THE FINAL Journey Of Jean Meziere

Stricken by cancer, a gifted photographer enters the netherworld of faith healers and quack cures.

THE SMELL OF EUCALYPTUS AND THE sound of soothing music filled a bedroom of the large old brick house. The curtains were drawn against the sun, and candles, placed in front of icons depicting Christ and Mary, flickered in the dim room. But those in the room were watching the hands-thick, powerful hands that hovered over the thin, emaciated frame of a dying man. Desperate, like many others who were terminally ill, Jean Meziere and his wife had driven from Dallas to Duncan, Oklahoma, looking to those hands for a miracle.

Lying on a high table, clad only in underwear, Jean stared as the hands of Max Piados pressed on his skin, then seemed to plunge into his chest up to the palm. Oddly, though no anesthetic was used, the patient felt no pain, no fear, just anticipation. Blood pooled around Piados’s fingers and Jean seemed to feel his fingers groping around inside his body. With a gasp, Piados pulled a mass of bloody tissue from Jean’s chest cavity, The skin seemed to close, remarkably showing no opening, not even a scratch where Piados’s fingers had entered.

“I removed the core of your tumor,” Piados said as he displayed the purplish ball with strings of sinew in the dim light. “It’s you who must now heal the fingers of your tumor.”

So it was up to Jean. It wasn’t the first time he and his wife had heard those words, and it wouldn’t be the last. They had come to Duncan to try “psychic surgery” as performed by Piados, a Filipino in his forties who went by the name “Brother Max.” A month later, a silver-haired evangelist at the Word of Faith church in Carrollton would echo the same idea. “Jesus will heal you if you have enough faith” shouted Norvell Hayes to an emotional audience of 2,000, which roared as Jean rose from his stretcher.

And then there was the Mexican cancer clinic, acupuncture, past-life regression, rebirthing, channeling of spirit guides, enzyme injections, healing crystals. All promised healing, and all were accompanied by the caveat: Jean Meziere-and those around him-had to believe it would work. Or he would die.

An esteemed French photographer who had come to the Southwest for “the purity of the light,” Meziere had spent his artistic career looking for a better truth, for a purer reality. And when death approached, the intensely intellectual Meziere suspended his usual cynicism and began a frantic search for a miracle.

Like many sick people who seek desperately after cures, willing to try anything no matter how bizarre, Jean Meziere wanted to believe all the promises. It didn’t matter where it came from; he was as willing to try New Age techniques as old-time religion. His wife and many of his friends encouraged, even pushed him in his search. There was a feeling that because these “alternative healers” didn’t charge a lot of money-and real doctors charged thousands-they must be in it for altruistic reasons. Few were willing to voice their opinions that he was being bamboozled by those who prey on the sick and dying.

Their attitude was: who knows? Maybe it was a scam. But as long as there was a chance, any chance, that it would work, it was worth a try, even though Jean’s frenetic search turned his life into a living hell. They cared about him too deeply to believe the doctor’s diagnosis: terminal cancer. Right or wrong, it’s an attitude that has built a multibillion-dollar industry of worthless nostrums, psychic surgeons, faith healers, religious shrines, and quack clinics, all holding out the same bait: you can be healed if you only. ..

But Meziere’s wife and friends didn’t know that two years later Brother Max would confess on camera to an investigative journalist that he was using trickery to deceive Jean and the hundreds of people who visited his clinic for $50 “surgery” sessions. That the Mexican cancer clinic was really a place where rich people from the United States came to have their faces peeled. Nor did they know that, despite the fact that his death betrayed their empty promises, the Word of Faith church would try to turn his 1986 memorial service-arranged by the widow as a kind of revenge-into a recruiting session for its own brand of faith-healing fundamentalism.

PETE KELLY DIDN’T KNOW how Jean did it. It was the spring of 1985: they were traveling through the hot towns and deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, shooting pictures for Jean’s first book, Echoes. It was to be the French artist’s vision of the American Southwest-the intense colors, the spaciousness, the purity of the light. The two men. both photographers, would be looking at the same thing-a mesa, a billboard, a used-car lot. And Jean Meziere would see something different, something special. The light. The shapes. The tension. And he’d capture it with a camera.

