A terminally ill woman in California planned a two-day party to celebrate the end of her life before choosing medically assisted suicide.
Betsy Davis, 41, had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, The Associated Press reports. She had reached a point where she could no longer stand or brush her own teeth. So she invited her friends to a party, where she implored: "These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness."
There was just one rule: No crying in front of her.
"For me and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that we would be there for her," said Niels Alpert, a cinematographer from New York City. "The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in their suicide -- that is not a normal thing, not a normal, everyday occurrence. In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming."
Davis had meticulously planned out a detailed schedule of events for the weekend, including the precise hour she was to end her own life. More than 30 people came to the party in Ojai, California, from all over the country, including Chicago and New York.
There were cello and harmonica performances, cocktails and pizza, and a screening of one of Davis' favorite movies, "The Dance of Reality."
"Obviously it was hard for me. It's still hard for me," said Davis' sister, Kelly, who wrote about it for the online news outlet Voice of San Diego. "The worst was needing to leave the room every now and then, because I would get choked up. But people got it. 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."
As the weekend drew to a close, Davis' friends kissed her goodbye and gathered for a photo. Davis was then wheeled out to a canopy bed on a hillside where she took a lethal dose of drugs that ended her life.
The drugs were prescribed by a doctor, and it is believed that Davis is one of the first people to end their own life under California's new assisted suicide law.
People magazine reports that only four other states allow assisted suicide: Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Opponents of the law argue it could lead to an increase in suicide, even from people who are not terminally ill. But the law's proponents counter that choosing the time and place of one's own death provides a sense of comfort and control otherwise lacking for terminally ill patients.
"What Betsy did gave her the most beautiful death that any person could ever wish for," Alpert said. "By taking charge, she turned her departure into a work of art."