Four years after the initial round of press abuses, after the false narrative around Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon had been firmly set, the media unleashed another round of sensationalism.
At the centre of the latest ‘scandal’ was a woman, Judith McIntyre, who did not have the opportunity to defend herself, neither from the press abuse nor from her own children’s legal action, she had died from breast cancer the previous year.
The circumstances of her death were in fact glorious.
She had been at the centre of supporting a community model of palliative care with the potential not only to save future governments millions in health care costs but also to bring communities together and demystify one of the greatest taboos of our culture – the process of Death and Dying.
The previous year, Judith McIntyre had utilised the model in conjunction with its pioneer and her then complementary healing practitioner Serge Benhayon.
Serge contacted Elizabeth Dolan, a Registered Nurse trained in Palliative Care, who became Judith’s coordinator of medical care, coordinating treatments between palliative care services, GP and medical specialists.
Ingrid Langenbruch, Judith’s friend and main at-home carer, organised the volunteers who would support Judith to pass over in her home when the cancer had reached its final stages.
The model was, and is, simple. As Serge Benhayon explains,
‘At the heart of the model is the sanctity of a person’s dignity in the dying process, and if they should choose it, and if it is an option in terms of the level of medical care required, they should be able to die in their own home with both exceptional palliative care during the process as well as support for them and their family by the broader community in and with which the person has forged their intimate and wider relationship.’
Of course it was also much more than this. The practitioners that attended Judith would have had to themselves established a quality of life and relationships that could truly support her. Serge Benhayon explains,
‘I had the impress for this model as early as 1999 but there had to be the people there that could properly support it – people living with a quality and level of responsibility to be able to support without loading the dying person’s situation with their own emotional issues.’
There are moments in your life that even as they are happening you know they are big. As if you are watching history being written as you are in it.
And then there are the mundane moments that you think nothing of.
But as Serge Benhayon would say, nothing is nothing and everything is everything. And it is always from the small moments that the major ones unfold.
The first time my husband got a call about Judith McIntyre I didn’t think much of it, except perhaps to think, ‘I’m glad they are not calling me’.
Ingrid Langenbruch was on the other end of the line. I didn’t know much about Ingrid except that she was a woman with kind eyes who could at times be a bit blunt. This, she later joked with me, she attributed to being a side-effect of her German heritage.
On the phone that day, without reservation, she asked Simon if he would be on a roster to support her friend Judith who was in the end stages of cancer. Judith’s house just happened to be around the corner from ours and if Simon could spare some time, it would be great if he could lift her out of bed and put her on the toilet when she needed help with this.
My husband, being who he is, said that of course he would help, although it was not your every day request and he too had his reservations at first.
From then on he would occasionally disappear for half an hour during the day to visit with and support Judith.
If at first he had some hesitation in helping it was now completely gone.
He always came back joyful and telling me this or that about how gorgeous Judith was. He told me I should come and meet her because she was so extraordinary. I was shy because I didn’t know how to be around someone who was dying. What do you say?
As it turned out, plenty.
In the following weeks I was to get the opportunity not only to meet her, but also to interview her in what would be one of the most profound experiences of my life.
With her grace and her depth of quality, Judith single-handedly changed my perspective on death, pain and dying completely.
By the time I interviewed Judith her cancer had metastasised into her spine; her body was, by all accounts, ‘riddled with cancer’, and yet she was not in pain.
Ingrid would later tell me that she had no need for pain medication until the last few days before she passed. She attributed the deep settlement she was able to maintain to the complementary healing that she received from Serge Benhayon and what she described as the ‘simple choices’ she had made to reconnect to herself through the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom as presented by Serge Benhayon.
Judith understood that she was part of something that could change the way people understood death and terminal illness.
During our interview she relayed how her approach to passing over had supported her sister-in-law who had a lifelong fear of death and dying.
Everyone that attended to her in those final months came away with the same story, the woman was deeply settled and joyful, no one could deny that and yet her body was experiencing the advanced stages of cancer.
With the support and healing she was receiving from Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine she was breaking every mould in her relationship with and to terminal disease.
The body may have been breaking down but the being on the other hand was continuing to blossom, she was becoming more glorious by the day.
Judith knew of the legacy that she was a part of and was adamant that she would invest in the furtherance of its development so that others might benefit as she had.
In 2014 she sought out an executor for her will. She approached Serryn O’Regan or rather, interviewed her a number of times, to ensure that she was the right woman for the job:
‘Judith approached me in early 2014 asking if I would consider being the executor of her will. I said yes straight away, knowing the integrity with which she asked me and the integrity that she was asking from me in response.
