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How do I become Baha’i?
Spirituality

How Death Helped Me Discover the Baha’i Faith

Kim Mennillo | Apr 26, 2023

PART 2 IN SERIES Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Kim Mennillo | Apr 26, 2023

PART 2 IN SERIES Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In the first essay in this two-part series, I described how I received three significant spiritual signs throughout the first part of my life – and not realizing why. 

How many times does one have to be “slapped upside the head,” as the expression goes? 

While recovering from cancer, I read a lot about near-death experiences (NDEs) – since my own mortality was obviously on my mind. Lo and behold, I discovered the Baha’i Faith in one of those books. 

Well, this was new – sign #4 – and it caught my attention! 

I investigated further by reading Baha’u’llah and the New Era and a few other Baha’i books from our public library. Immediately, I fell in love with the Baha’i principles, but neither my husband nor I imagined there were any Baha’is in the United States. I was crestfallen. 

On reflection, I should have realized the NDE stories took place in the U.S., so, of course, there were Baha’is in this country. But somehow that detail eluded me at the time. 

I was also extremely upset that my college class on world religions had never mentioned the Baha’i Faith. Looking through my textbook, I did find it mentioned, but in a very tiny paragraph, wrongly described as a “sect of Islam.” After all the reading I’d done, I immediately knew that wasn’t correct. Happily, those library books set the record straight, as did this passage from the writings of the Bab:

Yield thee thanks unto God, for He hath graciously aided thee in this Day, revealed for thee the clear verses of this Tablet, and hath numbered thee among such women as have believed in the signs of God, have taken Him as their guardian and are of the grateful.

Sign #5, and, by the way, the one sign that couldn’t possibly be ignored by anyone, was huge. The lyric from the song “Signs” says it well: “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, blowing my mind.” 

My husband and I celebrated Earth Day 1990 by walking through the festivities at the Whetstone Park of Roses in Columbus, Ohio. There, in the midst of that fragrant garden of roses, was a booth with a massive vertical banner blocking our view, but who cared? What a sight for sore eyes! A vertical banner in big, bold letters said: BAHA’I FAITH OF COLUMBUS, OHIO. 

I nearly fell over. My hand shot out and smacked my husband on the chest as I gleefully shouted, “They’re here! They’re in Columbus!” 

Mind completely blown! It was the best, most serendipitous moment of our lives. We ran to that booth to talk to two very stunned Baha’is who lovingly answered our questions. 

During that same year, I had been given a lap dulcimer as a birthday gift and decided in the early spring of 1990 that I needed to take lessons. In conversation with the music teacher during one lesson, I found out he would also be my anatomy and physiology teacher later that fall when I started massage therapy training – so, we had music and massage in common. Small world. The teacher used to bring his young sons to class with him, so one evening I brought my young daughter to play with the boys, but they weren’t there. I asked him, “Where are your boys?” He said, “Oh, they’re at a Baha’i meeting with their mother.”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather! This man was not only my music instructor and anatomy teacher, but he was also a Baha’i? Come on! My sign #6! “That’s something else I’m interested in,” I said to him excitedly. He was thrilled to hear it and invited us to informal Baha’i introductory meetings called firesides in Westerville, Ohio. 

We attended a few meetings between April and June of that year, had all our questions answered, and met lots of new friends who lovingly accepted us into the faith community and put us right to work. 

OK, OK, God, I hear you loud and clear! My husband Tom and I became Baha’is on Father’s Day weekend and became part of the Columbus Baha’i community. 

So, all these signs! God was definitely trying to get my attention via 1) my “original thought” of progressive revelation; 2) my morning sickness roadblock to obtaining my Master’s degree in Christian education; 3) the visage of Abdu’l-Baha appearing in a guided meditation; 4) the Baha’i Faith revealed to me in a book on near-death experiences; 5) an actual sign; and 6) a music teacher who was also a Baha’i. 

Some people just need tangible evidence, I guess. As Abdu’l-Baha said in a speech he gave in New York in 1912:

Praise be to God! You have heard the call of the Kingdom. Your eyes are opened; you have turned to God. Your purpose is the good pleasure of God, the understanding of the mysteries of the heart and investigation of the realities. Day and night you must strive that you may attain to the significances of the heavenly Kingdom, perceive the signs of Divinity, acquire certainty of knowledge and realize that this world has a Creator, a Vivifier, a Provider, an Architect—knowing this through proofs and evidences and not through susceptibilities, nay, rather, through decisive arguments and real vision—that is to say, visualizing it as clearly as the outer eye beholds the sun. In this way may you behold the presence of God and attain to the knowledge of the holy, divine Manifestations. You must come into the knowledge of the divine Manifestations and Their teachings through proofs and evidences. You must unseal the mysteries of the supreme Kingdom and become capable of discovering the inner realities of things. Then shall you be the manifestations of the mercy of God and true believers, firm and steadfast in the Cause of God.

But wait, there’s more! Later, when I worked for the Baha’i book distribution service, I found a book with a timeline of notable Baha’i events by month, day, and year. Curious to know if anything significant happened on the day I was born, I checked and … you guessed it! On July 28, 1955, seven Baha’is were martyred in the village of Hurmuzak, Iran. One person survived, told the story to others and the book, Seven Martyrs of Hurmuzak, was written about that devastating day. 

In the back of my mind, I recalled someone telling me that Baha’u’llah’s name should be the first thing whispered into a newborn’s ear – and then it hit me. Another sign, #7, and a humbling one, indeed. My mind reeled as I wondered if it was possible, as those seven souls were winging their way to the next world and I was coming into this one, that at least one of them had spoken Baha’u’llah’s name to me? 

This sobering thought makes me believe perhaps I’ve been a Baha’i since the very first day of my life – it just took me 35 years to realize it. Now that I think about it, maybe, as Abdu’l-Baha intimates here, that was the first sign:

From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. 

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