The silent lesson of Becky Murphy

Counselor Rebequa Murphy was an outstanding teacher — of the Baha’i Faith, of human dignity and honor, of loving hearts. She had a sweet voice, a very pleasant intonation that reflected the warmth of her heart. You can hear her encourage the Baha’i youth (and every other Baha’i) to share the healing message of Baha’u’llah; If you don’t have an hour to listen to the full talk, seize your chance and listen to the last 10 minutes of it — you will be glad you did! She passed away to the Kingdom of Eternal Glory yesterday but her gentle lessons shall forever stay with us.

Rebequa Murphy teaching a song

Rebequa Murphy teaching a song

How Becky Murphy taught me… silently!

Rebequa Murphy was known for her public talks but 12 years ago I was lucky to be given a very silent, very personal lesson by her. I think the story of that lesson is worth remembering… Here is how I met Becky Murphy:

It was the spring of 1996 and I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I was also in the midst of my second investigation of the Baha’i Faith which resulted in my actual signing a Baha’i registration card (my first declaration had happened during a phone call from Bulgaria to Ukraine in 1990 but had not involved signing a card as there were no such cards then). I had become a regular attendant at the firesides hosted by Debbie and Bob Rosenfeld, who had told me that after declaring my Faith the main thing was to study the Covenant (I am writing this on the Day of the Covenant).

One Sunday morning I had arrived early and while waiting for the fireside to start I made myself comfortable and sat next to a very unassuming lady with skin darker than mine and curly hair, humbly dressed and sitting peacefully.

If this blog were a video, here it would go into slow motion in order to be able to capture my thought process…

Since at that time I was at that turning point in life where the Baha’i teachings from an abstraction were becoming a guidance for living, I had decided to start applying them. Being somewhat aware that to overcome racism I needed to practice fellowship with people of other races, I approached that lady thinking to myself that I should be kind to her… The reason for that kindness was, of course, because I was now enlightened, and she seemed to be African-American. I am sharing my thoughts here because moments later I realized how prejudiced they had been; there was a certain arrogance in my desire to be kind to a strange lady because she happened to be of African decent…

I approached the lady and we started talking. I am not sure what my expectations must have been but they were clearly not high. I very well remember how within the first sentences of our conversation I was amazed and humbled by that lady’s poise and natural dignity. And I was very embarrassed of having realized my prejudice but since the embrace of her love was so inviting, there was no time for self-beating. Seize your chance seems to have been the theme of Rebequa Murphy’s life. For Rebequa Murphy was the name of the lady sitting next to me.

She asked me where I was from and where I studied, and soon after I had told her about my studies in the former Soviet Union, she told me about her childhood as the daughter of the Ethiopian ambassador to the Soviet Union and about her adventures in the Kremlin at the time of Khrushchev. The Soviet leader had held young Rebequa in his arms during a certain state dinner and had told her that if she was ever in trouble she could always ask him for help.  She had taken Khrushchev’s advice to heart and later on when her own mother had scolded her about something, Becky rushed to the Kremlin where she insisted to the Red Army guards that they should let her in to talk to Krushchev because that is what he had told her to do! She must have been invincible from early childhood on.

Becky spoke to me in fluent Russian that day but now that I look back on that event, I know she must have spoken to me in the language of the heart. I will remember that day forever. That was the day, when the former Baha’i representative to the United Nations (for that is who the unassuming lady sitting next to me was) taught me silently how to recognize and overcome at least two of my major prejudices.

That day Becky Murphy taught me a lesson in spiritual transformation — silently, lovingly and effectively. And for that I shall be forever grateful to her. Please pray for the progress of her radiant soul:

O Thou Kind Lord!  This dearly cherished maidservant was attracted to Thee, and through reflection and discernment longed to attain Thy presence and enter Thy realms.  With tearful eyes she fixed her gaze on the Kingdom of Mysteries.  Many a night she spent in deep communion with Thee, and many a day she lived in intimate remembrance of Thee.  At every morn she was mindful of Thee, and at every eve she centered her thoughts upon Thee.  Like unto a singing nightengale she chanted Thy sacred verses, and like unto a mirror she sought to reflect Thy light.

O Thou Forgiver of sins!  Open Thou the way for this awakened soul to enter Thy Kingdom, and enable this bird, trained by Thy hand, to soar in the eternal rose garden.  She is afire with longing to draw nigh unto Thee; enable her to attain Thy presence.  She is distraught and distressed in separation from Thee; cause her to be admitted into Thy Heavenly Mansion.

O Lord!  We are sinners, but Thou art the Forgiver.  We are submerged in the ocean of shortcomings, but Thou art the Pardoner; the Kind.  Forgive our sins and bless us with Thine abundant grace.  Grant us the privilege of beholding Thy Countenance, and give us the chalice of joy and bliss.  We are captives of our own transgressions, and Thou art the King of bountiful favors.  We are drowned in a sea of iniquities, and Thou art the Lord of infinite mercy.  Thou art the Giver, the Glorious, the Eternal, the Bounteous; and Thou art the All-Gracious, the All-Merciful, the Omnipotent, He Who is the Bestower of gifts and the Forgiver of sins.  Verily, Thou art He to Whom we turn for the remission of our failings, He Who is the Lord of Hosts.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

4 Responses to “The silent lesson of Becky Murphy

  • S. Watkins
    10 years ago

    As soon as I heard of the passing of Rebequa Murphy my memories took me back on a journey of 32 yearsto the a time when I first saw her smiling face in Anchorage, Alaska. I was a seeker and she had picked me up to take me to a Fireside. It took some time to get there and we talked about the Faith all the way. We never made it to the Fireside… You see, when we got where we were going, she asked me if I was ready to sign the declaration card and I was. She whipped one out of her pocket (that lady was always prepared) and I signed it on the spot. When we entered the building, there were no seekers so we had a Deepening instead.

    Our paths crossed again on several occasions and I hold dear the memories of each of those very special times. Goodbye my friend, I shall miss you.

  • Aurorre-Denise
    10 years ago

    Mitko, I am requesting permission to use your story at our commemoration for Counselor Rebequa Murphy.

    I am a Bahá’í in Missouri City, TX.

  • Virginia Smith
    10 years ago

    Requesting permission to use your story about Rebequa Murphy for our commemoration of her life.
    Baha’is of Riverside Supervisorial District #3West, Virginia Smith, Secretary

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