September 13, 2005
I want you to know the gift you gave to my family through words you wrote long ago in This Timeless Moment.
My 33-year-old daughter M. was diagnosed with colon cancer nearly two years ago. She suffered from unmanageable pain for the last several months in spite of incredibly high doses of a plethora of narcotics and other pain medications. The only respite from her anguish came through the use of psychedelic therapy with MDMA (Ecstasy).
The final session came on Saturday when she was too weak even to swallow pills. Awakening her was nearly impossible, but she managed to hear me ask if she wanted to take Ecstasy and mustered all of her strength to say “yes” before she went back to her restless sleep – gasping for breath, moaning, convulsive tics, and contracting facial muscles. Over the next hour, her breathing became steady and her body became peaceful. This I expected, but I also assumed that, as in previous sessions, she would become alert, present, and joyful, like the daughter I knew before pain took over her life. However I could not awaken her even during the peak of MDMA activity. It seemed that she would never wake up again.
M.’s dad joined us when I told him this news. We spent the next few hours doing what we did when M. was awake – telling stories, playing games, and stroking her lovingly. Just before 10 PM I decided to read your chapter “O Nobly Born” from This Timeless Moment. I didn’t get very far, only to the second page. The last paragraph I read was this one:
“All too often, unconscious or dying people are treated as if they were “things,” as though they were not there. But often they are very much there. Although a dying person has fewer and fewer means of expressing what he feels, he is still open to receiving communication. In this sense the very sick or the dying person is much like a child: he cannot tell us how he feels, but he is absorbing our feeling, our voice, and, most of all, our touch. In the infant the greatest channel of communication is the skin. Similarly, for the individual plunged in the immense solitude of sickness and death, the touch of a hand can dispel that solitude, even warmly illuminate that unknown universe. To the “nobly born” as to the “nobly dying,” skin and voice communication may make an immeasurable difference.”
As I spoke your words, M’s dad stroked her hair and held her hand. I believe there was magic in those words and their enactment through our voice and touch. M. now knew that her parents accepted the immanence of her death, that her death could be noble, and that she need not feel alone in her passage. She lifted her chin, opened her mouth and eyes wide with an expression of absolute wonder, shed tears, and reached out to touch her dad. The next moment she was gone: the light in her eyes went out, her face turned stark white, and her body became infinitely still. There was no question that her spirit had left her body. M. let us know she heard and felt us. Your words and our actions gave her permission to say goodbye and gave us a the opportunity to witness the awe of her timeless moment of death.
Your words made an immeasurable difference to us. Thank you.
With Deep Gratitude,
The following letter was addressed to Laura Huxley from the mother of a woman who died of cancer. Read about Laura Huxley’s life with husband Aldous Huxley in her book This Timeless Moment.