However, that was not it for Judith. The integrity of this woman was stunning. Over the coming months she came to me time after time asking me questions about whether I really wanted to be the executor, I was very busy and would I have time, and asking me to answer her about this. She did not just want nice answers, Judith wanted the truth for that is what she was like. In those coming months her body was frail and she struggled to get around, but this woman knew exactly what she wanted and she had very clear discussions with me, to absolutely ensure for herself that what she was signing up for was what would truly represent her. I took this very seriously because Judith was asking me for no less than absolute truth in regards to whether or not I would be able to represent her in full and carry out her wishes.’
Judith McIntyre had a plan for what she would leave when she passed. And it was a bigger picture plan than the average person’s. It would be a legacy that would be left for more than just ‘her own’.
In the months before her death she made a bequest of $800,000 to be put towards the completion of The Hall of Ageless Wisdom at Wollongbar, which today is utilised by hundreds of people each year to study and learn about the teachings that she held so dear.
When she passed over she left Serge Benhayon a large portion of her estate in the understanding that he would responsibly use it to support others. She saw him as a custodian of the teachings that had supported her up until her death.
She also purchased a house with Ingrid Langenbruch, but insisted that it would be put in Ingrid’s name so that there would be no dispute over its purpose when she died.
The two women, both with breast cancer, had bought the house with the intent that they would both utilise it to pass over with dignity at home.
Beyond their deaths it would then be entrusted to others to use for the same purpose – as a palliative care home that would serve others well after they were both gone.
Serryn O’Regan, describes the thoroughness and integrity with which Judith insisted her last wishes be honoured:
She went through her own process to assure herself that this part of her affairs was looked after completely. In this, she was an inspiration to all – the epitome of community mindedness. A true citizen, with her will focussed on all and what the future should be for all, right to the end.’
At the same time Judith wished that part of her estate would be used to responsibly support her adult children. Serryn O’Regan notes the great love she had for her children and the true support for them that she wanted her estate to be:
‘She deliberately chose what she gave to her adult children to ensure that it was very generous for a house deposit but that they would each require a job to repay mortgage payments. This was extremely important to Judith.
Listening to her speak about this and her reasons why was deeply inspiring. In fact what Judith expressed was true love – holding another and empowering them to come into their own fullness and their own responsibility in and for life. Propping someone up or giving them everything as a hand out in her view did not or would not actually truly support them and this was not something Judith could ever endorse.
I had no knowledge of her family so simply listened to her wishes and respected them to the hilt. She spoke with great love of her family, and this was very obvious, but she also saw very clearly and she knew where responsibility was not being taken in their own lives.
She would not promote such irresponsibility in any way and she spent much time discussing and explaining it, that she ensured that the gift that she left to her children enabled them to get a solid start but would mean that they would have to actually take the next steps from that foundation themselves, which of course would make it their own. Her estate was not to be a handout, but an incredible offering of support, foundation and opportunity.’
In the months before her death Judith made sure she left no ambiguity in her wishes to her children that her money was to be used to serve the most people possible. She made clear to them that a large portion of her estate would be left to Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon for this purpose. At the same time they would also receive a generous inheritance.
When she asked them directly if they would contest her wishes and her will, both children agreed they would not.
Only a year after her death, they broke their promise to their mother and contested the will in court. Their demands read like a Christmas shopping list of what they wanted from the woman who could no longer tell them no.
Indeed as the Judge noted, if their demands were to be met the entire estate would be left to them, leaving no provision for their mother’s last wishes to be fulfilled.
Judith, as if pre-empting their intentions, was clear from the outset that Serryn would need to be fully committed to her role as executor:
‘Judith asked me what would happen if her family contested the will, would I represent her, would I stand for her wishes, would I stay true to what she clearly wanted? Judith made it very clear to me that if it was to be contested that she wanted her wishes to be represented in-full. As was her right.’
Refusing to see the Woman had a Will of her own
When news of the will’s contestation hit the newspapers, the spin was both predictable and a disgrace to the truth of the life of Judith McIntyre.
Cannibalising their self-created villain narrative about Serge Benhayon, and informed by an entrenched misogyny, it was clear that to the media, it was impossible that Judith McIntyre could be considered her own woman.
She was a fool. Fleeced by her ‘guru’. Without any true will of her own.
She was the woman as non-subject.
The weak willed and manipulable victim.
To The Daily Telegraph Judith McIntyre’s children were losing out to a man who was preying not only on a victim but a ‘cancer victim’. Not a woman of significant agency and power but a woman who was primarily identified by her disease. And while the opposite could not be more true, the media ran with this story because it suited a preconceived narrative.
The Sydney Morning Herald rehashed the best of Heath Aston’s earlier articles on Serge Benhayon, complete with republished photos taken a day after eye surgery in 2012.
The photos, which were a centrepiece of the press’ original character assassination, are taken from a low angle to suggest a dominating disposition and the darkness and bruising around his left eye is capitalised on – no mention is made that Serge Benhayon is a day out of eye surgery with stitches in his eye, we are left to believe that this is just what Judith McIntyre’s ‘guru’ from ‘the hills’ around Lismore looks like.
