by SS SatSangeet Kaur Khalsa, Espanola, NM
In late July 2013, I heard the news that Rajinder Kaur from Taos had been diagnosed and had surgery for ovarian cancer. This came as a surprise, as I had seen her in June and she looked fine. Her husband, SS Harbhajan Singh, updated us on her condition. The situation was discussed in our Hearts and Hands group and we agreed that we would organize Sangat members to help her during this difficult time, as well as give Harbhajan Singh some much needed respite.
Our Hearts and Hands group is made up of volunteers with the goal of serving Sangat members in need. The group was started in 2007 with five volunteers and continues to expand, in service to those with acute or chronic illness, death and dying issues, as well as other needs requiring support.
The first event we were able to organize for Rajinder Kaur turned out to be a fun birthday party last October. A group of a dozen women or so carpooled up to Taos and spent the day with her. She had already lost a considerable amount of weight by that time and was weaker, but she was delighted to see everyone. After lunch we walked with her and enjoyed the beautiful mountain views near their home. I believe it was a memory she cherished throughout her illness.
In November, she started chemotherapy, determined to lead as “normal” a life as possible. She continued to take walks when she felt well enough and have friends over. She kept hoping the treatments would work. She was amazingly strong and rarely let the disease get her down. She was always hopeful that the next treatment would prove helpful, but unfortunately it was not meant to be.
In January, Hearts and Hands sponsored Jivan Joti Kaur’s “Dying into Life” workshop for the Sangat on Siri Singh Sahib Ji’s teachings on death. Death was presented as a natural part of life which we all must face sooner or later; it is not viewed as a final end.
We live in a society where we are taught from an early age that death is to be feared. The yogic meditations we learned taught us to strengthen our minds and to use death as an opportunity for great spiritual growth. Not only did we learn how to die ourselves, but we learned how to help others die as well. The techniques we learned proved useful in helping Rajinder Kaur stay at ease, let go of discomfort and anxiety, and ultimately die with peace of mind.
Rajinder Kaur’s doctor advised her to go on hospice care in February 2014. He expected she only had a few weeks left. At Harbhajan Singh’s request, Hearts and Hands arranged for a Gurdwara at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das in Espanola. It was very well attended by the Sangat, and much love and devotion was sent to Rajinder Kaur, who watched the service at home via the Internet.
Crossing the Sound Barrier
We sang the Pran Sutra* [Naanak too(n) lehenaa too(n) hai, Guru Amar too(n) veechaaria; Dhan Dhan Ram Das Gur, Jin siree-aa tinai savaaria] that the Siri Singh Sahib Ji gave us to recite at the time of death, to allow the soul to cross the sound barrier.
During the following days she told her loved ones she was ready to go. It was the first time she had spoken about dying. It gave her family and friends permission to talk to her about dying, and how they would miss her. She requested that we arrange a kirtan program and langar in her home. The night of the program, her home was filled with friends and Sangat members from the surrounding area, showering their love and blessings.
She was feeling poorly when the program began but to our surprise, by the end of the evening, she wanted to greet her guests, many of whom she had not seen since she became ill. I know the experience was very meaningful to her and gave her much peace of mind.
“Always search for the company of saints.
Meeting with them, sing day and night and always.
Fix yourself on the Shabad;
Merge your mind with the teachings of the True Guru.”—Guru Har Rai Ji.
Over the next few days, she grew weaker and more listless. Then unexpectedly she rallied. She was able to drink a little, and conversed with visitors for most of a day and into the night! We laughed and enjoyed her company. It was a wonderful time I will always treasure. It was a privilege to be with her and an honor to care for her. I was filled with admiration for her strength and courage. She rarely complained.
Three days later, on March 14th, she left her body, lovingly surrounded by Harbhajan Singh and other Sangat members, at home and at peace with those she loved. Rajinder Kaur’s life ended just as she lived, embraced by the love of her spiritual family, friends, her grace and Gurbani Kirtan. Nothing in the world can bring a Sangat closer together than caring for a loved one as they die.
From July 2013 to March 2014, many, many Sangat members compassionately gave of their time and energy to visit and care for her. I know she was extremely grateful for their generosity. The Akhand Path was dedicated to her each week during that time. At her memorial service and cremation, it felt like her spirit joyously crossed the world ocean, uplifted and carried by the Holy Nam, and the loving thoughts and prayers of the Sangat.
*Pran Sutra Chanting filmed by SS Krishna Singh Khalsa
About the Author
SS SatSangeet Kaur Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. Professionally, she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is currently President of the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das Ashram “Hearts and Hands” service group, reaching out to sangat members in times of medical or personal need.