The culture of death is turning over a new leaf: it is taking death and making it into a kind of grotesque tea party of an occasion. You can see it in the new-wave revelatory rhetoric surrounding abortion, the kind of neurotic feminist elevation of abortion from a deadly medical procedure to a life-affirming experience of womanly empowerment. Out of California comes another wrinkle in the death brigade, a young woman who tried to turn her suicide into a block party bash:
In early July, Betsy Davis emailed her closest friends and relatives to invite them to a two-day party, telling them: ‘These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness.’
And just one rule: No crying in front of her.
The 41-year-old artist with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, held the gathering to say goodbye before becoming one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state’s new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.
‘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.’
This is indeed “not a normal thing,” in fact it is a ghastly thing, and perhaps the most terrible detail of the affair is the “no crying” rule: a woman pledges to commit suicide and then orders her friends and family to refrain from the most natural and understandable display of emotional under the circumstances. I have argued before that this type of suicidal impulse is ultimately motivated by selfishness—by people who would rather die a few weeks or months ahead of schedule rather than give their families the supreme and utterly unique gift of providing the sick person with tender palliative care. Yet selfishness is one thing, but “no crying before I kill myself” is another thing entirely, a more bitter and, as it were, cowardly gesture: Betsy Davis—a woman who, to be sure, suffered greatly and surely would have continued to suffer—was apparently so afraid of the consequences of her own decision that she forbid her loved ones to cry in front of her.
If you wish to see the future of the culture of death, you can probably find no better example than poor Betsy Davis’s “rebirth” party, an incidence of suicide which one partygoer termed a “work of art:” a woman decides to kill herself, and invites people to show up and throw a party about it, and everyone has to check their tears at the door. In a world in which taking one’s own life is seen as “taking charge,” what else are you to expect? It is a wonder that, presumably, not one of the guests in attendance tried to convince her not to kill herself—apparently nobody sat down with Davis and pleaded with her, “Please, give me the honor of caring for you until you die naturally.” Could nobody be bothered to speak up, to assure her that her precious life was still one of inestimable value? Apparently not, for she is gone. I guess her friends and family are now free to cry over her death. Eventually they will have to decide what to make of themselves for participating in a suicide bash as if it were just another Saturday afternoon cookout.
Source: Farewell on a Hillside at Dusk |