In early July, Betsy Davis sent out invitations to a party she referred to as a “rebirth.”
“These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness,” her e-mail invitations read, according to AP.
Davis, a 41-year-old artist from California, spent the last three years losing control of her body due to the debilitating illness of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and had been planning one final gathering that concluded with a physician-assisted suicide.
A little over one month before Davis’ party, a law was passed in California giving terminally ill patients the option to hasten death. It is only granted to individuals by state law in Oregon, Vermont and Washington, and by court decision in Montana.
“Dear rebirth participants you’re all very brave for sending me off on my journey,” she wrote in her invitation. “There are no rules. Wear what you want, speak your mind, dance, hop, chant, sing, pray, but do not cry in front of me. OK, one rule.”
Davis invited over 30 friends and family to join her at a beautiful home in Ojai on July 23-24. She had put together a fun-filled weekend with every hour detailed with activities for her loved ones who arrived from New York, Chicago and across California.
Throughout the evening, Davis, seated in her electric wheelchair, interacted with each companion and was looking forward to a fashion show for which she had picked out clothes for each guest to model.
Love and laughter filled the house as guests enjoyed cocktails, pizza from her favorite eatery as well as a screening in her room of one of her favorite movies, The Dance of Reality.
As the final hours counted down, friends and family kissed her goodbye and gathered for a group photo. “The worst was needing to leave the room every now and then, because I would get choked up. But people got it,” said Davis’ sister Kelly, who wrote about her sister for local news outlet Voice of San Diego. “They understood how much she was suffering and that she was fine with her decision. They respected that. They knew she wanted it to be a joyous occasion.”
Davis was wheeled out to a canopy bed on a hillside, where she looked out at her last sunset. Dressed in a Japanese kimono she bought on a bucket-list trip she took after being diagnosed in 2013, she took a combination of morphine, pentobarbital and chloral hydrate prescribed by her doctor at 6:45 p.m.
Betsy died four hours later surrounded by Kelly, her caretaker, her doctor and her massage therapist.
Guests called the gathering Betsy’s final performance as friend and cinematographer Niels Alpert explained that “what Betsy did gave her the most beautiful death that any person could ever wish for.”
“By taking charge, she turned her departure into a work of art,” he concluded.
All those invited have promised to gather again next year for Betsy’s birthday in June to scatter her ashes.
- The Fall of Roe and the Failure of the Feminist Industrial Complex
- The Ocean Is Climate Change’s First Victim and Last Resort
- Column: 6 Proven Ways to Reduce Gun Violence
- Ads Are Officially Coming to Netflix. Here's What That Means for You
- Jenny Slate on the Unifying Power of a Well-Heeled Shell Named Marcel
- Column: The FDA's Juul Ban May Not be a Pure Public Health Triumph
- What the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Means for Your State