An event allowed you to “emerge from the chaotic maze of mourning” into which the suicide of your son, Samuel, had plunged you in 2001. Why are you deciding to speak about it today?
What I called the improbable event – because totally unexpected and beyond all proof – occurred four years after Samuel’s death. I waited fifteen years to write this testimony because at the time, my editor would not have wanted it. Since then, minds have evolved towards a greater openness to the invisible world, for example through the numerous testimonies of near-death experiences (EMI). And compassion for so many inconsolable people after the death of a child, a loved one, pushed me to write.
What is this event?
In June 2005, I went abroad to give a course on compassion, precisely, in a university setting. A public conference, in town, inaugurated the week of lessons: “Death. How to integrate the unintegrable.” A woman, Myriam, had ended up registering for my course, pressed to do so by several people, when she had no intention of doing so, nor the means. “Never mind, the special fund for destitute students will cover the amount of the course,” he was told. Even before the start of the conference, Myriam, seated at the back of the room, strongly felt a presence, almost palpable, so much so that her neighbor asked her what was going on. When I started the conference by talking about Samuel, our son who committed suicide, she immediately understood that she had perceived it.
Is Myriam a medium?
No, she has never experienced anything like it. The next day she came to talk to me. Indeed, at night, she had again perceived the pressing presence of Samuel, and his words: “Tell my mother that I love her!” All week, her nights have been altered by Samuel. In the morning, before class, she whispered very personal things to me.
You don’t wonder if your desire to regain a relationship with your son might lead you to believe…
No way! Anyone who has lost a child, especially by suicide, no longer has any desire except to go away with it.
Myriam also sends you a request for forgiveness from Samuel?
Yes, this “Mom, Dad, sorry” made me switch definitively to the side of the living. There was a before and an after. I felt deeply rehabilitated, even in the wounds of my childhood.
Have you been tested, child?
Destroyed! to say the least. What I went through should have made me autistic, or psychotic, therapists told me. Samuel also carried my story. His adolescence was very revolted.
What does “indifferentiation” mean in terms of seeking communication with a deceased person?
It is to remain “hooked” on the deceased, as we say in Switzerland, not to let him go, to maintain a close relationship with him. So, a part of oneself remains hostage to death, and one cannot “fully” love the Living. I would point out that I never sought any contact either with Samuel or with other deceased relatives. It came by itself. Samuel joins me very often.
A few days ago, I spoke on the Internet with a friend who lives abroad and whom I accompany spiritually. He tells me that he felt a strong pain in his heart as he was getting ready to go for a walk. Simultaneously, he hears: “Tell my mother that I love her.” He wonders if he’s not making a movie… I tell him that our exchange takes place on the very day of Samuel’s birthday, and that Myriam said the same thing to me at the start of “the event unlikely”.
Doesn’t your thinking move away from Protestant theology?
Not really. The Christian faith rests on the testimony of those who saw Jesus alive after his death. Saying that I am in a relationship with a close deceased is not fundamentally different from this experience of the first witnesses!
However, apart from the texts on the Resurrection, the New Testament says nothing about communication with the dead.
But if. On the road to Damascus, the crucified Jesus appears to Paul, alive, beyond the veil of death (Acts 9:1-6). And the Creed mentions the communion of saints. So, when my deceased loved one makes himself seen and heard, allowing me to feel that he lives differently, why hide the reality?
You note that the experiences of communication with the deceased are common to humanity, beyond beliefs.
Absolutely. In Africa and Asia, deceased, invisible ancestors are present. In the West, we have moved away from this perception. Nearly half of the French population does not believe in life after death*.
What do you say to bereaved people who would like to experience such moments?
I never wanted to live these events, and I think that voluntarism confines. To whom questions me, I answer that we receive more signs from the invisible than we believe. But also that our paths are different.
Does the experience of a relationship with a “living” deceased lead to God?
It heals from the fear of death and opens to the mystery of God. But God is beyond. Unspeakable.
* Ifop survey for Le Pèlerin, 2018: “Do you believe that there is life after death?” Yes: 31%. No: 49%.
1950: Born in Ralatea, French Polynesia
1971: Masters in Philosophy
1985-2002: Pastor in Geneva (Switzerland)
1994: Doctorate in Theology
1998: Professor of practical theology at the University of Lausanne
2001: Suicide of his eldest son, Samuel
2004: Professor of practical theology at the University of Neuchâtel
2014: Created the Association for Spiritual Accompaniment (Aaspir)
2022: Release of his book “This beyond that beckons us” published by Albin Michel
We would like to say thanks to the author of this article for this remarkable content
“I tipped over to the side of the living”, Lytta Basset
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