A Blessed Life and an Easeful Death

The Illness and Transition of Cathy Lewis

Cathy Lewis became a devotee of Avatar Adi Da Samraj in 1974 when she was in her early twenties. For two decades, she served Adi Da as a missionary and cultural leader. She was well-known for her devotional relationship with Avatar Adi Da, and she inspired many others in their practice of Adidam. Cathy, her intimate partner, Jack, and their daughter, Sukey (who was twelve at the time of Cathy's death), lived in the northern California region near the Mountain Of Attention Retreat Sanctuary. Throughout her life, Cathy suffered from narcolepsy (a condition characterized by sudden brief attacks of deep sleep), but had otherwise never shown signs of serious illness.

In December 1993, Cathy had a series of seizures and was admitted to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a virus infection in the brain, and it was thought that it would clear up within weeks. However, further testing indicated there was a tumor and that surgery would be necessary. In February 1994, Cathy underwent brain surgery and the tumor was found to be worse than expected. The doctors gave her six months to live (without treatment) and perhaps three to five years with chemotherapy and radiation.

Jack describes the early period of Cathy's illness.

JACK: The vision of my intimate having such a struggle physically just broke my heart, over and over again. For me there was always the impulse to try to do something about it while at the same time I knew there was nothing I could do, that I had no means, ultimately, to be able to do anything—but still I tried to do whatever I could.

Avatar Adi Da was notified of Cathy's situation early on, and we received Instruction from Him about what to do and what not to do. Avatar Adi Da's Instruction to Cathy was essentially that she should prepare for her death and release everything to the Divine, including any expectations about how long she might live. He Said that the acceptance of the inevitability of death is fundamental to the practice of the Way of Adidam, and that she should surrender her concern and live a real life of retreat for the remainder of her life. Beloved Adi Da also Asked the devotee physicians advising Cathy to make sure that they kept in mind the quality of her life altogether, and not simply get into a desperate search for bodily survival at any cost.

I saw in Cathy a growing resort to Him that was really heart-breaking. Cathy took Beloved Adi Da's Words to heart, but she was also still very hopeful, especially at the beginning of the year, that something was going to work—that there was going to be a miracle and everything was going to turn out all right. But it became clear that something else was occurring, and she more and more came to terms with the process of the body dying. It wasn't just that the body was dying, but that its functions were falling away: the capability to remember, to speak, to walk and maintain balance. She had to watch and experience her functional being disintegrate. But while all this was going on, she was becoming increasingly surrendered at the heart and loving to everyone who came to see her. She continually gave love and energy to people—it blew my mind.

Many alternatives to conventional treatment were investigated, and Cathy spent time in Texas at a clinic that employed an experimental method of treatment with a more impressive success rate than chemotherapy and none of the side effects.

The Place of Happiness

In July, Cathy developed an infection and was again hospitalized. She rapidly dropped into a coma. Her condition was critical, and the doctors were not certain that she would pull through. After several days, she opened her eyes and began talking again. She related an experience she had had during the time that she had been so critically ill.

CATHY: I went into another world. This other world was an ecstatic world where people were full of God; that is the only way I can describe them. There were at least twenty people there, two of whom I recognized as devotee friends of mine. I was in a state of total physical inability, and I would move from that into a place that was totally Happy. It was very blissful and easeful to go into this state where these people were. There was this feeling of Happiness running through this place, and I just felt totally Happy to be aligned to them. I would close my eyes and fall into this place. Then I would wake up to some degree and say to myself, "I am supposed to wake up! I am supposed to wake up!" But I could not really wake up. I didn't have a way to wake up, so I would close my eyes and go back into this place of Happiness. I don't know how long this went on, but it seemed like a long time. The only thing going on was this Happiness.

When I did start to be awake and alive again, everything had changed. I had let go of my concern. I just let it go! All these people in this place of Happiness had helped me.

When Cathy was released from the hospital, she tried other alternative healing regimes, but in October, the results of a brain scan revealed that the tumor was growing.

Jack's mother, Eileen Mulvihill, describes an incident with Cathy on October 24:

EILEEN: One day, Cathy said to me, "I am getting worse, right?"

In my fear, I became angry. "That is the wrong message to give your body!" I said. "Why don't you just say 'To hell with this cancer. I am not going to do cancer anymore!'" I hit the table with my fist. Cathy began to cry, and I began to wail. Emotions we both had been holding back all year seemed to burst forth. Soon we were both wailing and hugging each other.

"Let's go to the Communion Hall," I suggested.

