Ma Prem Diana left her body on 14th March 2012 – read Chetan’s tribute and watch slideshow
Prem Diana received sannyas in 1980. Many of us may remember her as a one-time resident of Medina, where she worked in the design studio and was UK editor for ‘The Rajneesh Times.’ Chetan was a fellow resident there but it was not until 1990 that they reconnected and became partners.
Diana received a diagnosis of bowel cancer in 2007, and the two married in a very private ceremony the following March. As Diana remained stable they were able to celebrate their wedding properly in August that year.
They lived together in a delightful little hamlet, Bellever, in South Devon. In addition to the sannyas community, they had many other friends, all of whom followed Diana’s progress over the years.
Diana left her body on Wednesday, March 14 at 2:45pm. On Sunday, March 25 we gathered at the Postbridge Village Hall – sannyasins, Diana’s other friends and her relatives – to give her a send-off.
The service included the reading of a poem, created especially for Diana by Colin, a local farmer, called ‘Beyond my wildest dreams.’ Another friend spoke from the Native American tradition; Diana’s sister and brother both spoke movingly of her, and two other friends provided a flute and voice solo.
A half-hour satsang, with Adarsha and Prabodh’s music, was specifically designed to be at the heart of Diana’s send-off. It was lovely to be there together with so many people, in that flower-decked hall, in a meditative silence, and to hear the words of Osho:
If your life was of meditativeness, awareness, witnessing, then you will be able to witness death too. If your whole life you remained cool, centered in different situations, death will give you the ultimate challenge, the ultimate test. And if you can remain centered, calm and cool and watching, then you will not die an unconscious death, your death will bring you to the ultimate peak of consciousness. And then, certainly, it has to be celebrated.
“My sannyasins celebrate death because they celebrate life. And death is not against life; it does not end life, it only brings life to a beautiful peak. Life continues even after death. It was there before birth, it is going to continue after death. Life is not confined to the small space that exists between birth and death; on the contrary, births and deaths are small episodes in the eternity of life.”
Before that, Chetan read out to us his tribute to his beloved (see below). He was able to put to one side his own sense of loss to speak – with enormous affection, certainly, but also with gentle humour – about Diana, and something of her journey…..
Text by Maneesha
Diana loved Hafiz and had said, “Be sure to read one of his poems at my funeral.” At our wedding celebration, shortly after Diana had received the diagnosis of bowel cancer, dear Jitindriya and Narayano gave us a volume of Hafiz – so it will be a poem from that book that I will read.
Many of you were here on that day in August 2008 and it was such a loving and tender occasion because everyone knew the fragility of our situation, but celebrated anyway, and I welcome you all here again today, to celebrate again. We never imagined, you never imagined, this second celebration would be so long delayed, so thank you for joining with me in thanks for Diana: sister to Nigel, mother/ sister to Liz, and heart companion, lover and wife to me.
Most days over the last three and half years Diana would say to me: “I am so lucky, Chet,” and one of the amazing things of the last two weeks is how the contradictions have harmoniously settled together: fear and acceptance, her rage and fury at being ill, and the serenity and grace so many of you comment on in your beautiful cards. Terminal illness and gratitude.
Cancer had a terrible gift for Diana: it made her love life more and more. Before diagnosis life was agreeable, relatively untroubled – it was rather English, a pleasant stroll – until, in August 2007 she walked off the cliff. At first it seemed she would hurtle down, in blind panic and fear, but with extraordinary determination and effort she slowed her descent and she floated. She was able to find the courage to open her eyes and see the brightness and intensity of colour and light, and to feel the air on her skin. She painted it and she wrote about it. Her last book is complete. The title is: ‘Dancing with Cancer, or How I Learnt a Few New Steps.’
Grateful for so much, we still thought we had a little longer, but for the final three weeks of her life I saw her suffering. Yes, it had been four and a half years of suffering, but she had sailed through that – always with the anticipation of more and new life, and if difficult too, “Well, so what? – I’m still here.”
I remember Diana and me at Mumbai airport, in the queue for immigration with a harassed official giving everybody ahead of us a very hard time. He snatched Diana’s passport, opened it, and his eyes fell on one word that rang a bell inside his head. As he gazed at it, a great broad grin spread across his face: ‘Lady Diana!’ and with a wave of his hand we were through.
So mostly dealing with the suffering was like that, but not these last three weeks. There was a week in hospital which Diana hated with a ferocious intensity. On Monday 12th, Diana told Gay, the visiting hospice nurse, “It seems like you are saying I have reached the end of the road.”
