada said that old age and death would happen to all of us. Still maybe you all will kindly pray for me and Richard that we will have a good outcome in our court case & that he will have an easy journey.
We’ve probably all noticed that Injury and insult often walk hand and hand, & that old people often preyed upon by “the system!” But my daughter often reminds me that years ago, one time in the streets of Ft. Greene Brooklyn, Richard and I actually participated in a Harinam procession. I had recently turned 65 and just retired. We got tricked into this Harinam actually because Raga had rented a large space that the manager had accidentally double booked. We therefore had to waste a little time and move between the owner’s personal home address &the Creative Concerns venue Raga secured. We were especially concerned because Raga had done a radio show to announce this big bhakti event & had arranged to co-produce & host it.
I hear that Krishna never forgets a gesture done for Him by even a new devotee, so maybe this Harinam parade we did will be enough to attract Krishna & His devotees’ mercy to help my brother and I in this troubled time. I thank you all for considering my prayer & hope you’ll also bless us on our birthdays (Richard’s on June 13th & mine on the 14th ). Please also pray that my taste for chanting will continue to blossom. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many devotees. Nartaka devi visited my condo in So. Florida years ago and I’ve also met the wonderfully talented artist Pushkar, who went to high school with Hladini when it was still called Music and Art. Thank you for your prayer and help.
Your grateful servant, Bhaktin Constance