It was something everyone who knew Jean commented on. Obsessed with the southwestern United States, he had an ability to find something in its nature no one else could see, to transform its reality into another reality, one he liked better. His wife remembers a trip they took to California. In New Mexico. Jean suddenly stomped on the brakes of the car, seeing something he wanted to photograph. “To me it looked like an ugly, broken-down tank truck,” Lynne says. “But he knew it was something else. He could feel it.” The resulting photograph is a surreal image-you might guess that it was a precious piece of brilliant red pottery superimposed on an intensely blue sky against a barren landscape. The reality is more mundane-the red tank on the truck, shot from the back.

As they worked their way across the West, Pete Kelly, who had met Jean when the photographer was guest artist at North Texas State University and Kelly was a student, listened and learned from the man who had become his friend and mentor. At thirty-nine, Jean’s life was just beginning. His reputation was building, Taylor Publishing was releasing his first book. And his first child was due in September.

But unknown to Kelly, something was wrong. Jean, long convinced that he would die as a young man, was feeling weaker than usual. He was beset by coughing fits. One of the last pictures he took on the trip was an image of himself-his shadow stretching into California’s Death Valley. An omen perhaps? After the trip was over, he went to France to teach for six weeks. On a street corner, gripped by a coughing fit. Jean pleaded with “God or the powers that be” to let him live long enough to see his child.

Lynne traces Jean”s belief that he would die young back to his unusual childhood. According to her, Jean was the fourth child born to a Catholic couple who lived in Cort de Fontaine, a small French village near Geneva. When Jean was two months old, he had been taken from his sick mother and sent to live with his maternal grandparents. Though the doctor told his mother “no more children,” she continued to get pregnant. After the birth of her eighth child, she and the baby died. Jean was nine years old. The grandmother blamed the father, and her bitterness infected Jean.

As a boy, Jean was a gifted runner and cyclist. At twelve, he had won regional tournaments and was preparing to go to national competitions. But his father refused to pay his way. About the same time, teachers were encouraging his father to send the bright student to a more advanced school; that his father also refused. At thirteen, Jean rebelled, dropping out of school. His father gave custody of Jean to the state, and he was sent to a home for juvenile delinquents.

“It was like prison,” says Lynne. “He had to defend himself from criminals.” Stone floors, hard wooden beds, no heat. When most boys were discovering girls and playing sports, Jean was locked up. “They used to cut their arms with broken bottles and razors so they’d be sent to the hospital” as a temporary release, says Lynne. The experience left Jean with a deep-seated anger and resentment for his father. This tormented adolescence may have been the source of Jean Meziere’s desire to visualize a more congenial reality.

After getting out of the juvenile home at eighteen, Jean studied economics in Paris, putting himself through school. A master’s degree in hand, Jean went to work for European companies in Africa as a comptroller. But the business world bored him. In the early Seventies, he took his savings and moved back to Europe, taking courses at the university in Geneva in philosophy. When he was about twenty-four, he bought his first camera and started shooting. From the beginning he was successful, selling prints to galleries in Geneva.

After tinkering with the idea of buying a motorcycle and touring Spain, he changed his mind. Jean packed up his camera and went to. . .Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now if most photographers were given an opportunity to visit any place on the face of the earth to shoot pictures, it’s safe to say Tulsa would be far down on their lists. But Jean wanted to visit America; the only address he had was the Tulsa residence of a woman he had met in Paris. When he arrived, Jean was completely, wholly captivated. He loved the modern architecture, the spacious sky. In Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, he found a vividness and purity of color that vibrated. Later, he told music critic Bruce Nixon of the Dallas Times Herald: “For me, the Southwest is like a musical silence. I’m just passing by. For me, the light and color has a timeless feeling. It’s powerful.” In 1978, he was awarded a Kodak grant-he could go anywhere in the world to do personal research on color photography. He chose to stay in Tulsa.

Lynne Weber met Jean on Easter Sunday in 1978. Originally from Ohio, she was studying child development at Oklahoma State University, where Jean was teaching workshops. Like most people who met Jean, she was immediately drawn to him. His muscular six-foot frame was draped in constantly rumpled clothes. His face was dominated by large, expressive eyes and, crowned with a mane of wild brown hair topped by a beret, Jean looked like Hollywood’s vision of a French artist. But his personality was irresistible. His French accent and dancing eyes charmed women and men alike.

