British Columbia

B.C. man throws party as he undergoes medically-assisted death

When Dan Laramie died, he went on his own terms - with music, whiskey and cigars.

'The one thing that I don't feel is loss,' says widow

Musician Dan Laramie wanted lots of music at his party before he had a medically assisted death. (Jessica Lethonen)

When Dan Laramie died, he went out on his own terms — with music, whiskey and cigars.

"He really wanted a party," said Stef Laramie, Dan's widow. "He really wanted a celebration and I loved that idea. It just made it so great."

The 68-year-old South Okanagan man had a medically-assisted death last Saturday at a close friend's home in Keremeos, while surrounded by 50 friends and family. 

"We had to make sure that we got it out there, that people really understood that at this celebration it would be his last heartbeat and that he would be assisted in dying," said Laramie.

'Way too much'

About two months ago, Dan Laramie decided he wanted to have a medically-assisted death, Stef Laramie told Daybreak South's Brady Strachan.

Dan Laramie had diabetes since childhood, but the disease had grown worse and he was having problems with his blood pressure, kidneys and heart. 

Stef said Dan wrote 30 songs while he was in the hospital. (Submitted by Stef Laramie)

Last May, a surgeon told Laramie at an appointment that he'd have to amputate a couple of toes and he was immediately hospitalized. Laramie had an aggressive form of gangrene, which later led to other amputations including half of his foot and part of his leg.

"It got to be way too much. Right from the beginning he always said 'I just don't want them nipping away at pieces of me to try and save me if I can't be saved'," Stef Laramie said.

Dan Laramie's condition continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace. There was calcification in his blood vessels, his organs were failing, and they realized his body was no longer able to heal at the rate it needed to for him to live.

Musician

Dan Laramie was a musician, so it was important to him that the final gathering with friends and family had lots of music.

Stef Laramie, who is a singer, said she and her husband once had a Karaoke band called K-town and a five-piece rock band called Lulu and The Lazy Boys.

Friends and family celebrate musician Dan Laramie's life with a song that he wrote, before his medically assisted death later that evening. 1:00

"Dan was just an amazing guitar player. He could play rhythms, and leads, and bass, and all kinds of things all at once," said Laramie. "When he was in the hospital he wrote 30 songs."

One of the songs he wrote was about the nurses who cared for him, and they sang it at his party.

'Just magical'

Dan Laramie's friends, sister, son, daughter, grand kids and even some of his nurses all came to the party.

There was food, and single malt whiskey and cigars that an old friend brought for Dan.

"It was just magical how everybody looked after each other. People would burst into tears sometimes and somebody would just be kind and give them a hug," said Stef Laramie

Stairway to Heaven

Towards the end of the night, Dan Laramie's doctor and a nurse arrived to assist with his death. 

"You could see sort of an energy in the room where people could feel that it was time," said Stef Laramie.

Once Dan Laramie signed the papers and said he was ready, his family gathered at his bedside.

Dan told his friends and family that when it came time for him to die, he wanted them to cheer and applaud, said Stef. (Submitted by Stef Laramie)

"I can't even tell you how beautiful the look, the smile was in his eyes," she said.

As requested, his friend, Michael Fitzgerald, played Stairway to Heaven, as the first needle was administered.

"Dan wanted applause...so oh my gosh did we ever clap and cheer," said Stef Laramie.

"He was so ready and it felt like everything that we talked about... all these people coming, made it the absolutely perfect exit."

Not sorrowful

"The one thing that I don't feel is loss," she said. "If he had died in a way that we had no notion of it, by surprise...then it would be sorrowful. But I don't think dying should be sorrowful."

After this experience, Stef Laramie said she learned that if you have a great life, death doesn't mean as much. 

"You don't have to let anybody start dying before they have left."

When Dan Laramie died, he went on his own terms - with music, whiskey and cigars. The 69-year-old South Okanagan man had a medically assisted death last Saturday in Keremeos, while surrounded by 50 friends and family. 9:12

with files from Brady Strachan and Daybreak South