We sat in front of Adi Da's Murti. ("Murti" is Sanskrit for "form", and, by extension, a "representational image" of the Divine or of a Guru. In the Way of Adidam, Murtis of Avatar Adi Da are most commonly photographs of Avatar Adi Das bodily, human, Divine Form.) I confessed all my fear, anger, and sorrow to my Beloved Master. It was obvious that I was clinging to Cathy, not willing to surrender this human relationship that had given us all so much delight. It was also obvious that I had to let go of that clinging and release her to her process.

When I stopped talking and wailing, Cathy looked at the Murti and began to speak very clearly to her beloved Guru. She said over and over again, "I just want to be with You, I just want to be with You."

In that moment, we both knew we had to give up our search for a cure.

A Life of Retreat

The next day, October 25, Jack and Cathy received the following message from Avatar Adi Da:

AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: The conventional orientation of people with a terminal illness is the search for a cure, as if cure will happen. I specifically Instruct My devotees not to indulge in this point of view. Of course, there is reason to look for treatments that are therapeutic, and such treatments are fine, but the conventional point of view is typically the "I am going to be cured" mentality, rather than the release of all negativity and surrendering in heart-Communion with Me.

My Instruction to Cathy was to handle her life-business, make arrangements for her daughter, relinquish her household arrangement with Jack, and enter into a life of retreat and intensive religious practice and renunciation. She has done this to some degree, but she has also been coloring her life with the search for the magical cure and social religiosity. She should obviously correct this. Her disease has reached the point where cure is unlikely, and it seems that she cannot be expected to live much longer. Therefore, she should handle her life-business, make arrangements for her family, and enter into a renunciate life in preparation for her transition.

She should release all negative thoughts. She should not try to go on with business as usual. It is fine to have the support and all the help of her friends and family and My devotees. Very possibly there may be remission of the disease and some continued life. Yet, in any case, her life should be a life of renunciation and meditation, the handling of life-business and relinquishing of life-bondage, so that she is prepared for this transition.

She should know that there is no death. The body dies, but the subtle components continue and these must be purified and transformed. Therefore, she must do the purification of the subtle and do the transcending work in the time that remains in her body. This means she should rightly maintain celibacy and live in a circumstance where she can maintain her days in meditation, puja [sacramental rite], study, chanting, practice "consideration", and discussion wherein life-business is handled and life-bonding is relinquished.

Through this right practice she must relinquish the exterior part, the anxiety and the fear of this transition, so that she is fully prepared for it when the time comes. She must let go of the exterior part without any disturbance or reluctance. She should neither be meditating on dying nor affirming dying. She should release all negative thoughts. If she continues to have some lifetime, fine, and if she dies, fine—that should be her point of view. In other words, her time should be spent in her practice as My devotee, and her practice must become profound instead of life-oriented and socially oriented. The more profoundly she purifies and transcends her own limits with her remaining time in the body, the more profound her transition will be whenever it finally comes.

Does she know the seriousness of her present condition? The facts of her illness should be presented to her before this Instruction of Mine is given to her, so that she is ready to receive it. This should be done with others around her—Jack, the doctors, the cultural servers, and Mate Moce. All these people should be aware of the service she requires now, and they should know what they must also change.

The same people must decide how to communicate to Sukey on the basis of her maturity. They should deal realistically with her, so that she can also be prepared. I assume adults are assuming full responsibility for her. She should have such support. Cathy will not be able to release her until she can see that Sukey is in a right and positive and happy situation and that she will be able to deal with Cathy's transition.

Cathy should not get into any morbid or negative disposition relative to all of this. She should be real, straightforward, profound, and not negative or morbid. Death is a real process, a process that must be really and seriously embraced. She must prepare for it and maximize auspicious signs, and so must the people who are related to her.

How anyone rightly prepares for death is an individual matter. In some cases, it may be better for the individual to remain more active, and in others not so. Yet even those who remain more active should assume the renunciate form of life and disposition, and increased meditation. It is fundamental to the religious process that everyone release life-bonds, and such release is fundamental to the process that precedes the transformation that is death.

There are three important things My devotees must do altogether in the Way of Adidam, and these same three things are to be maximized before the death transition: (1) handling life-business, (2) practicing renunciation, and (3) living in a way that maximizes heart-Communion with Me. This basic Instruction from Me should be given to all whose life may be brought to an end before too long. [October 25, 1994]

Eileen describes the reception of these Communications:

EILEEN: Adi Da's Words were completely wonderful and Liberating. They were full of Compassion and Instruction for all of us, and we felt His Blessing Power and Transmission. Cathy cried, I cried, Jack cried. We knew the search for cure was over, and we had to do something entirely different. We knew we had to resort to Beloved Adi D in spiritual Communion with Him.

