For Baba people, there's only one date in 1969 they'll never forget. There was a lot going on in the world that year, but I certainly don't remember what any of it was. Except for January 31 and the phone call that came early that morning: "Meher Baba has dropped his body."
My first reaction was, "Well, I'll be darned; he did it!" My second, immediate reaction was, "Well, now he's free and he's with me." Because that feeling was so strong, I cancelled my plans to go to the 1969 Darshan, and instead went to Ireland, Switzerland and Greece.
When I got to Greece, I went up to Delphi, home of the Greek oracle. It was supposed to be a day trip, but a friend and I decided to stay overnight. We checked into a hotel overlooking the steep valley that led down to the sea. It was off-season and there were only two other people in the hotel. That overnight confirmed my conviction that Meher Baba had shed his "overcoat" and was now loose in the world and reachable in every nook and cranny of the universe. Never have I felt his presence more powerfully than I did that night. At last, I was no longer separated from him by thousands of miles. On the contrary, he had come on this trip with me, giving me his darshan every minute of every hour. We have, so to speak, been travelling together ever since.
I didn't go back to India until 1971. When I went up the hill that first day and stepped into the Samadhi, I burst into tears. It was my first emotional reaction to Baba's dropping his body. I realized that even though I knew now he was always with me, I also desperately wanted to see him in his human form. And he wasn't there. Contradictory, I suppose, but that's the way it was. I told Mansari about it and she told me her wonderful story about the Samadhi: at some point after Baba's body was laid to rest in the tomb, she saw him get up and walk out the door. Loose in the world, indeed.
It was the next day that I saw Mehera for the first time since 1962, and her grief broke my heart. The memory of it still does. I can't imagine what it was like to see that grief in 1969 and I'm glad I didn't.
I haven't told this 1969 story to very many people, because it's hard. It's been hard to write about, as well, but I feel that if I didn't, I'd be leaving out a very important part of my life with Meher Baba, one that has colored my relationship with him over all the years that have followed.