No clarification is made that his complementary healing clinic is not so much in the ‘hills’ around Lismore as it is in the middle of a built up suburban street, because, well, it just doesn’t conjure the same pictures of communes and dysfunction.
Of significant note however, was that in a Court of Law and with the integrity of a Judge who had a radar for the media’s inevitable sideshow, Judith McIntyre’s children’s contestations could not get traction.
In his final statement Judge Stevenson noted,
‘It was no part of Sarah’s or Seth’s case that the Deceased lacked testamentary capacity when she made her will, that she did not know the nature and contents of her will, nor that her will had been overborne.’
‘The strong impression I have from the evidence is that the Deceased knew exactly what she was doing when she made her will. She appears to have weighed up the competing considerations of the need to leave a legacy to Sarah and Seth and her desire to promote the teachings of Mr Benhayon. I see no basis upon which to conclude that the decision was not her own. She foreshadowed to Sarah and Seth her plan to leave a significant part of her estate to Universal Medicine, explained her decision to them and sought their assurance that they would respect her wishes.’
As part of the legal process and before finally overturning Seth and Sarah McIntyre’s contestation, Judge Stevenson viewed the interview my brother Jonathan Baldwin and I had produced before her death. Speaking with her undeniable steadiness Judith left little doubt about the woman she truly was.
‘No one watching that video could fail to see the state of peace and serenity with which the Deceased faced her passing. The evidence points strongly to the conclusion that the Deceased attributed that state of being to the teachings of Mr Benhayon.’
In a world in which there was not already a prefabricated mould fashioned for Serge Benhayon by a media that continues to recycle its own rhetoric, we would have a significant story here of the possibilities of true community based palliative care and the woman who was, alongside those that supported her, at the forefront of a potential healthcare revolution.
The proof of this is evidenced in the fact that for her work with Judith McIntyre, Elizabeth Dolan won one of the highest nursing accolades in the State of NSW – the Excellence in Nursing and Midwifery Award, Consumer Appreciation Award 2015.
When, in an interview with a local paper, she impressed the importance of acknowledging Serge Benhayon as being the inspiration and the pioneer of the approach she was now winning an award for, her requests were quietly ignored. Dolan also relayed how she told the reporter how important it was to her, that it be acknowledged that she was a typical ‘burnt out nurse’ – ready to walk away from nursing – before she met and was inspired by the work of Serge Benhayon. This never made it to print.
In the 2013–14 period 62,200 hospitalisations were palliative care related. An increase of 11% from 2009–10.1
According to health researcher and statistician Christoph Schnelle the amount of potential cost savings this kind of model of community based palliative care represents could well be large:
‘The Australian government pays $14 billion subsidising residential aged care per year – 70% of the total cost. Much of the other 30% is paid from the aged pension. There is already a strong and welcome push to give people growing moderately infirm the choice to remain home for as long as possible through home care packages rather than residential aged care. If this approach can be extended to palliative (end-of-life) care, this could significantly add to the quality of life of the last days and months of a person and, especially if hospital care could be substituted with quality (and largely volunteer) in-home care as happened with Judith McIntyre, then the financial savings could be substantial.
In other words, most people would prefer to die at home if possible and it is considerably cheaper than the mixture of hospitals and hospices that are currently used; yet too often, it is not possible as there is no community of carers available.’
And while the concept of at-home palliative care may not be new, a model that engages the person’s community and includes people as a natural part of the process is. In the case of Judith McIntyre, where medical and carer expertise was required the work was remunerated, but much of the support she received was from volunteers.
That this model is not already widely practiced is indicative that our culture no longer values our elderly or considers it natural to support during a person’s preparation to pass over.
The model that Serge Benhayon inspired and who, with the support of others was piloting, represented more than a cost saving but an evolutionary cultural shift in how we value each other at all stages of life, up to and including the process of dying.
Meanwhile the story continues to unfold. After Judith’s children’s failed attempt to overturn her will, and after taking the stand to defend her best friend’s final wishes in court, her main carer, Ingrid Langenbruch is today still living in the house they bought together. She remains committed to its purpose that when she has also passed over the house will become a dedicated palliative care home for the benefit of others, as they had always planned.
Fourteen years after Ingrid’s own diagnosis with breast cancer she continues to develop her openness, her life and her relationships with people.
Despite her latest diagnosis being terminal and with the cancer now spread to the lining of her lungs, Ingrid says that she has never felt more appreciative and more settled in her self.
Weekly she sees Serge Benhayon for a session and like Judith, she continues to re-write history on the best way to be with terminal disease and pain.
More than dignified, she is graceful in the face of death.
In memory of the late Judith McIntyre, and in honour of her own extraordinary life, Ingrid’s experiences will be the subject of a future documentary.