In April of 2020, it was with a sad heart that the Avatar Meher Baba Trust informed the worldwide Baba family of the seriously deteriorating state of the Umar tree. It had stood for so many years as sentinel outside Mehera’s window, letting her know that although her beloved Baba had dropped His physical form, He would be with her always.
In those days when Mehera’s grief for her beloved Baba was beyond imagining, His image formed in the tree’s bark at the spot on the trunk where a decade prior to His passing, Baba had touched it, gesturing, “This tree, I like very much.” Mehera who had watched Baba, unseen, from her room, wondered why, of all the trees in Meherazad garden, He liked that tree and blessed it with His touch.
The answer to her “why, this tree?” became apparent soon after her beloved Baba’s passing. His divine touch on the tree manifested His loving presence in the form of a natural bark sculpture so pristine in its beauty and clarity, it prompted Mani to take a snapshot of it and send the film to town to be developed. But when Adi K. Irani saw the photo, he immediately thought that some talented Baba lover artist had sculpted Baba’s face into the bark of the tree. How else could one explain the amazing likeness – even to the crown poised on Baba’s head.
Baba has said that it is for the sake of love that the Avatar takes human form. He becomes a gauge for humanity, showing mankind what it means to love — to love Him as He should be loved. He, who is the Beloved of the Universe, demonstrates for us all what it means to love, by having His own beloved. In this Advent, Mehera, played that highest role, every moment living only to love and serve her Beloved. And that tree became the blessed channel through which His beloved Mehera found solace in her grief; felt comforted that He was with her.
Baba has said that everything that has a beginning has an end; Mehera understood that His love for her was beyond His physical being, but as the Perfect Man, His touch sanctioned nature to give her broken heart consolation through the image in the tree. That sign of His ever-enduring love, helped her to eventually break free from her overwhelming grief.
She went on to share His love with all the young pilgrims who were converging on Meherazad, longing to hear about Meher Baba and see everything connected with His life. By looking out Mehera’s window at His remarkable image, pilgrims felt enthralled by Divine love’s response to the grief felt by His beloved Mehera.
Many years later, as the bark began to peel off the trunk of the tree, in the renewing process of nature, gradually His image was no longer discernible. A pilgrim happened to ask Mehera how she felt now that His face wasn’t visible. Mehera’s answer: the tree had served its purpose.
The part of the trunk of this precious Umar tree which had Baba’s image has died from top-down. Yet two feet of the hollow base is still alive from where some branches grow. Two of these branches from the back of the base of the tree are being induced to take root in the soil by layering, and become trees in their own right, replacing and perpetuating the lineage of the mother tree.
The Archives and Meherazad Managers and Advisory Committee members, guided by Dot Lesnik (an archivist and an old time Baba lover actively involved in Trust archives), Joan Bacharach of the U.S Park and Forest department, as well as a professional arborist, were consulted and their views were considered. With all this in mind, the Trustees of AMB Trust have made the unanimous decision that the dead trunk that once bore Baba’s image, should be cut down, to be preserved and displayed in a controlled environment for the benefit of His lovers now and for posterity. It was also decided to continue to nurture the alive base of the tree and its branches for its lifetime.
Baba has revealed to His lovers in this Advent that only the heart can truly hold Him; that He is not to be found in statues or temples, ceremonies or rituals. But in His compassion for humanity, He has allowed us many artifacts to help us feel some tangible connection with Him, knowing that such physical representations of His being, can stir the human heart to long for His presence all the more. As the loving father and mother in one that He is, He accepts our frailties, our inability to relinquish those concrete, touchable objects that we feel bring us closer to Him. And it is the story in every Advent because it is so difficult for the human heart to let go. 
In carefully cutting down this precious tree trunk and preserving it for posterity, it is hoped not to create an object of worship, but rather a testament to Divine love and the fulfillment of Avatar Meher Baba’s words: “There is no power greater than love.”
Shridhar Kelkar
Avatar Meher Baba P.P.C. Trust