When they met, Jean was planning to return to Europe; his visa was about to expire. But six weeks later, Jean and Lynne got married. Lynne liked European men-she felt they were more able to express their feelings, to be tender. But she also realized there was another side to Jean. “He was typically French-very cynical, always complaining,” she says, smiling. He was difficult to live with.

His friends felt it too. Relationships were always blowing up, to be started up again when things cooled down. “He tested people,” says Pete Kelly. “Then when you got angry, he’d back off and apologize. You’d be furious at him, but you’d still want to go be with him. He had this magnetic personality.” For a straight man in America, where male friendships often are as deep as the bonding in beer commercials, it was an unusual feeling. It also helps to explain why later, few of his friends would tell Jean he was being deceived. They respected him and his need to be in control of his life.

The Mezieres planned to settle in California. They loved the lushness and the easy lifestyle. But the light wasn’t right for his art. They came to Dallas in August 1979, where Jean could support his art photography with commercial and fashion work. His fashion shots became instantly distinguishable from anyone else’s work-graphic, saturated in color. Though he could have made an excellent living doing fashion, he seemed not to care about making money. Jean would work for others several days a month, then take off to do his own work.

The Mezieres’ lives in Dallas were difficult, but rewarding. Jean was creating, doing shows at galleries, receiving critical acclaim from art critics here and in Europe, where his work appeared often in photography magazines. He also taught photography workshops at area colleges, where his students, armed with thousands of dollars of equipment, would discover that he used an old Nikkormat with filters that were dirty and bent, that nature was his studio, and that he disdained the “tricks” of the trade. When he was shooting, it was as if he were in a trance; he’d trip over holes in the ground or burn himself with cigarettes, forgotten in his fingers.

In early 1985, Taylor Publishing agreed to print Jean’s first art book. Using the advance, he and Kelly spent five or six weeks shooting in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. On his return, Lynne was struck by what he chose for the last photograph in the book: the picture of his shadow in Death Valley. But though he was weak and tired, Jean didn’t see a doctor or tell anyone how he felt.

In September, his son, also named Jean, was born. He should have been on top of the world. The joys of family and career, however, were overshadowed by his fears. Though he loved his son, Jean confessed to Lynne that he was fearful of the increased demands of being a father. For the first time in his life, he began to think of ways to make more money.

Book production began in February 1986. In March, Jean began to lose a lot of weight. He couldn’t sleep, and his back and shoulders began to ache constantly. On the advice of a friend, he went to an acupuncturist. “He did several treatments,” Lynne says, “but the pain got worse.”

On June 19, a friend who was a doctor made some X-rays. Mysteriously, one of Jean’s lungs appeared to be collapsed. The next day, after thorough tests, Jean and Lynne were given the terrible news. Jean had cancer of the pleural cavity, a rare disease that they were told was related to exposure to asbestos. The tumor had grown so large that it had pushed the lung aside and had moved into his back and shoulder. The prognosis: inoperable, untreatable with chemotherapy or radiation. Jean had perhaps a few months to live.

“We were totally in shock,” Lynne says. “I refused to accept what the doctors said. I knew Jean was going to live.” She remembered the times he had spoken of dying young, because his mother had died at thirty-seven. It seemed as if he had willed himself to have cancer. Well, she decided, if Jean, a man with a powerful will, could make him-self sick, he could heal himself as well.

Neither she nor Jean was religious. Lynne had grown up Methodist, but as an adult practiced Transcendental Meditation and was in-terested in New Age thought. Reared a Catholic, Jean had read extensively about Eastern spirituality. Now, they investigated philosophies that promised Jean could conquer the cancer with his mind or will. After they told friends and family the doctor’s grim prognosis, the Mezieres began to gel phone calls: try this technique, try that diet. Everyone close to Jean seemed to react the same way. It can’t V be true. Jean, of all people, will not die. They feared for him, and they feared for themselves.

