09/02/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
IN HINDSIGHT, MARGAUX HEMINGWAY'S last phone call was full of clues. "She was so upbeat, but the words coming out of her mouth were not matching," says her chiropractor Caren Elin, who spoke with the 41-year-old former model and actress on the afternoon of June 28, not long before she died. Hemingway said she was planning a trip and, with her doctor away, wanted to know how to obtain phenobarbital, a drug often used to control the kind of epileptic seizures she suffered. And she asked about near-death experiences. "She said, 'Isn't it neat on the other side?' " recalls Elin, who has written on the subject and had discussed it with Hemingway. "I didn't answer her. My intuition was to tell her the only place of resolution is here in the physical body, not 'out there,' as she liked to call it."
But in the end, Hemingway, who had long wrestled with alcoholism, bulimia and depression, apparently did seek resolution "out there." According to the Los Angeles County coroner, she died from an overdose of phenobarbital taken deliberately. (Elin says she didn't help her get the drug.) Her grandfather, novelist Ernest Hemingway, killed himself in 1961.
"I was shocked—I was wondering if it was really true," says TV producer Rani Stoler, one of many friends who found the coroner's ruling hard to accept in light of Hemingway's recent emphasis on yoga and meditation and a career that was reviving with roles in TV movies. "At any other time in her life, it wouldn't have been so shocking," agrees Steve Crisman, husband of Hemingway's younger sister Mariel. "This was the best I'd seen her in years. She had gotten herself back together."
So it seemed. "Her career was coming into fruition, she looked amazing," says friend Gigi Gaston, who wanted to write a script with her. "Margaux had been through hell and back. Why when everything had turned for the good, when her ship was sailing into the sun, would she do it now? I don't think we're ever going to know."