After eighteen hours of labor, the delivery was not going well at all, and it was too late for a c'sarean. I was exhausted. They decided to use forceps and so they gave me anesthesia through a mask. My experience began as I went off to sleep. It started with the dizzying sensation of falling backwards, and at the same time, I had the impression that I was falling forward, toward a point located at the base of my nose and in between my two eyes. As I was falling down a dark tunnel, I could hear a kind of strident ringing sound, which was silent at the same time. A bit like those whistling sounds that we sometimes have in our ear, but one thousand times more powerful and one thousand times more silent! That seems like an absurd thing to say, but it really was both sensations at once. It was as if all the alarms in the world were ringing at the same time, all inside of me.
At the far end of the tunnel, I saw a luminous point, which was approaching at a very high speed. I began to feel very sure of one thing. ‘If you cross into that light, you will then be dead.’ At the same time, I was in a state of total happiness and high excitement, and inside me. I was repeating this phrase over and over: ‘This is it! I’m going home!’
I was moving very fast, but I could still think clearly. Suddenly I remembered that I had had this same experience before, in my early childhood! I knew this light! I have to clarify that I had many health problems during my childhood. When I was eight, I had had a serious hemorrhage after my tonsil operation. In those days, where I lived, tonsillectomies were performed at home, which means that my parents had been present with me throughout, not out in a hospital waiting room. They told me later that they had been very scared that I might die. I had forgotten this incident, but, when I was in the tunnel, I knew that I had already made this trip. And at that moment, I also understood something that had haunted me all throughout my childhood.
As far back as I can remember, I had always felt certain that I was dreaming and did not belong to this world, and that I would wake up soon. I thought perhaps I belonged to a universe ten minutes before or ten minutes after the one in which I found myself, but that this one was not mine. But on my tenth birthday, I cried in despair as I resolved that I must accept what this voice was telling me: ‘All right, you are dreaming, but that dream is your life. You will not ‘wake up’ until the end of it.’ I would also like to clarify that when this occurred in 1960, we did not yet have a television, so I could not have been influenced by science fiction shows!
That is why, I think, I was filled with the certainty that I was going home.
When I arrived at the end of the tunnel, I saw a kind of doorstep. On the other side, there was an indescribable light, which I felt was like a substance composed of pure love. I thought, ‘It is a light from the fire of God!’ There was that one essential presence, and also there were beings whom I was sure I already knew, and who loved me. None of these presences of love had any form or face. We did not speak, but we understood each other.
I tried to enter, but I heard/felt, ‘Go back, for you have not yet done what you had to do.’ I tried to negotiate, because I wanted very much to enter. At the same time, (for everything was simultaneous) I was totally happy and totally intrigued, because I did not feel any sadness nor any worry for those I had left behind me. I did not understand why I felt no sadness, no regret, only the absolute desire to enter into that light.
I insisted on entering, but then I had the sensation of being taken by the shoulders and made to turn around, and of being pushed back in the direction from which I had come.
Instantly, I felt all the weight of my physical body and the sensation of a heavy haze, grey and oppressive. I heard, first from afar, then nearby, the voice of the wise-woman who was shouting into my ears, ‘Breathe! Good God, Breathe!’ And so I made a superhuman effort and breathed deeply. Then I fell right to sleep.
When I woke up from the anesthesia, and in the hours that followed, I had this phrase constantly in mind: ‘What have you done with your talents?’ I understood that it was the key to my return.
I am from a large family of very modest means. We lived in the countryside. My teachers always told my parents that I was gifted in the arts, and they helped me, supported me, lent me a musical instrument at the age of ten, and gave me free courses. Because of that, I studied music, went to the conservatory, etc. Then came the health problems, an unplanned pregnancy, an unstable marriage. In sum, when I had this experience, I had stopped everything.
After my experience, I always kept this phrase, ‘What have you done with your talents?’ in mind, convinced by that time that I had come here, into this material world, with a number of cards in my hand, and that I had the duty to do something with them.
In the years that followed, I started playing music again, I started writing, and I became a visual artist. Today, I believe, I have realized to the best of my abilities the talents that were given to me. I am convinced that art is a bridge between these universes. The one beyond the light and this world below.
Date NDE Occurred: 20 avril 1977
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Childbirth Other: 'Après 18 heures de travail, l'accouchement se présentait très mal et il était trop tard pour une césarienne. J'étais épuisée. Cela s'est produit au moment de m'endormir au masque avant d'utiliser les forceps.'
I was exhausted. Both, the baby and I had been suffering from a difficult delivery. When the doctor decided to use forceps, I would have done anything for the pain to stop. I learned that my daughter was being strangled by the umbilical cord. After she was born, she was immediately taken to a childcare center at the other end of Paris. The only thing they asked me when I regained consciousness was, ‘Would you like her to be baptized in the ambulance?’ It was then that I understood that we were not doing well
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
Did you feel separated from your body? No
I lost awareness of my body
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal I was experiencing things and I could analyze them at the same time.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? In the tunnel and at the doorstep of the light.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Incredibly fast
Were your senses more vivid than usual? More vivid than usual
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I don’t know if we should talk of ‘senses’ or of ‘knowledge.’ What I saw, which is indescribable in words, is the intensity of the light. But at the same time, I could ‘feel’ it. The light was love, presence, and compassion. Authority, too, when it said, ‘You have not done what you had to do.’