At the Alphabiotic New Life Center in North Dallas, Lynne and Jean got a list of alternative healing methods. Lynne says she was eager to help Jean try some of the techniques, but she wanted Jean to make a commitment to follow the procedures. If his mind and will were not wholeheartedly involved, she believed that whatever they tried would be a waste of time. But Jean repeatedly told her he wanted to try whatever new method came along.

They first turned to past-life regression, which supposedly would release tensions in this life and any “previous lives” that might be causing disease. The sessions cost $65 apiece. On the first visit, a woman named Sandra led Jean into deep relaxation through hypnosis-like techniques, then had him live through traumatic events.

“It did release a lot of anger,” Lynne says. Jean came back from one session furious, rushed to the phone and called several relatives in France, including his father, whom he blasted for putting him in prison. But after attending several sessions, he was still in pain; there was no change in his condition.

They tried rebirthing. The idea was to use deep-breathing techniques to return to the birth trauma, confront pain, deal with it. and thus be cleansed and cured. Jean had just one session, which was paid for by a friend. The technique supposedly relied on deep breathing to work; by this time Jean had only one lung and couldn’t breathe deeply. Skeptical, he quit going.

They also tried channeling. Sandra set up a session with a woman who claimed that she could contact Jean’s “spirit guides.’” She went to the channeler and took tapes of the session to Jean and Lynne. While the channeler appeared to be in a trance, “voices” spoke through her, telling Jean to rid himself of anger, to make “positive affirmations’* about people and life. When the guides were asked if Jean could be healed, they replied: ’’You’re your own doctor; you can heal yourself.”

Listening to the session left Jean frustrated. Lynne says that Jean didn’t understand what the so-called spirit guides meant. “He didn’t know how to heal himself,” she says. Before leaving, the guides provided a clue. They recommended a “cleansing” diet of brown rice and white grapes. Here was something concrete. Lynne bought the food, and though Jean protested, she made him eat it and refused to let him have anything else. To his friends, it seemed that starvation would get him before the cancer did.

Lynne and Jean decided to try another tack. A biochemist who had been giving Jean injections of vitamins and minerals wanted to give him intravenous treatments of medications, such as laetrile, that would battle the cancer. The man couldn’t legally do it in the United States, so he recommended a “cancer clinic” in Tijuana, Mexico. The clinic, which cost several thousand dollars (paid for through donations from friends and supporters because the Mezieres were broke), was supposed to provide medical monitoring and a healthy diet. Because Lynne had to stay at home with the baby, Jean, too weak to gel on and off the plane without help, flew to San Diego with Charles Thatcher, another photographer and close friend. Though Thatcher was skeptical-and in fact was very angry about the way his friend was being manipulated by what he believed were scams-he never expressed his doubts, wanting to show his support and love. The two were picked up at the airport by a Mexican doctor and his family in a Mercedes stuffed with bags from a San Diego shopping spree.

The clinic turned out to be a huge old villa overlooking the city of Tijuana. Thatcher says it was overrun with rich people, their faces covered with bandages, drinking pina coladas through straws. They were recuperating from collagen treatments and face peelings. It was not a cancer clinic; there was no regimen of healthy food; there wasn’t even any medicine.

The doctor promised the medicine would arrive soon. After admitting that Jean had been stung for several thousand dollars, the two men sat back and soaked up the sun, making jokes about the other “patients,” who looked like pigs with their noses pulled back by bandages. Jean even took some photographs, but his nights were excruciating. Thatcher says Jean was in extreme pain, crying out at night. But Thatcher did not recommend that they leave. ’’What could I do?” Thatcher says. “My friend was dying. I had nothing else to offer him. except to be there without telling him what to do. And everybody was telling him what to do, especially Lynne.” After several days, he flew home. In July of 1986 Lynne encouraged Jean to visit a psychic surgeon. It was here that the letdown was the greatest, because the psychic surgeon truly did appear to perform a miracle: the removal of Jean’s tumor without surgical instruments.

IN JULY, THROUGH THE MACROBIOTIC CEN-ter in Dallas. Jean and Lynne heard about Brother Max-a so-called psychic surgeon who claimed to use “magnetic” healing to perform surgery without cutting tissues. Well known in the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico, psychic surgeons are medically untrained healers who, using only their alleged psychic ability, claim to reach inside a stricken patient and remove diseased tissue, leaving only a pool of blood on the surface of the skin. The Mezieres had heard of the technique and saw very convincing pictures of a psychic surgeon in action. They were intrigued; Jean had been in a great deal of pain. This could be the cure.

