I have always been a seeker of God. When I was a boy, I took myself to church, even though my parents didn't go. It was at church, when we were 11 years old, that Katie and I first met. Though I didn't know it at the time, meeting Katie was one of the Mahanta's gifts to me. We grew up together, when to high school together, and even played in orchestra together. But after high school, Katie went off to college and then to study violin in Europe and I didn't see her again until we reconnected at our 20 year high school reunion.
When we got married just about a year later, Katie had a son by her first marriage. Karl was 9 years old and is the most stubborn human being I've ever met, and yet, another gift of learning from the Mahanta. If you ever want a major spiritual challenge, try being a step-dad. Early on I knew that I had all the responsibility of being his dad without any of the authority. I knew that if this was going to work out, that I had to give Karl as much freedom as I could, even if it meant that his room was going to be ankle deep in dirty clothes, school books and junk in general. I knew that I could get my way with him, but that the Way of Power always came with a price. So by giving Karl as much freedom as I could, while reserving the ability to exercise power should I need to, Karl and I got along OK.
As a matter of fact, Karl and I became very good friends, and in time, he began to refer to me as his dad and I came to see him as my son. Karl graduated from high school, went to work in the computer industry as a systems administrator, and even worked with me, at my company, for a time in this capacity. We had grown together and had a good friendship, another gift from the Mahanta.
In May of 2003, I asked to become a member of the ECK clergy. I knew that there was a process involved and that it would take time for my request to be approved. Soon after, Katie and I took a trip to England, where she plays violin for an annual summer music festival in Somerset. It's a beautiful place filled with friends, good music and history. The gifts from the Mahanta are without bound.
Katie spends about two weeks in rehearsal, preparing a large volume of music before the concerts begin. The day before the first performance we got a phone call that Karl had been in a motorcycle accident, and that he was in the Intensive Care Unit at Stanford Hospital. We were on the next plane home that morning.
Karl had taken a freeway off-ramp too fast and had lost control of his motorcycle. There was nobody else involved in his accident. This all happened strictly of his own making. Even though he was wearing a full-face helmet and armored leather riding jacket, he sustained a compound fracture of his left arm, a fractured pelvis and severe internal bleeding. When we arrived from England, he was just being taken into a lengthy surgery to pull his pelvis back together and to try to save his left arm. It was the next day that his brain started to bleed.
For three weeks, every day was filled with touch and go situations. When they finally took him off of sedation, Karl didn't wake up. The brain damage was too severe for him to ever regain consciousness. We knew that Karl was fighting to stay with us, but in the end, there was too much physical damage and he made the choice to translate. This too, was a gift from the Mahanta.
When we first heard of Karl's accident, I was very angry that he had not listened to our advice that he not buy and ride a motorcycle. Just the year before he'd lost his driver's license because he'd had too many speeding tickets.
I mentioned that Karl was stubborn didn't I? He was also a seeker of God, though he categorically rejected any form of organized religion, including Eckankar. I tried to explain to him that I thought Eckankar was disorganized religion, but that didn't matter to him. He was very influenced by a book written by the Dali Lama called "Happiness." The ECK laws of life were quite natural to him and he made it his own personal mission in life to teach happiness to others. Karl once wrote, "Somewhere inside everyone is a good reason to be happy. The trick is finding it."
While Karl was in the hospital, I asked our RESA if I could attend an ECK clergy training even though I had not yet been accepted as a member of the clergy. I explained my need and he agreed. Two weeks later I performed my first memorial service. We had over 200 friends and family show up. My good friend, Johnny Coppola, whom I call the "Living Trumpet Master" came in with a jazz quintet and played "Saint James Infirmary" and "Unforgettable." It was Gabriel calling the kid home. Karl may have struck out, but he went down swinging!
Through all of this I always knew that the Mahanta was with me. There was never any doubt, though I had no idea how this was all going to turn out. In times of trial and sorrow, some people will ask why God has forsaken them, but I knew that everything would happen as it should. We all experienced enormous lessons of love - more gifts from the Mahanta.
But even at that, it is natural to ask the question why something like this would happen. In ECK, we learn about the Spiritual Laws and how to apply them to our lives so that we might lead happy lives and be ever greater channels for Divine Love. We learn about the Law of Karma and how every choice we make has a consequence. But how do you explain the loss of your son in such a meaningless fashion? Even with the great spiritual lessons of love that we had, why did Karl have to have this accident? What was the purpose?
When I asked this question of the Mahanta, he replied that it was very simple. Karl had made a bad choice. Karl didn't have his accident so that we could have these lessons. He didn't have his accident because of anyone's failure. Karl had his accident simply because he made a bad choice.
The love you have for your child is a bond unlike any other. The grief you feel from the loss of your child can be overwhelming, but only because your love is overwhelming. Grief is just a different facet of the same jewel, which is love, and this too comes from the Mahanta.
When Karl graduated from high school and was going out on his own, Katie was concerned. The Mahanta came to Katie in a dream and asked her repeatedly, "Did you do your best? Did you do your best?" Katie responded that yes she did. The Mahanta replied, "Then you can trust." We each do our best, with love in our hearts, in whatever we do. This is all we can do. We must do this and we must trust in the Mahanta.
But what does it mean to "trust in the Mahanta?" For me it doesn't mean that I trust the Mahanta to make sure everything is going to be OK, or to have things come out the way I want them to; even in the case where my son's life is at risk. For me, to trust in the Mahanta means simply that I love God and the Mahanta with all my heart, and to know that God loves me.
The Divine Lessons to be learned are always there for us to see if we but open our hearts to it. All of life is a gift from God, even the grief that stems from the loss of a son. Karl didn't have his accident so we could each grow from it, but it was a gift from God nonetheless.