In 1992 I was hospitalized with Spinal Meningitis and not expected to live. It was so serious that even a trip in the elevator to intensive care would have taken up too much time in the immediacy called for to save my life. The nurses on call wheeled me into a room close to the entrance. I became the subject of an acute medical emergency, which meant I was dying.

Doctors, nurses, admitting administrators, Ananda ministers, as well as the close friends who had carried me through the hospital doors were all in the room. Who would have ever guessed so many frenetic and fearful people could all fit into such a small space. The vibration of emergency, panic and fear crackled in the crowded room; I was coming in and out of consciousness. The meningitis had reached my brain causing it to swell and create a pain that was indescribable. I was dehydrated, and my blood pressure became nonexistent. Vital signs and hope were both dropping.

The nurses desperately tried to find a vein that hadn’t collapsed to administer an IV that could help restore some semblance of blood pressure. The puncture wounds were numerous, but the success rate was zero.

In the beehive of activity, my uninformed, unsuspecting house mates arrived with a bouquet of helium balloons with cheerful happy faces on the red and gold inflated surfaces. They were allowed one look and a quick hand squeeze before being rushed out of the room. Only the balloons remained— floating and hovering over the rushing madness mounting in the small room.

Because reality had taken a distorted view, with my brain swelling and the pain enormous, I was certain the bloated looking red and gold balloon faces floating over my bed must be lower astral boogie-men taunting me on the way out.

Meanwhile, the panic barometer in the room increased. The different nurses were unsuccessful finding a functioning vein for the IV. The admitting administrator kept asking me for my blue shield card, needles kept poking into my arm probing for a good vein, catheters were being inserted, Jyotish and Devi were leading me through a visualization to go down the tunnel, Ananda residents were lined up praying in the hallways— it was pandemonium, and the fear in the room was overwhelming. Every thought echoed good-bye.

The blood pressure being nonexistent for such a long period of time made my hands and feet numb and blue. My nose turned a bright purple color that gradually crept across my cheeks. The nurse continued to probe for a vein. I was literally dying from the extremities to the inside.

The prognosis was grim. A call went out to my father who lives in Texas to “come immediately.” My living will was located in the hospital files where it had resided since 1988, the year of my diagnosing illness.

A whisper went around the hospital that Swami and Rosanna were both on their way and would walk through the front door of the hospital at any moment. There was a feeling of helplessness from the Ananda residents that I might die before Swami arrived.

Swami and Rosanna arrived, and were admitted in the room of panic and red alert. The Ananda residents standing outside of the room all murmured to each other “Swami’s here, he will know what to do. He will most certainly know what ritual to perform, or what words to say to this passing soul.”

`Swamiji walked up to the bed, wedged in between the doctors and nurses and sat down beside me. Rosanna sat on the other side. Swamiji looked right at me, I acknowledged his presence by opening my eyes. He spoke and said, “Happy you look like Rudolph.” (As in Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.)

The room froze as if the pause button had been pushed. Ananda members leaning in the door whispered, “he said she looks like Rudolph…”

What happened next was quite remarkable, and miraculous. I smiled and even had a surge of energy that allowed me to laugh, and every person in the room relaxed for the first time since I had arrived. The fear in the room was completely neutralized by Swami’s humor. Some of the nurses even laughed and eased into his aura of calm detached acceptance.

The easement of tension and fear allowed the nurse to discover a vein for the IV, the admitting administrator found the blue shield card, my blood pressure began to return with an immediate response to the IV. Hope reemerged as a possibility.

I will never forget the lesson this experience. For me, there are many lessons, but the one that is most obvious is, “Nothing in this world is ever what it appears to be in Divine Mother’s lila, and the way to neutralize negativity is to create enough energy to meet it head on, and then surpass it.”

Thank you Swamiji, for teaching me by example, in those times of uncertainly this great lesson. If I had about 100 sheets of this paper, I could begin to write the hundreds of other lessons I have learned from your example and guidance in my life.

-Happy Winningham

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Stories About Swami Kriyananda