It is always wonderful to blow off some steam and throw a party for family and friends. The party becomes an opportunity to relax, hang out with loved ones and enjoy some food.
Betsy Davis decided to throw a party for her close family and friends on one weekend of July 2016. The party would take place at a house in southern California. She sent invitations via email to about 30 of her loved ones.
The invitation was a bit odd and got the people invited quite curious. It relayed that the circumstances were unlike any party they might have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness, and openness. She had one rule that could not be broken by any of her guests: No crying in front of her. Betsy who was 41 years old at the time had been diagnosed with ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Unfortunately, the disease which affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord has no cure. This meant that her body was slowly shutting down. Betsy, an artist, was losing all muscle control. She wanted this party to bring together all her loved ones in a final gathering in which she would say goodbye. What they didn’t know was that, after the party, she was planning to take a lethal dose of drugs – making her among the first Californians to do so.
It was an incredible party, full of fun and laughter. It lasted for 2 whole days and everyone present enjoyed themselves. The guests were glad to be there and to show their love and support for Betsy who had been through such a difficult time since her diagnosis. Some of them had traveled from the country to spend that weekend at her beautiful home which was on a mountainside in southern California. There was music, screenings of Betsy’s favorite movies and even pizza from her favorite place. Her guests wanted to make her feel special.
They could not have guessed Betsy’s sinister plan. What she was about to do did not cross any of their minds. Betsy was going to give a final performance; she was going to commit suicide.
Betsy was a painter and being true to her artistic spirit, she wanted to perform one final act. As her condition, dilapidated her body, the artist, for a few months, was busy preparing a final performance. The state of California had just passed a new doctor-assisted suicide. This was where patients who were terminal would be allowed, if they chose, to take a lethal dose of drugs. These applied to patients who wanted their lives to come to an end and who wanted to end their pain and suffering. Ms. Davis would become the first residents to take advantage of the new state law.
Due to her condition, Betsy’s speech was slurred. She needed the help of her caregivers to translate her speech to her guests so that they could understand what she was trying to say. Luckily, she still had the ability to roll her wheelchair around the house. This gave her the opportunity to mingle and spend time with her party guests. She was able to meet each one of them for a few quality minutes.
One of her party ideas was that each guest would get to have a ‘Betsy souvenir’. They would take these with them in order to remember Betsy. The guests could choose from a wide variety of objects including artwork, accessories or beauty products. Betsy’s sister had made it easier for them by sticking notes on the pieces that explained their importance to Betsy.
One of her guests was Niels Alpert, who worked as a cinematographer from NYC. While at the party, Neil took the opportunity to capture each moment. He snapped these photos to capture the precious moments.
He has said that for him and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that they would be there for Betsy. They knew those were Betsy’s final moments. Even as the focused on having fun for her sake, they knew this might be the last time some of them would see her. Neil said that in the background of the lovely fun, smiles, and laughter that they all had, that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming. He, therefore, wanted to help Betsy by snapping as many photos as possible for all to remember that occasion.
When the weekend eventually came to an end, all the guests gathered for a final photograph. They knew it was time to say goodbye to their dear friend. The guests bid her farewell as they one by one they left. Betsy then wheeled herself to a canopy bed on the hillside. She was attired in a beautiful kimono that she had purchased in the year 2013 after her diagnosis. She looked good in it. From her vantage point, Betsy was able to enjoy a glorious sunset. For her it was the last she would see and it was spectacular. Around 6:45 p.m. she took the lethal combination of drugs that were prescribed by her daughter. Her caretaker, doctor, massage therapist, and sister were all by her side. They offered their support as she made that incredibly courageous decision. She was so brave.
She passed away four hours later. What was moving how she had gone about her final days. One of her friends said that they were impressed by how had taken charge of her last days and crafted them into a work of art. She had planned everything meticulously and as a result, she’d had the most beautiful death that any person could have wanted. With such an incredible story, it is no surprise that people across the country were so touched by the life and death of Betsy Davis.
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