by Chet Snow, Ph.D.
During the years I have been commuting between the United States and France I have made friends and lost track of many Parisians, but an exception was Marie-France, who remained a valued friend for over twenty years. As a well-known pianist she followed the vagaries of my changing career from graduate student at the Sorbonne, to researcher for the U.S. Air Force, to regression therapist and researcher into past-life experiences.
Marie-France had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis and from her long experience in introspection became interested in the idea of other lifetimes and the survival of the soul beyond physical death. This interest led her to do a session with me in which she discovered a recent past existence as a black New Orleans prostitute who had been a mistress to one of that city’s noted Dixieland musicians, a brief liaison which ended tragically when she, as that girl, committed suicide following the break-up experience. Haunting fears of self-inflicted violence, along with a life-long adulation of New Orleans and its “pure” jazz style, had dominated her current French life.
Back in Paris this year I spent time with Marie-France, though not as much as before, for she had suffered a stroke two years before and lived in semiretirement, leaving her apartment only for occasional musical appearances. Nonetheless, we spoke often by telephone and had occasional visits, and upon my return to France after a month’s research foray to the United States in May, I was taken aback when I was not able to reach her by phone. After a few attempts I sent her a post card telling her to call me when available, but in my busy schedule I forgot about my request.
A week later I received a letter from Roland, Marie-France’s nephew, containing the sad news that a new stroke had put her back in a Paris hospital, where she lay in a coma and paralyzed, At first there had been a few moments of lucidity when she had shown recognition of her family and friends by eye movements, but in recent weeks she had been inert, kept going by various respiration machines and supported by a strong heart, a condition which Roland explained could possibly go on for months. I wanted to see Marie-France, even in her comatose state, and phoned at once for the hospital address and visiting hours.
Several days later on a June afternoon I was at the Labosiere hospital in her private room at the start of afternoon visiting hours. The nurse told me that all that would be possible was to sit with her, as she could not communicate. I had just come from a seminar where methods of contacting the soul entities of those who have died had been outlined, and I felt it should even be easier to get in touch with the spirit or mind of my dear friend whose body, aided by medical science, was still functioning. Also, as a trained hypnotherapist and regular meditator, I knew that in an altered state wider ranges of communication are possible than are recognized by “ordinary” consciousness. This seemed an opportunity, not only to test what I had learned, but also to help my friend alleviate what must be an unbearable condition—trapped in an inert body kept alive by machines, an often-stated fear after her first stroke.
Alone with Marie-France I drew up my chair to the side of her bed. She was propped on pillows with tubes sticking in her arms and an oxygen bottle blowing air through a tube into her nose and down her throat. A heartbeat machine measured her pulse. Although her eyes were taped shut, the eye lids fluttered as I approached and the machine recorded several fluctuations in her brain and pulse activity, as if she recognized that someone was there. I stroked her hand and spoke in a soft voice, telling her who was there and adding that I was going to talk with her. When the machine quieted down, I slipped into a trance state and used a favorite “mantra,” the Lord’s Prayer, spoken in French. (Although I am sure that subconscious communication is possible without a common language, it seemed easier to use French, our normal mode of conscious communication.) Then I just sent her love–all the love I was capable of, for about ten minutes. Love, love, amour, amour…
After a time I felt a kind of mental tugging at the corners of my concentration. I felt she was listening. I repeated what I’d said earlier, who I was, that I was sorry not to have known earlier of her stroke and hospitalization and that I was there to help her. First, I asked her to allow her spirit to come out of that inert, useless body so that we could “talk.” She seemed surprised but I felt her coming in stronger and I talked on to her real “soul” entity.
As she began to recognize this “soul” entity, her ability to communicate grew. Then I asked her to look over her body and become aware of what was wrong with it, to get in touch with her physical condition and to realize whether or not that body in its current state was repairable or whether she should leave it behind and go on to another state of being. As I let her do this I reminisced with her about the important and positive events of her life as Marie-France. I remembered with her our first meeting, the first piano piece I’d heard her play at that party and how much it had meant to me and how much I’d enjoyed all the other times we had been together. I reminded her of earlier periods of her life before I’d known her, information gleaned from previous discussions. I talked of her family, friends, and fellow musicians and of all the love surrounding her here on the earth. Being realistic and honest also meant going over some of the difficult times and I asked her forgiveness for a couple of our own personal differences from times past. In time I felt her returning love and knew that she had got her spirit up out of the body at last.
