Bouissou, Madame Michael - What I should like is to hear my child live through your words; I should like to hear you speak of her as though she were still living
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of a Sensitive – Madame Michael Bouissou
SOMEONE had rung up in the morning for an appointment. When I opened the door of the small salon I used as a waiting-room I saw a very frail woman with a tired face sitting there, apparently reading peacefully. I cannot say exactly what struck me in her attitude unless perhaps it was a feeling of "absence". She seemed to have come from far away and only to see one through a kind of mist.
When she stood up to follow me into my study I had a full view of her and she appeared to be weighed down by an invisible burden. She sat down and carefully placed on her knees a light cardboard box tied up with a pale coloured ribbon. She remained silent, and when I spoke to her I automatically lowered my voice as if I were talking to an invalid.
When I asked her what particular subjects interested her she turned a pair of melancholy, dark-ringed eyes upon me; they looked feverish and full of grief. She was young and should have been pretty, but her face was no more than a pale, tormented mask with a mouth innocent of lipstick, pursed as though to withhold a complaint. She was elegant but somehow in spite of herself.
One felt that she had put on these discreet clothes, almost luxurious in their cut and the subtlety of their detail, with complete indifference. She listened to me and then in a dull, rather panting voice replied, as if the words had been learnt by heart,
"I have lost my little girl and I should like with the help of this small dress I have here to . . . "
I interrupted her perhaps a little curtly; thinking that I was in the presence of a grieving spiritualist. I did not want to leave her for one moment under the wrong impression. I told her firmly that she had been misinformed as to the nature of my work. Slightly exasperated as a result of various unwelcome interviews with confirmed spiritualists and ardent proselytisers, I explained that I did not practise this art; that she had come to the wrong address and suggested the Maison des Spirites, rue Copernic. I began to stand up in order to convince her of the futility of continuing with the conversation, but she stopped me with a slight gesture and, looking at me with her haggard eyes, said,
"I'm not a spiritualist. I don't know the whereabouts of my child's soul. I don't even know whether you, I or she has a soul. What I should like is to hear her live through your words. Try and understand. Everyone speaks to me of the child I have lost as they would of a dead person : my suffering and my mourning terrify them. They leave me in embarrassment, and the words they stammer out only make me more aware of my terrible, irreparable loss. You did not know her, and people tell me that you can describe and analyse people you have never seen if something belonging to them is placed in your hands. I should like to hear you speak of her as though she were still living. . . describe her features, her gestures and to see her alive for one moment, yes, for one moment, even through you, who did not know her and do not know that she is dead.
I have brought a dress, a little dress in which I have seen her run about and speak . . live in fact. Don't refuse me this favour. I know you can do it. It was her body and her life I loved. Of what importance to me is a remote, banished, unknown soul? Don't refuse me this, I beg of you. Look, here is her dress."
She put down on my table a charming, fragile little dress, a dress perfectly suited to a happy child who, as she jumped about, must have made it very difficult to fasten the tiny mother-of-pearl buttons.
I was moved by this strange request. I had never imagined a seance conducted in this way. In the eyes of this woman, staring at me during her sad request, I could see such sorrow and deep misery, calling for the help of the illusion, however brief it might be, that I yielded, hoping with all my heart that I should succeed in this mad enterprise and restore, even if only for a moment, the living child to this mother, half crazed by her absence and by her eternal silence. I told her that I would try, and placing the little dress next to my black mirror I slipped my fingers gently into the embroidered sleeves and began my reading.
In the course of previous experiments I had already noticed that death destroys only very slowly the fluid with which the living being impregnates rooms, garments, books and ornaments-in fact everything that surrounds or forms part of its life. The size of this small garment showed that it had been worn by someone who had had a very short life, but I had also learnt that the vital impregnation left by a child or a young person was infinitely stronger than that with which old people marked their everyday surroundings. I hoped, therefore, that, supported by the desperate appeal of the mother, a woman of an obviously ardent and passionate temperament and by my own very acute desire to succeed, this chimerical séance would be good, and it was. My hand on the little sleeve and my eyes concentrated on the black screen, I saw appear the images of this short life, clear, bright-coloured and vivid. For a moment my eyes wandered to the mother.
Lying back in the big armchair, her head averted and her hand over her eyes, she was listening, prostrated as are only those who for one moment are free of an unbearable sorrow.
The images on my screen succeeded each other without chronological sequence, rather as if I had turned over the pages of a photograph album which recorded the swift and innocent life of a happy and much-loved child. I chose my words carefully and took great care never to refer to the child in the past tense-this child which was now living once more for a few moments in her mother's mind.
From the professional point of view I was interested by the incoherence of the images, the screen repeatedly showing the image of a child of three or, alternately, a baby sleeping in its cradle or toddling for the first time.
Admitting that for mediums time is "static", as I have already said, would these images which I was going to decipher perhaps be those perceived by a child having as yet only a sensitive memory and marked in "time" by flashes?
There were few characters: the mother, a person whom she told me was the nurse; but, on the other hand, many pictures of gardens, sunlight, flowers and a dog which, so the prostrate woman groaned out, was still alive. And then suddenly, on the screen, a cloudy sky, freshly gathered flowers, a bush wrestling with the wind.. . . I fell silent and a strangely deformed image of a child's cot, huge, black and threatening shapes, perhaps those of the doctors seen by the dying child, unfolded slowly and disappeared.
It was over. With a feeling of icy cold I withdrew my hand from the little sleeve.
The mother sat up and with a momentary glance of relief murmured, as though to herself, "Yes, that's it. That's exactly it." Gently and carefully she wrapped the little dress in its tissue paper. Suddenly she raised her head to listen. From the other end of the apartment we could hear the voices of my two young fiends quarrelling as usual.
They had chosen the perfect moment! However, my client continued to arrange the dress in the little box. With a casual movement she slipped a strand of hair beneath her hat and said, "Ah, you have children ?" I could only bow my head before this mother who had suffered such a grievous loss. She laid an envelope on my desk and said, "Will you please buy with this some toys for them as a reminder of a little girl you have met?" Then she left, after thanking me, and, suddenly, as though coming out of a dream, added: "You won't see me again. Like the others, you know now that she is dead and you will never again be able to give her back to me alive as you did a moment ago.”
And I never did see her again.