NOTE: This is a report of a short conversation I had with Dushka Howarth, a daughter of Mr. Gurdjieff with Jessmin Howarth. The conversation took place three days before Dushka died at a hospice in the Bronx, New York City.
About three months ago Reijo asked me to do an interview with Dushka for the Gurdjieff Internet Guide. This was about the time that her book with her mother Jessmin Howarth with the title “It’s up to Ourselves, A Mother, A Daughter, and Gurdjieff” was published. I immediately phoned Dushka and told her about Reijo’s request and she was very happy and glad to do the interview, particularly because Reijo was a good friend of hers. Then Dushka was taken to the hospital where she spent several days. And then I got involved in a series of personal problems but I always kept in touch with her and we were always ready for the interview.
Last Sunday Dushka was hurried to the hospital and on Monday I phoned her and asked her if she was still willing to do the interview and in her always full-of-life spirit she told me that as soon as she returned to her apartment we would do the interview. But the next day, Tuesday 22, she was moved to a Hospice for terminally ill cancer patients. We must not forget that for more than five years she was fighting five cancers. I called a mutual friend and asked her what she thought about my going to the Hospice for the interview. I then prepared seven questions to ask her. Thursday morning I had a conference call with the three ladies who are helping me with the editing of my forthcoming book and shared my seven questions with them. When I finished, one of the ladies suggested that I forget about the questions and just go to the Hospice and once I was there to play it by ear. Then while we were in the conference call, one of the ladies got a message telling her that Dushka was unconscious. I felt bad but an hour later I got this message on my email:
As all of you know, Dushka is an extremely social person and visitors are very important to her. Should you be able to visit, you are welcomed. If you wish or need to stay overnight, a cot can be arranged in Dushka’s room and a sleeping room is also available for guests.
Thank you for all your support.
I immediately rushed to the Hospice.
I was very happy when I got to her room and found that she was alone. She was resting with her eyes closed and her breathing was heavy and difficult. I touched her arm and she opened her eyes and smiled at me and said: “Oh, Will, I am so happy to see you.” I realized that her mind and cognitive capacity were intact. I then asked her if she still wanted the interview and she said that she was not up to a formal interview but that I could ask her any question I wanted to ask and she would try to answer. Here is the conversation we had.
Will: “How are you feeling, Dushka?”
Dushka: “I am in pain but I can take it.” Then she pointed to a poster on the wall showing her level of pain and it was quite high.
Will: “I am planning to write a little note in the blog I dedicated to you in What is the Work? (WITW) and I also plan to write a short account of our conversation today for the Gurdjieff Internet Guide. Do you mind?”
Dushka: (Smiling and her eyes beaming): “Not at all Will. Go ahead and write what you feel like. “
Will: “How has your stay here been so far?”
Dushka: “Well, let me see, last evening thirty people were here in my room and the doctor entered the room and asked: “Where is the famous Dushka Howarth?” Everybody laughed. But of all the visitors I have had since Tuesday the one that most impressed me was that of friend who lives in Arizona and who I have met only on the phone before. As soon as he found out I was here, he took a plane because he wanted to meet me in person before I die and he was here last night.”
Will: “Well, Dushka, this past Monday I was having an Internet conversation with a friend in Chile and I said to her that you were in the hospital and she said: “Oh Dushka. I remember when she came with Nathalie to Chile to teach movements.” You are known around the world, Dushka.”
Dushka: “Yes, I know. A few months ago a man from Romania visited me in my apartment because he wanted to talk to me about Movements. I was watching a very old TV I have and when he saw that my TV was that old he came the next day with a brand new digital TV.”
Will: “Well, Dushka, was it not Mr. Gurdjieff (Dushka always refers to her father as Mr. Gurdjieff) who said that we attract according to our Being. You have a great Being and you attract accordingly.”
Dushka: (smiling): “Yes, he certainly said so. And I understand what he meant.”
Will: “Now that we are on the topic of attracting I want to tell you that my good friend Mani Gerlach from Germany has provided the English subtitles for the German documentary “Journey to Inaccessible Places” (“Eine Reise zu unerreichbaren Orten) about Mr. Gurdjieff and in which you appear. She also put your video on youtube and on the website What is the Work (WITW).
Dushka: “Oh, Will, that famous documentary. I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed for it and I agreed to do it. The only thing I do not like it about it is the heavy make-up I was wearing. But I am glad I did participate because the initial idea of the documentary was to present Mr. Gurdjieff as a cult leader and I convinced the producers of the documentary that he was not a cult leader but a very spiritual man who had brought a message to humanity.”
Will: “I remember one day I visited you in your apartment and you mentioned that you had all the papers and documents Mme. Ouspensky left to your mother, and that you were going to give it to a library. What have you done?”
Dushka: “I have a very good friend who is now taking care of that matter. She has already contacted several public and University libraries but we have not yet decided. We were thinking of donating it to Yale University library where all of Ouspensky’s papers are located. But then I decided that it would not be good place.”
Dushka: “Well, I want her papers to be separated from his papers because they were very different persons. Will, it is important that we separate identities. Ouspensky was an intellectual and Mme. was a very practical person and a very good friend of my mother. She was very heavily into Movements and the practical aspects of the Work and the teaching from her Being was evident to all who worked with her, while Ouspensky was more of an intellectual and he even hated the Movements.“
Will: Do you think Ouspensky made a positive contribution to the spreading of the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff?
Dushka: “Oh, yes, definitely. He was very faithful in his recording of the teaching given in Russia and Mr. Gurdjieff did acknowledge that and praised him for a job well done. But when Ouspensky moved to London, he went his own way and wrote books that came from his own understanding and his own ideas and not all from the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff.
At this moment the telephone rang and she told the person calling that Will Mesa was in the room with her and that they were talking about Mr. Gurdjieff and Mme. Ouspensky. The person who called wanted to talk to me. I introduced myself and she introduced herself as Patty de Llosa, the daughter of Dr. William Welch, the physician who took care of Mr. Gurdjieff at the American Hospital in 1949 during his final days, and his wife Louise Welch. We spoke for a while on the phone about the book I am writing and the book she just published with the title The Practice of Presence: Five Paths for Daily Life. Then she told me not to tire Dushka and I told her that I was about to leave her so she could rest. I then asked Dushka a final question:
Will: “Is there anything you want to say to all the people around the world who have met you and that love you?”
Dushka: “All and everything I can say is in the book my mother and I wrote. I am very happy the book has sold so well and I myself personally have sold 1,200 copies. My mother and I worked on the book for years and I think we left an account of what may be known as a history of the Gurdjieff movement during its infancy and maturity. I am very happy I was able to finish the book and I know my mother and Mr. Gurdjieff are happy too.”
I stood up from my chair and grabbed her hand which was very swollen as a consequence of her terminal illness. I then said to her: “God Bless you and your soul Dushka. It has been an honor and a privilege to have met you in this life.”
She replied: “Thanks, Will. God bless you too. It was also a pleasure to have met you.”
I said good-bye and promised to come back at the weekend to see her. Unfortunately, she died three days later and I did not have the chance to see her again.
Calvary Hospice, the Bronx, New York City, Thursday, March 25, 2010.