by Uma Majmudar
That Sunday morning of January 25th 2015, John sang and played the piano, that afternoon he taught his music class, and that evening, he breathed his last! All of this happened so rapidly, everyone here was numb with shock and dumb with grief to hear the news! Dear John left his mortal body suddenly, without much ado, and with so much dignity. It seemed as if death cheated him, but actually, it was he who cheated death by leaving quietly, without any fuss or fanfare. To use the phrase of one of his favorite authors, Henry Thoreau, John kept ‘sucking the very bone marrow of life’ unto the last — when he slipped into a coma induced by a massive brain-hemorrhage. A Holy Man, John died as he lived — simply, gently, serenely and creatively till the very last moment of his life.
Though he lived in our midst for not quite two years, how rich was that short period, filled with the sounds of divine music and scholarly discourses! No one could tell he was a world-class musician/composer and a first rate scholar/writer/editor as well, because always smiling and ever so humble. John never put on airs, nor did he wear his scholarship on his sleeve. Frail in physique and weakened by age-related maladies, John never complained, nor had any regrets. Ever so active, creative and positive through the very end, John was loving and lovable; no wonder he was the disciple of Swami Pavitrananda, as he personified nothing but ‘pure sattva guna’ — the divine quality of light, wisdom, and genuine goodness of heart and the soul. With his deep sky-blue eyes, warm heart and gentle demeanor, John seemed to be not the creature of this earth, but of some other celestial world! Dear John, you left us so early, you gave us no chance of bidding a proper farewell, but knowing you, what would you have cared for such big, formal farewell! So all we want to say is that we MISS YOU–YOUR DIVINE MUSIC, YOUR PURE BEING — and YOUR PURIFYING PRESENCE! Although you were here for only a short while, your memories will never fade; your light will keep shining and illumining our path, and your music will go on and on for ever!
Speaking from a personal perspective, I first knewJohn Schlenck only by name and over the telephone, as the coordinating editor of ‘American Vedantist’ (AV) magazine published by Vedanta West Communications. It was funny, how I felt like I was one of “Charlie’s Angels” — a popular television show of the 1970s in which you never saw or met face to face the person in charge, but communicated to him by voice only! We discussed by phone the possible topics of my articles for AV and somehow, even on the phone, John came across as a very nice and easy to talk to kind of person, unassuming and yet very thorough about facts, figures, years and other details of writing. I knew I was dealing with a gentle soul but a scrutinizing scholar, or shall i say, “a scholar of the scholars!”
After about fifteen years of such a distant but very warm and creative friendship, when I heard he was actually coming over here to live at our Atlanta Vedanta Center, my joy knew no bounds! John was the kind of person who grows on you, gently but steadily; the more I knew him the more I talked to him, and consulted him about future topics of my upcoming book related to Mahatma Gandhi. He never failed to listen to me, to give his honest opinion, or share his vast and deep knowledge, but as I remember, he always talked to me cordially. I cannot feel but blessed to have known this benign soul, loved him so dearly as a friend to friend, and deeply respected his very being. John, my Beloved friend and mentor, I will never forget you; you have left not only a big hole in my heart, but an even bigger and benign healing touch of your divine presence! Keep calling me long distance, John, I’d love to listen to your voice from heavens!!