When Dan Laramie of Keremeos, B.C. was told he was going to die, he decided to do it on his own terms — with a party.
On Saturday Mar. 2, a farewell party dubbed “Dan’s Day” was hosted by a close family friend.
Fifty people gathered around Laramie, 68, in a hospital bed wheeled into the living room.
They sang songs, indulged in a potluck feast, drank whiskey and smoked cigars.
His widow, Stef Laramie, said it was absolutely perfect.
“He was happy, he was laughing, he was past tears,” she told Global Okanagan on Tuesday. “He would have people on his chest, crying, and he would stick his hand out and touch the back of their neck and soothe them.”
Laramie’s health had declined in recent years. He was fighting a losing battle with diabetes, kidney disease, and gangrene that spread throughout his body. Many of his limbs had already been amputated.
“He always said, ‘I don’t want people nipping away at my body, just cutting pieces off,’ and that’s actually what had started to happen,” she said.
Dan decided that he wanted to die with dignity. The local musician wanted to pass away the way he lived: by having fun.
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“A couple of times I posted so people understood that at this party, Dan would be dying — even to say the word dying — but I had to make sure people knew,” she said.
At the end of the night, Dan knew it was time. The energy shifted, and the room fell silent.
A physician and a nurse entered the room. Dan signed the required paperwork.
“Dr. Robertson said, ‘are you ready?’ and the look on Dan’s face, oh my goodness,” Laramie said. “I just knew that this is exactly the right thing to do.”
Several injections followed. The first to put him to sleep, the subsequent injections shut down his organs.
“I kept watching his chest and it seemed like it was erratic at times, but he felt okay — there was no twitching in his eyes or his head or his face, he felt really still inside,” she said.
“There’s a stillness and he just slipped away.”
Dan didn’t want people to mourn his death. Instead, he wanted his family and friends to celebrate the full life he lived. When the injections were administered, he asked people to cheer. And that’s what they did. They cheered and applauded.
“When it came to the end I have no regrets,” Laramie said. “I have only a lot of happiness, a lot of peace.”
As Dan’s widow, Laramie said she wants to continue to advocate for medically-assisted death, and help others escape the fear of dying.
“I want people to understand that there is a continuum, that death is connected to life,” she said.
“The relief was from everything that Dan asked for, everything he needed to go out of this life was possible, it made me feel passionate about the way that people die.”