They were given a phone number in Duncan, Oklahoma; it seemed that Brother Max no longer was coming through Dallas since another Filipino psychic surgeon, Romy Bugarin, had been thrown in jail in Dallas for fraud. They were told that literally hundreds of people from Dallas were making the pilgrimage to the city just across the Texas border. Lynne, Jean, their baby, and her mother made the trip in mid-July.

Setting up the session was easier than getting into Parkland Hospital. “You just call and tell them you’re coming,” Lynne says. “They don’t guarantee you’ll even see them, They may work one day and lose all their power and leave.”

But the day they arrived at the house where the “clinic” was set up. they were greeted by Marie Jackson, an older woman who owned the house with her husband Hubert. She showed the new arrivals a scrapbook with graphic pictures of the surgeon at work; many were of Mrs. Jackson clad only in panties, with bloody “tumors” being removed from her body.

It appeared that the psychic surgeon, “Brother Max” Piados, a kindly, soft-spoken Filipino, would have his power that day. In midmorning Lynne and Jean gathered in the front room with Marie, Brother Max, and about twenty other people who had come to the clinic from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. All appeared prosperous-middle to upper class. In a circle, led by Brother Max, the group said the Lord’s Prayer and asked the power of Jesus to come into the house. But though he used the same words, the Mezieres had the impression that this had nothing in common with the Christianity they knew from their childhoods.

Though Lynne had nothing wrong with her. Brother Max insisted on working on her first if she wanted to be in the room when it was Jean’s turn. She’s not sure why. “Maybe so I wouldn’t freak out,” Lynne says. Or perhaps to earn an extra $50.

She entered a dimly lit room saturated with the scent of eucalyptus and incense. Soothing music played and candles flickered. Dressed only in panties, Lynne lay on a masseuse table, where her feet were gently massaged by a male Filipino assistant.

Then Brother Max began. His hands went to what he called her “third eye.” pressing hard on the place on her forehead that some New Agers believe has spiritual sight. She says it felt as if Brother Max’s hands were going into her head; blood dripped down her forehead. Then he moved to her solar plexus, “cleaning it out,” telling her that she had been under a lot of stress-not a surpris-ing diagnosis for a woman whose husband was dying of cancer.

Max talked to her quietly, gently about meditation, about transcending the stress. Then he went to her abdomen, hands hovering, and told her she had a blockage in a Fallopian tube. His hands pressed, appearing to disappear into her body. Then it seemed as if Brother Max pulled something from her insides; he held up a bit of tissue that he tossed in a small bowl next to the table. “It looked a little bit like chicken fat-kind of whitish, with a little blood.’” Lynne says. That ended the session, which lasted about five minutes. It seemed as if Brother Max truly had miraculous abilities. “I felt good, refreshed, balanced. Spiritually, it was a powerful experience.” Lynne says.

Jean, thin, haggard, wearing only his underwear, was now brought in and placed on the table. Lynne was allowed to watch from several feet away.

Brother Max worked quickly, his hands moving over Jean’s torso. He immediately went to Jean’s side-the site of his cancer. Lynne was impressed because they hadn’t told Brother Max Jean’s ailment. (However, they had told Mrs. Jackson.) The man’s powerful hands pressed down, his fingers appearing to dip into Jean’s body, pulling out a ball of purplish tissue with stringy sinews attached. Then he had Jean turn on his stomach, and. apparently putting his hand into Jean’s body up to the palm, he pulled out some bloody tissue shaped like a slice of pie. Blood dripped onto Jean’s back. The operation was over within five minutes.

Finished, he spoke to Jean: “I have removed the core of your tumor, but it is you who must heal the fingers of your tumor.”

“What must I do?” Jean haltingly asked.

“You must have faith.”

“How do I do that?”

“Try to believe in Jesus,” Brother Max replied.