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. From my training as a musician, I have a refined ability to listen to and analyze sound, and what I experienced was very peculiar. Something like ‘the tremendous sound of absolute silence.’ I can’t express it otherwise.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
The experience included: Tunnel
Did you see any beings in your experience? I sensed their presence
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? An immense happiness and a very great exaltation. As if a moment of a great departure in my childhood. I was exactly saying, ‘This is it! I’m going home!’
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? No
The experience included: Boundary
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Slightly important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Christian- Catholic J'ai reçu une éducation chrétienne-catholique, mais à cette époque, j'étais plutôt en rupture avec cet environnement religieux.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I tried to live according to what I had discovered, feeling that religions, whichever ones they were, were much too narrow and restrictive.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Christian- Catholic J'ai pris conscience, par cette expérience, que les religions ici bas sont avant tout culturelles : je suis catholique parce que française. Surtout, elles sont une réduction, une minuscule ébauche par rapport à ce que j'ai pu éprouver et découvrir. Pour prendre une comparaison : c'est un lexique par rapport à une encyclopédie. En même temps, j'ai compris que les mots "Dieu est amour, Dieu est Lumière" etc. sont vraiment à prendre au sens strict. Mais cela, on le sait après.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was both consistent and not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience C'était comme une réminiscence de ce que je savais en arrivant ici bas et que j'avais fini par oublier durant ces 23 premières années de ma vie terrestre. Je suis retournée "à la maison". Comme on disait à l'église : "A la maison du père".
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I heard a voice I could not identify
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I sensed their presence
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? Yes De par ma culture chrétienne catholique, je me suis dit que si Dieu existait, c'était lui qui m'accueillait. En même temps, c'était bien au delà, bien plus fort que tout ce que j'avais pu apprendre et entendre au cours de mon éducation religieuse.
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? Yes J'ai eu la certitude que je rentrais chez moi, que ce monde était bien le mien comme je le pressentais dans ma conscience d'enfant.
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Uncertain Je pensais à des paroles qu'on disait le dimanche à la messe : "Dieu est amour, Dieu est lumière, Dieu notre père", et je songeais : mais c'est vrai ! on rabâche ça tous les dimanches sans avoir conscience que c'est la stricte vérité !
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God definitely exists
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? Yes J'ai eu la certitude que la lumière qui m'accueillait ETAIT un être d'amour. J'ai pensé : "une lumière du feu de Dieu"
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God definitely exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? Uncertain Par cette phrase – Qu'as tu fait de tes talents ? – qui s'est imposée durablement à moi, j'ai eu la certitude qu'on venait ici avec une mission précise. On nous donne des cartes, en quelque sorte, et à nous de faire au mieux avec ce jeu là.
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife probably exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes J'ai eu conscience que, dans cette lumière, était la “vraie” vie, que j'en étais issue et que j'y retournais.
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Moderately fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? No
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Slightly compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes La certitude que les paroles du psaume "Dieu est amour, Dieu est lumière“ sont une réalité qui transcende toutes les religions et toutes les représentations qu'on peut se faire de Dieu.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes It seems that I have learned to distinguish between the essential and the superfluous, or accessory. Especially, I no longer fear death nor sickness. I am not afraid to move forward anymore. On that day, I acquired a confidence that had been completely missing beforehand.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes Everything is difficult to describe. The simultaneity, the intensity, the certainty, and the unusual nature of the sensations and feelings.
Later, I told of my experience in the form of a short story. (I won the Short Story Prize in 1985.) I wanted to express it, but I needed to put it on paper because I did not dare speak about it to anyone. I was afraid people would think that I was crazy.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience J'ai eu beaucoup d'ennuis de santé, et plusieurs anesthésies dont certaines de plusieurs heures. Je n'ai gardé aucun souvenir précis , ni physiquement ni mentalement, de toutes ces opérations, et heureusement, alors que le souvenir de cette expérience là est toujours parfaitement net et précis.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I was convinced of its reality because, from the start of the experience, I had the awareness of having gone on this journey before, and that all of this was known to me. I was absolutely convinced that I was going home.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real All that has happened in my life since has only convinced me of the truth of what I experienced in those moments.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Uncertain Since then, I have a sense of being ‘accompanied.’ Perhaps because I am more attentive, a voice in my head frequently imposes itself upon me, pushing aside my thoughts, to counsel me. I have acquired the habit of following its advice without resistance. It always turns out to be for my own good and that of others.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? This questionnaire seems to me to be well designed and complete.