By Bhakti-lata Dasi
On April 16, 2009, Mother Shyama Priya passed away, lovingly surrounded by family and friends. She was a simple, genuine devotee of the Lord and, for the last 20 years, the backbone of Vaisnava Outreach, Inc, also known as ISKCON Prison Ministry (IPM).
Shyama Priya not only left me the most valuable inheritance I could ever dream of in the form of her service, but she taught me very important life lessons while she was alive, as she was dying, and even after she died.
Although pancreatic cancer is most painful, Shyama Priya never complained; it was easy to forget she was sick at all.
One day I was at her house looking for 2 books she had kept for a prisoner. I could only find one of them. Shyama Priya then got up and started looking herself. I urged her to go back to bed, but only when her physical strength gave way did she finally lie back down. That was 10 days before she passed away. She taught me how to serve till the end.
In the last week, Shyama Priya, by then very weak, would greet her visitors by taking their hands for a long time, smiling at them with much love. She taught me that when you die, the only thing you have is your love for others and othersâ love for you.
Helping with the fundraiser to help Shyama Priyaâs family, I witnessed with awe donations pouring from all over the world, in a spontaneous demonstration of the devoteesâ love and appreciation for this saintly devotee. Even after her death, she taught me that when you devote your life to Lord Caitanyaâs service, Lord Caitanya will always take care of you.
Would she have done anything differently if she had known she would die so soon? That is exactly the question she was asking herself one month before she left. After reflection, Shyama Priya concluded, âI would continue my service; what else would I do?â
She taught me that service to Krsna is the essence of oneâs life, and by allowing me to assist her in her service, she has filled my life to the brim with ecstatic preaching.
In the words of Candramauli Swami, âCongratulations for a life well spent.â