By Bhagavati devi dasi and Ananta Sesa dasa
People face death in many ways. Some accept it stoically, while others fear it. This is the story of a woman called Manisha who faced it with grace, dignity, and the love of Krishna.
Manisha was first introduced to Krishna Consciousness in the 1980s and became a regular at the Radhadesh temple in Belgium. In service to Radha Gopinatha, she happily worked as a cleaner.
For the past twenty years, Manisha lived in Liège, where she distributed prasadam every Wednesday for the FFL program there. In addition, she hosted a bi-weekly kirtan program in her home. Her personal routine included chanting sixteen rounds of japa daily.
Even though Manisha was uninitiated, she did much to share the love of Krishna with others and to bring others to Krishna Consciousness. Sadly, she had one vice that she was unable to overcome—smoking. Throughout her life, she tried to quit many times, without success. The lure of maya was too strong.
In 2016, Manisha was diagnosed with cancer in the bladder and after having an operation, she received chemotherapy. After three treatments, she decided to stop the chemotherapy, since it was making her too sick. She knew that this would ultimately mean that the cancer would kill her, but at the age of 78, she was ready for that.
Her friend, Bhagavati devi dasi was able to help her quit smoking so that Manisha could live out her time with the devotees at Radhadesh. Through Krishna’s mercy, Manisha was able to sell her home in Liege and move to a home near the temple. Feeling inspired by this mercy, Bhagavati wrote to her spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Swami, and asked him to initiate her. Since she was now following all four of the regulative principles and chanting 16 rounds, he was very happy to do so. With special permission from the local temple authorities and GBC, Manisha was initiated.
After her initiation, she did quite well for some weeks, but then things started to go downhill very fast. She had developed metastasized bone cancer and was in a lot of pain. For the last two weeks of her life, she could no longer leave her bed. After a few days, Bhagavati called in the local palliative care team and requested a home nurse for Manisha.
Recognizing that spiritual care was more important than physical care, Manisha’s friend turned her room into a spiritual place with an altar opposite her bed. Pictures of Krishna adorned the walls, Bhagavati’s salagram sila moved into her room. When Manisha was introduced to Him, it was explained that at the end she would be able to hold Him in her right hand.
A recording of Srila Prabhupada’s japa played most of the time except for when she was listening to Bhagavad-Gita or Caitanya Caritamrta.
On Balaram’s appearance day, Bhagavati purified Manisha’s right hand, put a flower in it and asked for her prayer to Balaram. She asked Him to take her as soon as possible.
The next morning, Manisha was in a lot of pain. A morphine pump was set up to help her manage the pain. The next morning. Bhagavati recalls, “Manisha was very sleepy and I just sat next to her bed to read to her. The doctor came again at 2 PM and told us that she would have another 24-36 hours. By 3 PM, I was sitting with Manisha together with another devotee and her breathing changed into the laboured ‘death rattle.’ I knew she would probably not have 24 hours, so I called my spiritual master, who happened to be at Radhadesh. He came half an hour later and started chanting for her. There were many devotees in the room with her. Her family was sitting at her left side and I was sitting at her right side armed with Tulasi leaves and Ganges water. I had put my salagram sila in her right hand and she was holding on to Him tightly.”
“We could regularly see her lips move when she was trying to chant with the kirtan”, Bhagavati continued, “At 4:40 PM, she opened her eyes and started staring with huge eyes. At 4:45, she smiled, chanted Hare Krishna and stopped breathing for a long time. I quickly administered the Tulasi leaves and the Ganges water. She breathed one more time and left while her spiritual master was chanting and I was also chanting the mantra in her right ear very loudly.”
In the Bhagavad-Gita (18.66), Krishna says:
ya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”
In line with this teaching, Kadamba Kanana Swami stated that since Manisha had given up everything she had in Liège in order to move and leave her body in Radhadesh, Krishna reciprocated. This act of surrender was her ticket back home to Godhead.
Manisha’s picture and this article are published with her personal permission. Thank you Manisha for your determination, kindness and example. You’re an inspiration to us. Hare Krsna