(10 July 1928 – 16 March 2021)
The last time I spoke to Abhi (on one of our regular i-phone chats as I walked around the neighborhood lake), her End-of-Life Team was assembling in St. Petersburg, Florida: daughter Susy from Ireland, Bill from nearby St. Pete, Betsy from Portland, Oregon. I asked her how she was feeling about it all. “Fabulous!… Ecstatic,” she replied. “I’m looking forward to every part of my adventure into the Unknown.”
These were not idle words, coming as they did from a pioneer in the Conscious Death & Dying Movement, one who served as a Hospice nurse, intermittently, for over 40 years. From the time her teenage daughter Connie died (suddenly in an auto accident), Abhi held death at the center of her fervent inquiry into life’s meaning. We met, in fact, when I enrolled in her Death and Dying class at the University of Southern Maine in 1978. Inspired by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and others, Abhi had recently finished a master’s degree in nursing, with a focus on the interwoven processes of healing and dying.
As the Mystery had it, I was tutoring a private yoga student at this same time, who was soon to become her life-companion “Sid” (Swami Samarpan Siddhartha; deceased 2016). The two had not yet met, but when they did (he’d responded to her personal ad in the Maine Times: “Looking for a man over 50 with integrity. Warm and wise.”), he called me to say, “I met a beautiful woman… and you know her!”
And so, we became somewhat of a threesome – ragamuffin seekers, sharing whatever each of us dug up in our individual searches. The life-changing treasure, of course, was Osho. Each of us had been reading his books and had begun to practice some of his meditation techniques on the oceanside cliffs where Sid lived. “Meditation on the Rocks,” we called it.
Eventually, Sid discovered a group of sannyasins led by Swami Adityo, founder of an Osho center in Robinhood, Maine. They held Kundalini and other active meditations in a basement in downtown Portland. We all joined in and soon enough, I was in India taking sannyas, and then moving into Sambodhi, the Osho center in Massachusetts. And soon enough Sid and Abhi followed – taking initiation at a celebration with painted faces and flowers in their hair. Sid turned to me with his wry smile and said, “This is the closest we’re going to get to being back in the 60’s!”
Sid was a consummate vagabond, his voracious wanderlust playing against Abhi’s love of home and simplicity – what she affectionately called “the small life.” But whenever he came up with their next destination, she cheerfully packed up (she got really good at packing!) and went off with the one she’d dubbed her “Moving Man.”
Here is a list of all the places they called home, which Abhi compiled with her daughter Susy in her last days, with editing assistance from Abhi’s sannyasin daughter, Priya, who made many of the early moves with them:
1979 The Castle at Cape Elizabeth, Maine
1980 Kennebunkport & Biddeford Maine
1981 Parsonsfield, ME (in the White Mountains, on the NH border/ Built House)
1982 – 1983 Sambodhi Osho Ashram; Essex, Mass.
1984 Brighten, MA
1984-85 Mexico City & San Diego, California
1986 Peace Corps/ Granada
1987 Cotati, California (Sid drove the Airporter/ Rainbow Bus!)
1988 Indonesia, Bali, Jakarta
1989—90 Fayetteville, Arkansas/ built house and rented it out
1991 IMS staff at Barre, Massachusetts, (Abhi served as Joseph Goldstein’s personal assistant.)
1992 -1993 Charleston, North Carolina
1994 Fayetteville, Arkansas
1995 San Miguel, Mexico
1996 Back to Arkansas to sell house
1997 – 1998 San Miguel, Mexico
1999 Albuquerque, New Mexico
2000-2001 Jubilados (an intentional senior-living community) near Taos, New Mexico
2002 St. Coquina Key; Saint Petersburg, Florida
2003 Costa Rica
2004 – 2010 Portland Oregon, first with Buddhist-community friend Betsy. Then at Westmoreland Union Manor
2011 – 2021 Presbyterian Towers Saint Petersburg Florida
When Sid passed in the summer of 2016, Abhi thought her passing would quickly follow. But she discovered she had much to explore in her solitude. She often remarked how vivid and amazing the world continued to grow in her eyes. “Everything sparkles!” she kept saying.
As her body weakened in the past months (almost 93 years old, with congestive heart failure and other complications), already a minimalist, Abhi began to divest herself of all but the most essential possessions. Her walls were bare, drawers and closets rattlingly empty, no TV or computer (only radio and phone), as she sent off whatever might delight family or friends.
Over the many years and moves, she had become an accomplished collage artist, an art form she loved for its simplicity of supplies (she composed many of them on old cereal boxes), but equally for the endless possibilities. In her final shipment to me, I got a decoupaged box (which I had often admired on visits), packed with two candles for lighting on her passing, a pincushion with exotic pins she’d created from hatpins and glass beads, a pair of socks, and a few tubes of glitter-glue.
Shortly after our last phone conversation, Abhi began to withdraw in her tiny apartment on the 15th floor, overlooking St. Pete. Her daughter Susy gracefully took on the role of guardian-and-documentarian-in-chief. She’s planning to create a film of videos and still shots of the passage.
Abhi did not want a formal memorial, though many of us are holding one in our hearts. When I spoke to her daughter yesterday, Susy told me she’d learned so much from her mom… especially from her death. “It’s like a flower,” she said. “Everyone who knew and loved her adds more and different petals. Now I see this incredibly immense flower that she was… She has shown me that death is a blossoming.”
Dearest Abishek, I remember your warm and loving spirit and the many laughs we had at Sambodhi. May you fly high and dance with many spirited souls!
Brigitte Hartmann / Prem Prageeta
You can leave a message / tribute / anecdote using our contact form or writing directly to email@example.com (pls add ‘Abhi’ in the subject field).