When Gay left, Diana and I cried a bit together and she said she felt ‘numb.’ Then a couple of friends, Martin and Paddy, called in on their way back from Cornwall and chatted for an hour. That night, as I helped Diana upstairs, for the first time she had to sit down on a stair half way up, but we made it.
I need to pause here just to give you a little background so I carry you with me in what I am about to say. For Osho, the physical and the spiritual are the same energy; if you live life passionately your spirituality will be richer and more profound. Indeed, I think the parable of the prodigal son has the same message. So Osho says meditation is not enough and Buddha is not enough. If Buddha represents the sky you need the nourishment of the earth too, and to represent the passion of life he chose Zorba the Greek. He combined the two: the man of the future will be ‘Zorba the Buddha.’ Live consciously and with awareness, but passionately too; enjoy the very best food and a glass of wine; be full of juice, not desiccated monks and nuns.
I never saw the film with Anthony Quinn but in the original Kazantzakis novel the dying Zorba, with superhuman effort, lifts himself off his deathbed and struggles to the window to gaze one final time at the pulsating life in the blue green of the sea and the olive groves in the Cretan landscape. He dies there with his fingernails embedded into the window frame.
At around 4:00 am the next morning, Tuesday 13th, Diana heroically struggled to sit up in bed and somehow managed to get her feet on the floor. I ran round the bed and crouched in front of her and she said very clearly and distinctly; “I am angry.” Then a long pause and once again: “I am so angry.” They were the last words she managed to say to me. By this time to lift her legs back into bed was like lifting two water saturated wooden posts. While I did it she managed, two or three times, to beat the duvet with her fists in rage and frustration.
By 8:00 pm she was incoherent and difficult to rouse and I rang Gay: “I was only with you yesterday,” she said. My guess is that by 4:00 am the full significance of: ‘reaching the end of the road’ had sunk in for Diana and the rage was because she could no longer hold her grasp on life. She decided to leave. The doctor, nurses and care workers came and went. She rallied slightly in the evening and beamed at Nigel and Judy when they arrived. There was a lovely moment when she recognised Ines (a Buddhist friend) and raised her arms in the air in greeting. Ines just managed to get across the room in time so that Diana’s arms fell round Ines’ neck and not just uselessly to her side.
I sat with her Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. At times then I would have done anything to hang onto her for another day or another hour. I hope my attachment did not prolong her suffering.
Diana died around 2.45 Wednesday afternoon. What followed in that moment is a blur of impressions but both Ines and I were struck by the sense of power in her features in death. There were desperate moments and also, disastrously self-inflicted desperate moments which, even at this short distance, I can laugh at.
Diana hated drips and drugs going into her body. Some of you will remember that every bag of chemotherapy that was intravenously given her had to have ‘Pure love.’ written on it. The nurses always cooperated. So in the minutes after death I switched off the syringe driver – the very sophisticated little machine that was continuing to pump drugs into her dead body. It just seemed too cruel. Over the last year or so Diana would often say to me, “Poor body, Chet, poor body.”
Actually you can’t switch these things off. After three or four minutes it started bleeping at me, and pressing the off button just gave a couple of minutes’ respite. We had a couple of rounds: switch off, silence, bleep. Switch off, silence, bleep. It wasn’t helping the meditation around Diana’s deathbed. In desperation I found the biggest scissors we have and cut the line connecting it to her body. It just bleeped more plaintively. Finally I picked it up, ran downstairs, into the garden and threw it in the shed. Silence for a few minutes but then Gay, the nurse, arrived. She collected up her medical bits and pieces, and then, “Where’s the syringe driver?” “Sorry Gay, but look in the garden shed on top of the lawn mower!”
Thursday night was a great wonder – and this takes us back to Hafiz. Colin, Liz and I sat and talked and I got to bed just after midnight. I can only say the room was overflowing with love. Love/expansiveness, coming from nowhere and continually spreading. It went on for hours and was bliss. There was no sense of Diana’s personality at all, there was simply love.
So now Hafiz…
Deepening the Wonder
Death is a favour to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.
The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes
Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks
And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that
We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.
If I were in the tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world
Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.
Death is a favour to us
But our minds have lost their balance.
The miraculous existence and impermanence of
Always makes the illumined ones
Laugh and sing.
(from the book of Hafiz poems The Subject Tonight is Love)
I’ve had enormous help, support and love since Diana died: practical help, emotional help, hugs, and so many cards, and flowers and phone messages. Wonderful help from neighbours, friends, the printmaking workshop, the sannyasin community, and the extraordinary people of Postbridge. I will get back to you all but a great big thank you for now for your kindness and big hearts.