At Outside, Eva Holland brings us a thoughtful piece about the right — and the privilege — of getting to die on one’s own terms.
Eric and Pam Bealer were the epitome of resourcefulness. Both artists lived in a remote area of Alaska. They raised animals and vegetables on a wild landscape that was often the inspiration for the art they created. After Pam was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the aughts, the couple enacted a plan to end their own lives at a time they chose.
Solovyov later told me that, when he saw the little boat crammed with art that March day, he should have known. For years, the couple had talked with close friends about their intention to die together when Pam’s time came. She did not wish to see her disease through; Eric did not plan to live without his wife. But it was one thing to talk about this in the abstract. It was another for Solovyov to stand in the harbor and realize that his friend had prepared his last exhibition. “He brought everything with him,” he said.
Isolated as the cabin was, they had a neighbor there, and his place had Wi-Fi, which they were able to use even when he was away. So they were generally in touch with people by e-mail. When that communication stopped, in mid-September, their friends took notice. They put the word out to folks in Pelican: If anyone was heading for Yakobi Island, could they look in on the Bealers?
On October 5, a pair of Pelican-area residents, a married couple, made the trip to the island. Leaving his wife in their boat, the husband hiked up a trail to the Bealers’ cabin. The screen door to the covered porch was open. He went in and found a plastic bin filled with packages and letters, and a note taped to the glass window of the main door, which was locked. On one side the note read: “Hello, if you are looking for the Bealers… Please read this. If you found this, please mail the attached packages. It will go to the people who will know what to do next and take care of things. Please accept the cash as a gift to pay you for your trouble, and postage for these packages and envelopes.”