Mr. G. V. Tehrani’s visit to Palmerston North, New Zealand 1975-1976
This is a personal account of what I experienced as a relatively new Bahá’í in Palmerston North in or around 1976. I had just come home from having gallbladder surgery along with removal of my appendix. I had 9 stitches down the front of my tummy, so could not move very well. I had been home a couple of days when the Bahá’ís brought Mr. Tehrani to meet me, as I was sick and he had asked if there were any sick Bahá’ís in the community that he could visit. I remember the car pulling up outside my house at 220 College Street, and I stood up to see who it was, and saw this elderly gentleman get out of the car, and start walking very slowly up my footpath. He was still approaching as I opened the front door, and was bowing low with each footstep. I stood there and bowed to him also, at least twenty times, as if compelled involuntarily and boy, did it hurt my healing incision site.
Mr. Tehrani finally reached the door and offered his elderly, wrinkled hand to me and we bowed to each other. I welcomed him in, made tea and we talked for a while. He inquired about my health and what I did as an occupation before my operation. I was a nurse’s aide at a geriatric hospital and he asked what it was like there and if I had a special patient. I ended up telling him about a dear patient of mine, (for the sake of privacy, I will refer to my patient as “Mr. G”) who had 5 vertebrae completely dissolved by gangrene and I told him how worried I was about him. I was not allowed to go back to work for 6 months in order to recover, so I figured Mr. G would pass away before I return. Before withdrawing, Mr. Tehrani told me that he had a gift for me and would return with it the next day.
When he returned the following day, we went through the very same repetitive bowing to each other. After taking a seat in the lounge, he presented me with two pieces of paper; both had the same prayer on it. “One” he explained, “is the original written in fountain pen” and he wanted me to keep it while the other was written with a standard ballpoint pen. He then instructed me to fold the copy until I could fold it no more. His instructions were to take it immediately to the hospital, go to Mr. G’s bedside, take up his right hand and place this document in it, close his hand over it, and without saying any words, I was to return. Stitches and all, I complied instantly and summoned a cab. I’ll never forget the agony of getting in and out of that cab with stitches. On returning home, he asked if I had done as he had directed, which I confirmed with a nod in the affirmative. “Everything will be alright,” he said consolingly, as we expressed our goodbyes.
Six months went by rather quickly, and I arrived at the hospital to begin working again. Before my car had even pulled into a parking spot, the Matron came rushing out of the main entrance calling me to her office. I am always nervous about such things, so I went rather timidly to meet her. She asked me right out, “What was that piece of paper that you put into Mr. G’s hand?” Um, gee, I had not thought about it since that day. I had never given it much consideration. I was free of the worry of it for 6 months. Flashing back to that day, I told her that I thought it was a prayer. I asked,”Why”? She proceeded to tell me that Mr. G had passed away 5 minutes before I had arrived.
What I was told next was astonishing. See, Mr. G had lost his ability to recognize and recall people and events. Upon first meeting him months before as his nurse, he asked my name, in which I told him “My name is Tricia”. He exclaimed, “PATRICIA!”. Mr. G was an Irish Catholic and my name seemed, by his expression, to have personal significance. From then on, he would call out my name whenever he needed anything, in which I would respond quickly to his bedside. It seemed the only name and face he could recall was mine. Well, evidently, after I gave him the prayer, and had left the room, he sat straight up (an impossible feat being that he had no lower spine). The Matron proceeded to tell me that Mr. G was yelling out, “Bring the Matron! Bring the Matron!” over and over until she was brought to him. He didn’t say “nurse” which was commonly how he called for help. He was unusually specific. “He than asked me to get his wife, by her name” the Matron said in amazement. Once Mrs. G arrived, Mr. G went on to fully discuss how his wife was going to survive once he was gone. “He was fully cognizant and speaking as though there was never a problem with his memory!” she exclaimed. After he said everything he needed to convey, he passed away. That coincided with my arrival at work. Little did I know back then, that my instincts had been correct; he would pass away before I returned.
Upon hearing all of this I began to cry. I was astonished! The Matron stood up from her chair and came around the desk to hug and comfort me. She encouraged me to get up, then led me to his room. Standing at the threshold of Mr. G’s room, the Matron whispered, “You go into the room where he is lying and be with him to say your goodbyes”. I sat with Mr. G for a long time and said prayers for him. Later, I was given the task and honor of prepare his body for burial. (But that is yet another story.)
Mr. Tehrani and I met once more in Ashburton, but we kept in contact via letters, and he always called me his daughter. I think he must have adopted many children around the globe on his travels. What a wonderful man and joy to be with. From what I can remember, he was a pioneer to northern Japan. I gleaned from an old newsletter, (see first link below) in November 1957, Mr. G.V. Tehrani settled in Sapporo. His pioneering to Sapporo was a direct result of the Guardian’s instruction to take the Faith to Hokkaido. Mr. Tehrani, a widower, was elderly and not in the best of health, but his great loving spirit affected those around him and with the help of the new Bahá’ís, Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimatani, he soon had a group interested in the Faith. Mr. and Mrs. Assassi, pioneers to Hiroshima, purchased a house in Sapporo, which they donated to the Faith. Mr. Tehrani took care of that Haziratu’l-Quds and held countless meetings there during the fourteen years he lived in Sapporo. In 1959, about a year and a half after Mr. Tehrani moved there, the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Sapporo was elected, as reported in “Traces that Remain,” which are summarized for inclusion here.