And it so happened that her surgery was fixed for the 9th of September, which fell exactly on those days when I had planned to visit her. Krsna had arranged everything perfectly....!
She was admitted to the famous Heart Center in Bad Krozingen - a beautiful little country town in the Black Forest of South Germany. For several days she had to undergo all kinds of check-ups and tests, until they finally agreed to do the surgery. For patients in such advanced age they don't do an open heart surgery but have a new technique of entering the large arteries on the upper leg and move up through the blood vessels, until they reach the heart. Indeed rather advanced medical technology....!
Naturally she was a little nervous before such serious surgery - especially in this age it is always a big risk to undergo an anaesthesia. So many complications and infections can occur.
I had brought a little box with maha sweets from Prabhupada's Vyasa Puja feast in Ukraine for her, which she happily accepted. She absolutely loves our sweets!
We knew that she would spend at least two days in Intensive Care, and I was glad to be with her during the time when she would need me the most: the afternoon before the surgery, and those two days in ICU....
I asked her whether she wanted me to read anything to her during those days - maybe some of her favorite verses from the bible. To our utter surprise they didn't even have a proper bible in the clinic - only a new translation, which did not include the Old Testament. And she didn't like at all the modern language of this edition. I couldn't help myself wondering whether this could ever happen in due course of time with Prabhupada's books - some new translation, in which Prabhupada's special choice of words would get lost....?!
Finally we were shown a catholic prayer- and songbook, which had quite nice and meaningful texts, almost reminding of a Vaisnava prayer book....
In the evening she wouldn't let me go - she didn't want to be alone. She instructed me: "If I don't survive this, then arrange a big festival! Celebrate it with joy - music and dancing....!"
The nurse gave her heavy sleeping tablets and tranquilizers, and gradually her speech was becoming more and more indistinct - almost like that of an intoxicated person. She had been worried that her eyesight might become worse through this surgery - the degenerative macular disease had made her almost blind, and now she had to regularly take Aspirin to thin her blood, which could affect her eyes to such extend that she could become completely blind.
Now, in her somewhat delirious state she laughingly demanded: "Find me a person who will give me his eyes! I want new eyes - some nice and brown ones! He can have my blue ones, and I want his brown ones! And I will pay good money too....!" I was somewhat shocked - she seemed almost crazy! Then she continued: "I want your eyes! Give me your eyes!" I didn't know what to answer....: "Yes, I guess these days one can get all kinds of organs from people who have just left their body." But she wasn't satisfied with this idea: "No, I don't want the eyes of a dead person, I want your eyes....!"
The story of Yayati from the SB came to my mind, who asked one of his sons to give him his youth and accept his old age in return. And I could sense that I was not quite ready to surrended to such proposal - giving my mother my eyes. Feeling my reluctance she laughed like a mad person, questioning: "You don't want to give me your eyes...?"
The whole situation had become almost a little bizarre and creepy, and I felt it was time for me to leave....
Later, after she had recovered from the surgery I told her about our conversation, and in disbelief and laughter she exclaimed: "Really, I was talking like this....? Oh my God...!" She couldn't remember any of it.
On the next morning at 7:30am she had her surgery. It was Ekadasi, and I had explained to her that this was a very auspicious day. The chief of the hospital performed 'the work of art' personally, which had given her the confidence that she was in good hands.
I encouraged her to place herself in God's hands - simply leaving everything up to Him.... She could relate to this understanding....
The doctors had told me that I could drop into the ICU ward around lunch time, which I did. And he warned me that she could be rather delirious for at least 24 hours.
I came to see her at 12 noon. As soon as I quietly called her, she opened her eyes, and with a completely clear mind she motioned to the ICU desk and said: "Talk to the doctors...." I reassured her that I had done this already, and they had confirmed that the surgery went very well - all according to plan. But of course the battle was not over yet. Now she had to get back on her feet, without any complications occuring....
Many tubes and pipes were going in and out of her body - she was connected to all kinds of flashing and beeping instruments surveying her body, and of course mainly her heart functions. She was connected to an external heart pace maker, and she also had to take oxygen with a tube going across her mouth, which created some discomfort for her. Every now and again I took this oxygen tube away just to give her some relief, until some instrument started to give some signals that the oxygen level had gone down too much. My medical education was helpful now, and I was not too intimidated by the whole situation. I tried to relieve her from little discomforts by putting cream on her dry lips and giving her a little sip of water to moisten her mouth. I simply stayed near her, softly chanting and being there for her. Every couple of hours I would return to my little flat for some time, to soon return again.
I was amazed how alert she was, reacting to every little noise. Once a nurse brought the dinner to the neigboring patient behind a curtain, and she said: "So, here comes the dinner...!" And my mother immediately reacted, whispering: "I can't eat anything...!" thinking that it was for her. I let her know that it was not meant for her.
I was surprised that the doctors and nurses did not mind me coming and going throughout the whole day. No visiting hours - no restrictions. And of course, they saw me in a sari - I have no other clothes in my suitcase. One doctor who had acted as the first assistant during the surgery asked me some questions in regards to Krsna consciousness. He was from Poland and had spent some time in India teaching at a medical University in Jaypur. I regretted that exactly on that day I did not carry the nice German introductory brochure on Krsna consciousness with me. I would have liked to give it to him. I never met him again....
On the next morning when I came to see her she was already sitting up in her bed, taking a little breakfast! I was very happy to see her in good spirits - she had strong will-power to get back on her feet again. Of course, she was still very weak and needed to rest. Again I stayed for around an hour, then left to my little place to return after a couple of hours - throughout the entire day. In the afternoon she got out of bed and sat in a chair, with some of the pipes and tubes being gradually removed.
The next morning she would be transfered back into her room on the regular ward four floors up. I went to the nearby forest and fields and picked a beautiful bunch of wild flowers and put it in her room upstairs as a little welcome for the next day.
At 5am on the following day of the 11th of September I had to catch a train to the Frankfurt airport to fly off to Florence/Italy. She expressed her deep gratitude that I had been with her through these three challenging days. And I would call her every day, from wherever I was.....
Your servant, Devaki dd