A dramatic change was able to occur. We were no longer trying to beat death, but were cooperating with it. It was after these Notes that Cathy was able to let go of Sukey and Jack and allow the community to make plans for taking care of them. After that point, she was truly resorting to Beloved moment to moment, and as a result was Given the most incredible Blessing and Help from Him.

Beloved Adi Da's Notes were also read to Sukey. She received them very well, finally understanding what she had been feeling all year. Her life would change—indeed had already changed—and would never be the same. She cried, and expressed her anger at the situation, but was able to express clearly what she felt she needed and wanted in her life. I was impressed with her courage and maturity. This was liberating for her, and she seemed brighter afterwards.

An Easeful Transition

Sukey moved next door with one of her friends. Members of Mate Moce (the death and dying ministry of Adidam) and Cathy's friends and family tended to Cathy's now extremely simple life of meditation and devotion. Many of Cathy's friends came to see her from all over the western United States. She seemed bright, and would always find a way to let those who visited her know that she was saying goodbye to them.

JACK: In the last week or two, I stepped back from my practical care of Cathy, and the community of devotees stepped in, which was really wonderful. The gift of community in the Way of Adidam is wonderful. I was so grateful for everyone's help throughout that whole time. Everybody just stepped in and started serving Cathy, helping her in every way you can think of, and making it possible for her to let go and also enabling her to be in a heart-sphere. She lived the last week or so in this circle of love. Friends of hers from around the world called and some came in person to say their good-byes.

Avatar Adi Da was informed regularly of Cathy's condition. When it was obvious that the end of her life was near, He sent special Gifts of Blessing to Cathy.

EILEEN: On November 10, we received word that Avatar Adi Da was sending His own shawl and some sacred Gifts especially for Cathy, and that these would be brought back right away by Fiona Syme, a devotee returning from retreat at Adidam Samrajashram, Adidam's retreat Sanctuary in Fiji. Fiona arrived on the 12th in San Francisco, where a friend met her and drove her up to Cathy's house. The gifts were presented to Cathy formally: She was wrapped in our Guru's beautiful orange shawl, and her body was anointed with ash and holy water He had Blessed. Flowers He had Blessed were placed on Cathy's head and heart. The occasion was filled with our Beloved Guru's Heart-Transmission.

JACK: In the last days there tended to be a mood of solemnity and concern, and that was hard for me. But late one evening, two of her lady friends and I were sitting in the room with Cathy and started telling stories about how crazy she is—because she is. She is a wild, crazy person. So we just started remembering times with her and telling these stories. It was like a party.

So we just got into this party mood with her, telling stories until about midnight, and then everything came to rest. Her friend Mary stayed in the room with her, and I went out into the living room and lay down. I was half asleep when Mary came out and said, "I think Cathy is about ready to die. Her breathing has become very, very slow. I think she's dying." Just as she said that, the phone rang. Someone was calling from Adidam Samrajashram to say that Beloved Adi Da was asking about her at that moment. Immediately an intense wind began to blow. I felt that the wind was a sign.

Cathy died within minutes after that phone call and the beginning of the wind.

While Cathy's body was washed and arranged for the vigil, devotees at the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary were awakened to gather and engage the Devotional Prayer of Changes for Cathy's auspicious transition. Word was sent immediately to Adidam Samrajashram and relayed to Beloved Adi Da.

The three-day vigil for Cathy began. She was wrapped in the orange shawl that Beloved Adi Da had Given to her. Her room was decorated with flowers. Devotees from northern California took two-hour shifts to read Adi Da's Wisdom-Teaching aloud, chant, and meditate with the body.

JACK: The vigil was a wonderful process—very, very graceful. I think everybody who participated in the vigil felt very quickly that Cathy was tremendously relieved. That's what I felt.

Even though everything that had occurred was graceful, it had also been a profound struggle. During the last period of her life, when the body and its functions were deteriorating, it was just a struggle. The body wasn't a good place for Cathy to be anymore, so there was a relief from all that.

At the end of the three days was the final puja blessing Cathy in her transition. Many of Cathy's friends attended, and the occasion was full of Adi Da's Blessing.

When the vigil began, Adi Da sent a message to devotees that they should be sensitive to any communications from Cathy during her time of transition—especially any feeling that Cathy was having difficulty leaving the body-mind. Just after the final puja was finished, Jack received a message from Dennis Dardzinski, a longtime devotee living in Marin County (a two-hour drive from Cathy's home). Cathy had appeared to him in vision just after her passing, and had also seemed to want Dennis to convey a message to Jack. Later, Dennis recounted his entire experience.

