La guérisseuse

by Peter Fraenkel

A good few years ago, when we were still living in at St. Martin Valmeroux in France,  Merran developed very painful and very itchy spots around her waist.

“Mosquito bites” I assured her, “ will calm down”. But it got worse so we went to see Dr. Fournier, the local G.P. a highly regarded medical man. He was also the mayor of our village. He diagnosed zona – shingles – often a very painful condition.

“Treatment? You’ll find this difficult to believe. I find it difficult myself but – all the locals swear by a woman – a  faith healer in a neighbouring village. I don’t believe in mumbo-jumbo myself but I have to admit I have seen some remarkable cures. It may be worth trying.

Merran was puzzled. This … a rational doctor? But she was in pain so we went to see the lady healer. … a simple, friendly peasant woman. Merran told her immediately she had no faith in faith healing. “That doesn’t matter – as long as I believe. This is a gift passed on to me by my uncle before he died. He had been a well-known guerriseur. He put his hands on me and after that I discovered I could cure shingles ..and some other conditions.

So – she put two hands on Merran who Sat slumped on a chair – and I helped her up.

“Any effect?” I asked as we were leaving.

“Nothing,” she said, “absolutely nothing.”

The healer lady refused payment. “It’s a gift from God.”

We made our way to our car. I opened the door. Merran held on to the open door for a few moments but not moving. Then she said: “Amazing! No pain! I’ve been in pain day and night for days. But now – nothing.”

Alas, it did not last very long. A fortnight or so later some pains returned so I took her back to the healer woman. She had gone to care for an ailing mother somewhere in the south. No, they did not know when she would be back. But she had left instructions.

She recommended another guerisseur in a nearby village. We were surprised to find this was a Catholic priest. He was not very welcoming. “I don’t know” he said “whether this can work with an Anglican”.

Merran refrained from telling him she considered herself an atheist and had been brought up a Presbyterian. She didn’t think he would know what that was.

His laying on of hands did nothing for her. Nothing at all. But over the next few months her shingles got better – agonizingly slowly.

But she always remained puzzled by that first, effective laying on of hands and would quote Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”