Once I understood her fear, it was not difficult to talk it over with her, as her soul was palpably close now and eager for help. I explained the difference, in my mind at least, between actively killing a body before its time, i.e., suicide, and freeing oneself from what had become a useless vehicle in order to find new life in other realms. This latter was the normal path, I assured her, and in no way would it “cut her off” from her soul self. Further, I knew that her mother and other deceased loved ones would be there to help her as she made the transition, and I explained what I knew of this passage, using images from the testimony of those who had returned from a “near-death” experience.
At one point I “heard” her ask me to inform a couple of our mutual American friends of her condition, as they would not know otherwise. I promised this. Then I pointed out the strain on her Parisian family and friends of having her hover between life and death in this comatose state, possibly for months. Again and again during this process, which took nearly two hours, I kept sending her reassurance and love that whatever her choice, it would not be “suicide.” Eventually I felt Marie-France’s mind-spirit calming and fading, as if tired from this new type of exertion. Visiting hours were over. I promised to be in contact again very soon and left the hospital after a short meditation.
Again I asked her to check on the body’s condition and to become aware of her options, either to return fully and help her body heal itself or else gradually to detach herself from what was a no longer useful shell. At this point I felt a surge of fear and realized that she was in terror of dying, for somehow, somewhere, her mind clung to the thought that to leave her body in this way would be the equivalent of suicide. Her past-life memory of that previous New Orleans suicide and all the resulting trauma and remorse still clung to her and was keeping her trapped in this comatose form. If she “died” in this way, she felt she would be cut off from all those she knew and loved and would again find herself alone at the end, just as she had been in that past life.
The next few days were busy ones for me as I prepared for an out-of-town lecture trip. I added Marie-France to my evening meditation and tuned in, feeling her still at the hospital and not yet decided, but much more comfortable and no longer in frustration and terror over her condition. A couple of days later I had some time in the afternoon, and although I couldn’t go to the hospital, I realized that I now could contact Marie-France from anywhere just by going within and calling her.
I did this and again we had a wonderful and warm contact. Although her fears of renewed suicide seemed gone, I felt that she was waiting for something or someone before making her final decision as to whether or not she should detach herself from that tired body. I respected her right to make her own decision and did not press when no further insight came. I did, however, get the distinct impression that she had inspected her brain’s damage from the stroke and knew that her passing was just a matter of time. She was preparing for the final push.
The next day I had to leave Paris for another lecture trip. I was absent several days, and although I kept Marie-France in my meditation each night, I didn’t tune in again during my absence. Perhaps my own conscious mind somehow was having trouble holding to the belief that such communication was possible in spite of the miles between our bodies. And, as so often happens, other current events replaced my concern over Marie-France.
When I returned to Paris, however, one of my first thoughts was to go back to the hospital. It was a Saturday and I remember that as I considered making the trip there, a nagging feeling came over me that I should call Roland first. But my conscious mind overrode this impulse and so I just showed up at Marie-France’s room at the start of visiting hours. The bed was empty and the room silent, all the complex machinery removed. A chat with the floor nurse confirmed my intuition. Two days earlier, while I was out of town, Marie-France had died peacefully, apparently of a sudden heart attack. I felt glad that Marie-France had made her choice so rapidly. I felt sure she had now rejoined her mother and sister. In my meditation that evening I felt her presence close to me but as if in a deep, restful, unaware sleep.
About a week later I had occasion to contact Roland about another matter. He apologized for not calling me but said that he had been extremely busy on a film he was producing and never seemed to be at home when he could phone. I told him I knew of Marie-France’s passing and asked him exactly when it had happened. He filled in the final details.
Because of the pressures of his work schedule, he had been unable to visit Marie-France for a couple of weeks after his original letter to me and had been unaware of my visit. Finally, one afternoon he found a moment and had made a quick dash to the hospital. He said that when he went into her room it was as if she were waiting for him. Immediately the heart monitor began to fluctuate wildly and her body twitched and shook, but no sooner had he sat down next to her than suddenly everything stopped. The machines went silent and her chest stopped moving. Roland guessed she had had a sudden heart attack, for within a moment she was gone, despite the efforts of the nurses he alerted.
I had my answer. Marie-France had been waiting for Roland and as soon as this last good-bye had been made, she had felt free to leave and begin the passage to a new and, I know, richer, fuller life. I am confident she is even now preparing for her next appearance on earth’s schoolroom stage.