DENNIS: I was studying Beloved Adi Da's Teaching at 7:45 Thursday morning, the 17th of November. This was after my morning meditation, and I was sitting on the couch in the living room. As I sat, I felt a sense of relief go through my body and Cathy appeared to my internal vision and she seemed relieved and happy. I did not know for sure, but I felt that Cathy had probably died. On Tuesday, we had heard that she had been given twenty-four to forty-eight hours to live. I had talked to Jack at that time, giving him my love and energy.

At about 8:00 a.m., a local devotee called and said that Cathy had died at 2:00 that morning. I went into the meditation hall to offer a prayer for Cathy. Immediately, I felt Adi Da's Presence strongly and was drawn into an internal scene in which Cathy appeared. She was moving through a great process of energy. She seemed tentative about the process and its tremendous force. She was frightened or confused, but she seemed to be trying to figure out what was next. She made contact with me for help. I reminded her to relax, release, and find our Sat-Guru. I repeated this single instruction for a while. At one point I noted Cathy animating her characteristic quality of "Wow, look at this! Really?!" relative to the process. At some point, she thanked me for my help and implied that she would also have to release this help connection. I reminded her to let go and release—Sukey was okay. Jack was okay. And she had been a good devotee.

Next I observed Avatar Adi Da as this Unlimited Force, Radiant but Discernible as Him, and Cathy as this small force, a white-ish being moving toward Him. There was an Embrace, a Union. It impressed me as Adi Da Being Shiva and Cathy Shakti, or Krishna and a gopi. This was the impression I got. It was ecstatic! I called out loud: "Yes, that's it!" Cathy was loving her Heart-Master. Cathy was a Bhakti of God. Then Cathy appeared as a white-ish being. She was full, happy, intelligent, and confident with her love relationship to Avatar Adi Da. She was on the other side now, beyond anything of her former life. It seemed she wanted me to communicate this to Jack. Let Jack know she was okay, beyond anything that Jack may feel about the "wrinkles" in their relationship—any guilt, crankiness, being ripped off, and so on. She seemed happy and full.

Only five minutes or so after Jack received the message from Dennis, the phone rang. Adi Da was asking again if anyone had received any kind of communication from Cathy!

The Healing of the Heart

JACK: It had been a very graceful process with Cathy altogether. I didn't feel like I had anything left to work out with her, any emotional difficulty. There had just been a tremendous expression of love. But when she was gone, all of sudden I felt this pain at the heart. It surprised me. I didn't think I would feel it. I felt a pain, an intense loss, and I also felt kind of dead, as if something in me had died. People would tell me it was the grieving process. I didn't actually expect it because everything had been simple and graceful.

Then at some point Beloved Adi Da invited Sukey to come to Adidam Samrajashram. That was completely wonderful. I was so ecstatic that she would be able to come and connect with Him, because that was the main thing I wanted for her.

That night I had one of the most profound dreams I've ever had. In the dream, I was being invited to go to an initiation performed by devotees in Hermitage. The initiation was being held at a very primitive place, a little stone house. It was archetypal. I remember looking around and having eye contact with devotees, and there was just the sense of Beloved Adi Da, pure Communion with Him. That was the only thing that was happening. It wasn't a remote place—there were even cars going by. But inside it was just like going back to a primeval space. One woman that I have known for a long time was bringing out fabric that had been in Beloved's personal environments. First she showed me a beautiful piece of white fabric and then brought out a beautiful crimson fabric, then beautiful orange fabric. It was incredibly potent.

Right in the midst of this dream, there was a knock at the door which woke me up, and I was told to call Hermitage. I immediately knew that it was an invitation. When I called, a devotee who had just come from Beloved Adi Da's Company said that Beloved had asked for me to come to Hermitage with Sukey.

At this moment, I was just broken up—heart-broken in gratitude. It was the answer to what my heart was praying for.

The night Sukey and I arrived at Adidam Samrajashram, I was invited to a gathering with Adi Da. I went into the room and bowed before Beloved Adi Da, and everyone immediately made room and gestured for me to go up front. I went up in front of Avatar Adi Da and bowed down, and started to embrace Him. He's so Beautiful. He's just there, and is so round. I was holding His arms, and His face was so big. There was so much emotion, I didn't know what to say.

