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50th Anniversary Gathering
May 24, 2002

The 50th Anniversary Sahavas was the inspiration and work of Anne and Chris Barker, and Lynn Wilhite. Together they labored for over a year to put this amazing event together. Featured were stories by Charmian Duce, Leatrice Shaw Johnston, and Philip Lutgendorf; words of inspiration and prayers of Murshida Carol Weyland Conner; talks and shared meditations with Esfandiar Vesali; readings by Ed Flanagan about the accident from the manuscript of the new book Mehera-Meher by David Fenster; music coordination by Elaine Cox; and MC Jeff Maguire.

Many in attendance reported a profound experience of Baba’s presence and a renewed experience of awareness of the meaning of Baba’s accident. Interestingly, there were also Sahavases held that same weekend in California, New York and Chicago, which only seemed to emphasize Baba’s sacrificial gift to America and all the world.

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Across the street from the accident site in Meeker, Oklahoma, on May 24, 2002, feelings of awe and introspection seemed to predominate as Sahavasees began to gather shortly before 10:00 am.

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A simple heart wreath was placed at the exact spot where Avatar Meher Baba fell, where many bowed and placed flowers. Many pilgrims also reported having felt Baba’s presence there that day.

Chris Barker, back row, speaking, gathers the group to focus as a quiet mood prevails. In front of Chris is Murshida Conner, who spoke a beautiful prayer at the exact time of the accident fifty years before, and also later spoke of the spiritual significance of Meher Baba’s “accident.”

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After gathering at the accident site, the entire Sahavas gathering moved to a local Prague church for stories, local history, and dancing by the local Kolache (a pastry) King, Queen, and court. Jeff Maguire emceed. The group then split into two to visit the hospital and local museum.

The Emergency entrance to the hospital where Baba and the Mandali were brought. Guest speaker Philip Lutgendorf, left, visited the accident site in 1970, and he later told the gathering about the wonderful people he met and their recollections of Meher Baba and the accident.

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At the Prague Clinic where Meher Baba and the Mandali were taken after the accident. The small bookcase with Baba books and the photograph had been focal points for the waiting room for many years.

The room where Meher Baba recovered in the clinic, now an administrative office.

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Margaret Burleson, daughter of attending physician Dr. Ned Burleson, sits in front of the home in which she grew up. She and her sister Beth shared stories of peeking over the stone wall as the strangers were brought in to the hospital, and of later meeting Baba and the Mandali. A beautiful addition to the story was that shortly after presenting at the Sahavas, Margaret became a part of the Baba family.

At the small historical museum in Prague, Murshida Conner gave a lovely presentation of a photograph of Meher Baba and a commemorative plaque. The photo to the right is that of Dr. Ned Burleson, and the case in front are instruments from the Prague Clinic.

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Back at the Retreat Center, seventy miles from the accident site, the Sahavas continued. Musicians, led by Billy Goodrum, jammed into the night as some near-ecstatic souls danced in the aisles.

Esfandiar Vesali, who was one of the students in Baba’s Prem Ashram, seemed to radiate and share with all that of which he spoke: “Just love Baba; just love Him.”

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Charmian Duce moved her audience to laughter and tears as she shared stories of doing the laundry after the accident, and many other experiences with Baba. The beautiful stage in the background was created by Lynn Wilhite.

Under a full moon and dramatic dancing clouds, Sahavasees sang ‘til the wee hours as each brought little pieces of themselves to offer to Baba at the dhuni fire.

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All photographs on this page were taken by Paul Uccello.

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