My friend George D. told me about the deeply transformative experience his aged, raging and demented mother had in the last months of her life – after he gave her a single dose of MDMA. Neither George nor I would normally ever condone giving someone a dose of this (or any) medicine without their full knowledge and consent. It will be clear from reading this experience, that his mother would have been incapable of receiving or understanding any verbal explanations he might have given. As it was, he persuaded her to take it by telling her that it was “heart-medicine” – which turned out to be true in an unexpectedly profound and beautiful way. I’m publishing this story here with George’s permission – to offer hope that others too might find their way to a peaceful dying.
The time of this experience was November of 2007 and the setting was a traditional family home in a Greek village. This was the house my mother had grown up in before emigrating to the United States as a young lady. The room she stayed in was exactly like she had left it seventy five years previously, with the same bed and wall decorations. Along with my wife Stephanie and our three children, we had brought her back to this house when she was around 94 and were taking care of her as needed.
She was fairly well until the last year when her health deteriorated rapidly. No longer could she walk without trembling, nor do much in the way of independent action and thought. She was 99 years old and made it clear that she wanted to die here in her home and be buried with her ancestors. Yet her anger at us and the world in general continued to consume her passion.
It was on such an evening of her cursing my existence that I reflected deeply on her situation. Under normal circumstances, I would find it unethical to give someone a drug without explaining to them the purpose and its possible side effects. But in this case of her being caught in such a web of emotional pain and negativity, I decided to give her the one dose of MDMA (or Ecstasy) which I was saving for a special occasion.
As she grabbed the little white pill that I gave her, my mother hissed the question “what was I giving her,” to which I replied that it was “heart medicine”. Her retort was that I had been giving her poison to her heart all my life and here was one more intention of mine to kill her. I took a deep breath and felt the fear of a premonition that her experience could be a very very bad one. It would then be a decision that could haunt me for the rest of my life. It turned out to be true that that decision has indeed had a significant impact on my life, but with a far better outcome than even I anticipated. After giving her the “heart medicine” I said my good nights and left her alone.
Checking in half an hour later, I found her sitting on her bed gazing at an icon of the Virgin Mary. The fact that I saw her smiling was a hint that a profound event was manifesting. When I asked her how she felt, she softly said that “there were angels flying around the room.” That was a trigger for me to run upstairs, wake up our son John and tell him to come downstairs with his guitar – that we had important work to do with his grandmother.
For the next few hours we exchanged hugs with my mother and also shared her delight in listening to CDs of both Greek Orthodox religious hymns as well as her favorite Greek folk music. At times John would strum a few chords on his guitar while we sang about how much we loved her. When my wife Stephanie came downstairs to be part of the miracle, she asked my mother how she was doing – to which my mom said in a very sweet tone, “this night will never end.” My mother was no longer judgmental and mean. Her words, smiles and touch were soft and loving. It was a blessing for all of us.
There was more amazement ahead. From that night on, for the last seven months of her life, my mother dropped her fear-based masking and let her heart express itself in a very beautiful way. No longer would she judge or criticize anyone but instead say loving remarks. She would smile and ask to kiss us regularly every day. She no longer demanded I cut my beard but asked if she could stroke it. She had previously refused to let her granddaughters take her to the village in her wheelchair – now she welcomed their brushing her hair, putting a flower in back of her ear and taking her out for ice cream.
What matters most is that one experience with the “heart-medicine” brought lasting comfort in her remaining life and could well have helped her soul cross over more gently. The circle was more complete and her grandchildren will always remember her as being at peace with herself and the world. And of course, so will I.