The Mezieres stayed in Duncan three days, sleeping at a motel. Jean had five or six sessions-for a total of several hundred dollars. Before they returned home, Brother Max told them not to get any X-rays for six months; they would destroy the “magnetic healing.” It also meant they wouldn’t be able to find out whether the cancer was truly gone.

“When Jean left, he felt great,” Lynne says. “I had never seen him so energized. He was very optimistic and relatively pain-free.” The mind can be a powerful tonic-but the relief lasted only a few days before the pain returned with a vengeance. Lynne says Jean began to doubt that he had been healed.

In early September, the Mezieres, at Jean’s insistence, made a second trip to Duncan to see Brother Max. They told him they had no money. He did two sessions, then impatiently sent them home, saying that he had done all he could, that Jean had to cure himself.

In mid-September, they turned to another direction. Mind power hadn’t worked; magnetic healing hadn’t worked; maybe God would work. A friend named Melody, a member of Word of Faith church in Car-rollton, told Jean about a traveling evangelist-healer named Norvell Hayes who was coming to Word of Faith. She wanted to take Jean to the services.

By now, the intense pain made it difficult for Jean to walk. Arriving at the church, he was strapped to a hand-carried stretcher so that he wouldn’t fall off, then carried to the front of the sanctuary.

With some 5,000 members, the decade-old Carrollton church was started by Bob Tilton, who preaches a “name-it-and-claim-it” gospel. If you want wealth, he preaches, it can be yours in abundance. If you want health, disease will flee from you just by speaking to it. The church’s now-defunct four-color newspaper used to proclaim “The Lame Walk and the Blind See,” along with the pictures of Hayes and Tilton praying at “miracle” services. But former staff members interviewed say that they never saw any miracles, “at least not like Jesus did.” In spite of this, crutches are nailed to the walls of the church, like trophies of healings past.

Tall, fiftyish, dressed in a dark business suit, Norvell Hayes stood in the Plexiglas pulpit, preaching in a matter-of-fact tone, emphasizing his points by occasionally raising his voice-not the typical image of a romping, stomping faith healer. A large satellite dish beamed the faith-healing services the Mezieres attended to about 500 churches across the country.

“If you are dying of a disease, you don’t have to die,” he proclaimed to the crowd of 2,000. “You can be healed.” Within the thirty or forty minutes of his sermon, he mentioned cancer more than thirty times. Finally, Hayes asked for the sick and dying to come forward, and a surge of people pressed to the front.

Hayes moved among the throng, placing his hands on the foreheads of those waiting for prayer. Invariably, the people would fall to the floor, “slain in the spirit.” Earlier, he told the crowd that “the power just oozes from my right hand.” Now, Hayes moved to Jean’s stretcher and. speaking in tongues, placed that hand on Jean’s head.

Nothing happened and Hayes moved to the next person. While Hayes prayed for others to be healed, those behind Hayes kept nervously turning back to Jean. Something was happening.

Then several of those surrounding Jean stood, hands to their faces, tears streaming down their cheeks. Wobbly, with his hands held aloft, Jean walked slowly past Hayes, like a child taking his first steps, to the front of the church. Jean bowed his head to the platform as he rested on his forearms, grimacing as he forced air into his one functional lung.

“Arise and walk and be healed!” Hayes yelled to the crowd. “It’s empty, it’s empty, I’m telling you!” he shouted as he pointed at the vacant stretcher. The crowd roared even louder. “God’s power in Jesus’ name! Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name. ..”

Of course, no one ever told the crowd that Jean could walk when he arrived at the church. Lynne wanted to believe her husband was healed, but she was uncomfortable; to her it was “showbiz,” not spirituality.

The next day, they did not go to Word of Faith; Jean had to go to the hospital for antibiotics to combat pneumonia in his lungs, but Lynne later got the tapes from the service. On it, Hayes asked if Jean, “the artist from France,” was in the audience. On learning that he wasn’t, Hayes recounted in vivid detail how Jean had been “healed” after Melody gave a testimony to those assembled. She told how the doctors said, even before Jean came to them, that “as far as they were concerned, he was dead.”