I muttered something about Cathy, and He Said, "Sh, sh . . ." It was clear that He knew everything about what had happened. There was no need to tell Him anything. He Said a couple of things in the interchange that confirmed that He knew everything. It was obvious in the feeling.

I just kept feeling how soft He was, the roundness of His face, and I looked into His eyes. He kept Telling me that it was all right. He said, "Cathy is all right." He Said, "She's with Me." And He would point at Himself and Say, "She came to Me." He must have Said that a dozen times while we were talking.

A couple of times, I started to say "Cathy was . . ." , referring to her in the past tense. The first couple of times, He Said, "No, she is with Me". Then I think it became clear that I was still not getting the point, so He got a little fierce with me, and Said very clearly, "She is with Me! She is looking at you through these eyes."

I knew that was true. I had known that when she died, that she had gone to Him. It was clear. There was nowhere else that she was going to go. But just to hear Him Say it washes the heart. He just kept Saying it over and over again, "She is with Me. She is here." And He pointed to His Heart on the right.

He Said I looked really old. But it wasn't just that. He Said, "I know that it's been hard. I can see it in your face. I can see how much you've aged this year, and it's all right. You did everything that you could do. You have nothing to feel bad about." He rubbed my face, rubbing the wrinkles out of my face.

He also Spoke to me about Sukey. He Said He was going to take care of her. That meant so much to me, because I've seen how difficult it had been for Sukey. In some ways, it was harder for me to deal with that than with my own grieving. I just really wanted her to connect with Him. He Said that He was going to take care of her. He Said, "I'll see her tomorrow." I told Him I was so grateful to Him for that, and expressed something about how I felt it had been very difficult for her. He said, "When she sees My face it will be all right."

"You are with Me"

SUKEY: When I found out that Cathy, whom I loved and love very dearly, had brain cancer, I went into shock. I tried to forget about it. Naturally, this was impossible. Because she was so sick, I hated being at home. I tried everything to get out of the house, so I did not have to feel the sorrow. Cathy felt unloved now, and Jack felt abandoned by me. I tried to make myself feel better with food and making "cliques" with different friends. Then Cathy got really sick, and I left the house to live with one of my friends.

On the morning Cathy died, I rushed over. She was lying in bed, very pale, with an orange shawl that Beloved Adi Da had Given her wrapped around her. I cried, not knowing what to do.

Then Beloved Saved me. He invited Jack and me to come to Hermitage on retreat.

One night, we knew Beloved was coming to gather with us. When He arrived, Beloved Adi Da walked up onto the porch where we all stood. I was right in front, so I could see Him very well. He took me in His arms and Said, "Your mother is all right." He kept repeating this and looking straight into my eyes. "She is with Me now and she loves you very much. She has told Me so, many times. Did she tell you how much she loves you before she died?"

"Yes," I said.

"Good. She loves Me, too."

All the while He was holding me close to Him, healing my heart. I kept saying, "Thank You."

Then He Said, "I hate death. That is why I am here, so I can bring everyone to Me when they have died. Cathy is with Me. She is so happy. She loves you, like she told you. She is listening to us right now, My baby. Right now. I will always take care of you, and Jack will take care of you. All your life, I will take care of you. I Love you."

"I love You too, Lord."

Then He walked inside, and I followed. I was invited to sit next to Beloved on a big divan. He looked over at me and Said, "She did not leave you alone. She left you with Me. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Beloved."

"You are a very mature girl to understand what I am Saying—very mature. I mean it. Cathy didn't want to leave you. She was forced to. She is very happy now with no narcolepsy and no disease in her head." Music was playing and devotees were dancing, and He Asked me to get up and dance for joy, so that is what I did.

Later in the evening, I sat next to Beloved again on the divan. I moved behind Him and rubbed His back for a long time. He turned around and Said, "Does she love Me?"

"Yes, Beloved," I said, "I love You." And He Gave me a kiss.

Beloved Healed my heart from all of the shocks. He Broke my heart truly. He Told me to love Him, and Remember Him always and to love Him. I love Him so much. I bow at His feet in joyous praise and love.

JACK: That first night on retreat, I felt that my grief and sorrow about the loss of Cathy was healed on a basic level through Beloved Adi Da's Grace. One of the things He Said was that Cathy's process was easeful. He Said, "I made it easeful. It could have been terrible." And it was truly easeful. It could have been very, very difficult. But she experienced very little pain or discomfort, and the process was quick. Her mother has been a hospice worker for years, and she said it was the most easeful death she ever saw.

Avatar Adi Da Said, "I did that for Cathy." And He looked at me and Said, "I'm going to do it for you when you die. I'm going to do it for all My devotees."