She died at the age of thirty-five, after a long and very painful illness. Vivacious, witty, endowed with rare intelligence, of clear judgment, and high moral excellence, a devoted wife and mother, she also possessed uncommon strength of character, and a mind so fertile in resources that she was never at a loss to decide as to what was the best to be done in the most critical moments of her life. Without rancor toward those of whom she had the most cause to complain, she was always ready to render service to them. Having been intimately acquainted with her for many years, we had followed with interest all the phases of her life and all the incidents of its close.
An accident led to the terrible disease that carried her off, after keeping her for three years confined to her bed, a prey to the most frightful sufferings, which she bore, to the last, with heroic courage, and in the midst of which her natural cheerfulness never abandoned her. She believed firmly in the existence of the soul and of the future life; but she did not think much about them; all her thoughts were concentrated on the present life, to which she was strongly attached, without, however, having any dread of death, and without caring for material enjoyments, but, on the contrary, living very simply, and easily doing without whatever she had not the means of procuring; but she had an instinctive taste for the commodious and the beautiful and she displayed this taste in the smallest details. She longed to live, less for herself than for her children, to whom she felt herself to be necessary; for their sake, she clung to life with extraordinary tenacity. She knew something of Spiritism, but without having made it a subject of study; she took a certain amount of interest in its postulates and yet it failed to give her a fixed basis of conviction concerning the future. She regarded it as being true, but it made no deep impression on her mind. The good that she did was prompted by a natural, spontaneous tendency on her part, and not by any thought of the rewards and penalties of the future.
Her life had been, for a long time, despaired of, and those about her were prepared to witness her departure at any moment; she herself no longer cherished any illusion in regard to her state of health. One day, her husband being absent, she felt her strength leaving her, and understood that her hour had come; her sight became clouded, her mind became confused, and she experienced all the distress of the separation. But the idea of dying before her husband returned was very painful to her. Rousing all the energy she could muster, she said to herself, “No, I will not die.” As she formed this resolution, she felt her life coming back to her, and she recovered the full possession of her faculties. When her husband returned, she said to him, “I was dying, but I determined to wait until you came back to me, for I have still a good many things to say to you.” This struggle between life and death was kept up by her for three months, which lapse of time was, in her case, only a prolonged and most painful dying.
(Evocation: the day after her death)
Thanks, dear friends, for thinking of me; but you have always been to me like parents. Rejoice with me, for I am happy. Assure my poor husband of this, and watch over my children. I went to them as soon as my deliverance had taken place.
Q. It would appear that the confusion has not lasted long in your case, since you reply to us with so much clearness.
A. You know how much I suffered, and that I bore my sufferings with resignation. My trial is ended. I cannot say that I am, as of yet, completely disengaged; but I no longer suffer, and this is for me such an immense relief! This time, I am, indeed, thoroughly cured; but I still need the help of your prayers, that I may be able, afterwards, to come and work with you.
Q. What could have been the cause of your long sufferings?
Q. Can you tell us about that past?
(A MONTH AFTER HER DEATH)
Q. As you must now be completely free and better able to describe your situation, we should be very glad to receive some more explicit statement from you. Can you tell us what was the cause of your prolonged death-agony? For you were, for three months, between life and death.
A. Thanks, dear friends, for your remembrance and your prayers! How much good they have done me, and how powerfully they contributed to my release! I still need to be supported; continue to pray for me. You understand what prayer should be! Your prayers are no commonplace forms, like those of so many who know nothing of the effect of a true prayer. My sufferings were great; but they are amply rewarded; and I am permitted to be often with my children, whom I quitted with so much regret!
I prolonged my sufferings by my own determined wish to live; my ardent desire to remain with my children caused me to cling to matter with the clutch of a drowning man; I stiffened myself in my determination and I would not abandon the unhappy body from which it was, nevertheless, necessary for me to tear myself away, and which was for me the instrument of such dreadful torture. Such was the true cause of my long death-struggle. My illness, and the sufferings I endured, was an expiation of the past, one more debt paid off and done with.
Ah, dear friends, if I had hearkened to you, how very different would be my present life! What consolation I should have had in my last moments, and how much easier this separation would have been to me, if, instead of opposing it, I had given myself up, confiding in the will of God, to the current that was carrying me away! But, instead of looking forward to the future that was awaiting me, I looked only to the present that I was quitting!