Jean and Lynne attended the service the third night, arriving shortly after Hayes had given a plug for his “spiritual pilgrimage tours” to London and the Caribbean. Jean, pasty, down from 170 to 140 pounds, moved with difficulty as he was led to his seat. From the pulpit, Hayes noticed Jean. “They brought him here the first night on a stretcher, and they had to put belts around him to get him in here. He didn’t want to come. because the doctors told him that ’you’re the same as a dead man.’”

(Later, Lynne fumed, “That was a lie. He went of his own free will.”)

Hayes walked over to Jean, seated in the hard wooden seat, and asked him, “Feeling better, Jean?”

Jean replied, in a voice barely heard, “Not exactly. I tried to take a painkiller before coming, but it was only worse, and aaahh, what am I supposed to do?”

Then Jean turned to the congregation. “You beautiful people,” he said tenderly. “Your love is even more important than my life. Yes, your love is even more important than my life.”

Lynne says it was as if Jean, in compassion, was reaching out to those who truly, without pretense, wanted him to be healed. Jean wanted them to know their love was more important than his healing.

Lynne says she was almost converted by several of the Word of Faith people. They seemed sincere and their message of God’s love was appealing. She longed to believe that God would heal Jean, that God loved them. But though she came close, Lynne finally recoiled, rejecting the message Word of Faith members pushed. He was healed, they said. Now he had to have faith to hang on to his healing. It was all up to him.

But Lynne could see he wasn’t healed; in fact, his condition worsened. One morning, about a week after the healing services, Lynne awoke from sleep at 3 a.m. and was greeted by a bizarre scene. Four or five young men, some standing, some prone on the floor, surrounded Jean’s hospital bed in her living room. They were shouting and yelling, commanding that the sick man be healed, yelling at the devil, telling Satan to leave, that Jean was healed.

But after they left at 5 a.m., she called an ambulance. Jean couldn’t feel his legs. They took him to Parkland Hospital. The Word of Faith people came to pray at his bedside. (Through it all, Pete Kelly says, Jean didn’t lose his sense of humor. Once, after several young men stood over him praying, he looked up at one and said, “Nice tie.”)

After two weeks, the doctors sent Jean home. Lynne accepted the fact that he was going to die, and when she went home, she simply sat by Jean’s bed. Their marriage had been tumultuous; now they made peace. Jean had accepted his death too. For the last two weeks, he had seemed calm and serene. After praying for salvation with another Christian friend, Jean had called his father and reconciled.

Two days later, on October 22,1986, Jean Meziere died in his sleep.

The funeral was held at Word of Faith. Lynne, distressed, says she “wanted to show them it didn’t work.” She requested that the funeral be simple, allowing for his friends to share their experiences with Jean.

But even this last rite was troubled. The assistant pastor took the microphone and began a sermon that incorporated salvation as well as the devil and Russia. Lynne could hear the doors slamming as Jean’s friends got up and walked out of the church in disgust. The pastor invited the mourners to pay their respects to the widow. “But before they could get to me, they had to pass men handing out church literature,” Lynne says bitterly. “It was his memorial service. They took that from him too.”

The last straw was Melody’s whispered consolation: “Jean had a choice. He chose to die.” Lynne remembers thinking: “You people have an answer for everything.” All of them-from Brother Max Piados to Nor-vell Hayes-had an out: Jean didn’t have enough faith.

Today, two years later, some of the anger remains. Jean’s friends still have a difficult time talking about his death. Seven months after Jean’s death, Lynne married Jean’s best friend, Loys Quenson. Another son was born eight months ago.

She is still upset about the way she and Jean were exploited by everyone who promised healing miracles when the Mezieres were most susceptible.

“Where were the TV cameras when his ashes were up on the stage? Where was Robert Tilton? Where was Norvell Hayes?” she asks. “People like Brother Max will one day receive their due for their deception.”

What Lynne regrets most is that she and Jean didn’t spend their remaining time peacefully, facing death together. She would not allow Jean to write a will; that might have been admitting that he was going to die. He did it behind her back.

Her hair now prematurely gray. Lynne doesn’t place all the blame on the deceivers. “We’re responsible for our lives. They are there because we’re willing to be deceived. When you’re weak and vulnerable, it’s so easy to be manipulated.”

It’s one thing to manipulate reality withlight viewed through the lens of a camera.It’s another when the reality is a man’s life.And death.


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