When I come back upon the Earth, I promise you I shall be a spiritist! What an immense unfolding! I often come to your meetings, to listen to the instructions that are given by you. If I could have understood all this while I was upon the Earth, my sufferings would have been greatly lessened; but my hour had not come. I now comprehend the goodness of God and His justice; but I am not yet sufficiently advanced to refrain from occupying myself with the things of the earthly life; my children, especially, draw me back to the Earth, no longer with the desire to spoil them, but to watch over them and to lead them to follow the road traced out by Spiritism. Yes, my friends; I still have serious anxieties; one especially, for my children’s future depends on it.
Q. Can you tell us anything of the past that you deplore?
A. I am quite ready to make my confession! I was once, in a former life, so indifferent to suffering that I was perfectly capable of watching my mother suffer without feeling any pity for her; I treated her sufferings as only imaginary. As she was not obliged to keep her bed, I fancied that she did not really suffer, and I laughed at her misery. You see how Providence enacts correction!
(SIX MONTHS AFTER HER DEATH)
Q. Now that a tolerably long time has elapsed since you quitted your terrestrial envelope, be kind enough to depict to us your situation and your occupations in the spirit-world.
A. During my terrestrial life, I was what was considered, in a general way, a good woman; but I
prized my own comfort above everything else. Although I was naturally compassionate, I am sure that I should have been capable of making any painful sacrifice to relieve another’s misfortune. At present, all that is changed; I am still myself, but the person I was in former days has undergone modifications. I have still made some gains; I see that there are no other differences of rank and condition, in the spirit-world, than those of personal merit, where the charitable, though poor, are above the haughty rich who humiliated them in giving them alms. I watch especially over those who are afflicted with family-troubles, the loss of relatives, or of fortune; my mission is to console and to encourage them, and I am happy to be doing so.
An important question is suggested by the foregoing facts: can a human being, by an effort of the will, delay the definitive separation of the soul and the body?
Reply of the spirit of Saint Louis:
This question, if replied to in the affirmative and without restriction, might give rise to erroneous suppositions. An incarnated spirit may, under certain circumstances, prolong its corporeal existence in order to finish the giving of some directions which it considers to be absolutely necessary; such a one may be allowed to do so, as in the case referred to, and in many others. But this prolongation could only be, in any case, of short duration, for no one can be allowed to invert the order of nature, or to effect a real return to the earthly life, when the latter has reached its appointed term. Moreover, you must not infer, from the possibility of such an action, that it could be general, or that every individual spirit would be able to prolong its own corporeal existence in this way. As a trial for the spirit, or in the interest of a mission to be accomplished, the worn-out organs may receive a supplement of vital fluid that allows of their adding a few instants to the corporeal manifestation of thought; but such cases are the exceptions and not the rule. You must regard such a momentary prolongation of life not as a derogation from the unchangeableness of the laws of God, but as a consequence of the freedom of the human soul, which, at the last moment, is conscious of the mission that has been imposed upon it, and fervently desires, in defiance of death, to accomplish what it has not been able to finish. It may also be, in some cases, a correction imposed on a spirit who doubts the fact of a future life; such a prolonging of vitality bringing with it a prolongation of suffering.
Some surprise may be felt at the rapidity with which the disengagement of this spirit was effected, notwithstanding her attachment to the earthly life; but it must be remarked that this attachment was neither sensual nor material; it was even, in some sense, a virtuous feeling, for it was prompted by anxiety for the welfare of her children, who were very young. The lady in question, it must also be remembered, was a spirit of considerable advancement both in intelligence and in morality; one degree more and she would have been among the “happy spirits.” In her case, therefore, the perispiritual links had nothing of the tenacity which results from the spirit’s self-identification with material things; it may be said, moreover, that, her physical life being weakened by her long illness, her soul was only held to the body by a few threads; it was these threads that she tried to prevent from breaking. But she was repaid for this resistance by the prolongation of her sufferings, which were due to the nature of her illness and not to any difficulty of disengagement; and therefore, when the latter had taken place, the mental confusion was of short duration.
Another point, equally important, that is rendered evident by the results of this evocation – as in the greater number of evocations of any given spirit, made at various times, more or less distant from the moment of death – is the change which gradually takes place in the ideas of the spirit, and of which we are able to follow the progress; in the case now under notice, this change is shown, not by the awakening of better feelings, but by more correct appreciation of the facts of existence. The progress of the soul after death is, therefore, a fact proven by experience; life in the flesh is the practical application of the progress thus made by the soul in the other world, the test of its new resolves, the arena in which it accomplishes a new degree of its purification.
If the soul progresses after death, it is clear that its fate is not irrevocably fixed at death, for the fixation of its fate would be, as we have already shown, the negation of progress. It being impossible that fixation and progress can exist simultaneously, we must accept, of these two alternatives, the one that has the double sanction of reason and of experience.