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Bon Voyage: A Bay Area couple try to greet death in style

Julia Scott

If you could be at your own funeral, what would you like to do? How about dance and drink champagne with everyone you've ever known? A Bay Area man and his husband try to greet death in style. But they discover that death has its own agenda.

KALW contributor Julia Scott produced this radio documentary in partnership with the BBC World Service.

Bon Voyage

It’s March 2nd, 2012. Paul Perkovic and Eric Trefelner are getting a very special tour of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, one of the city’s fine arts museums.

“This is the Florence Gould Theater. It was built with the building in 1924. It holds 316 seats,” says events manager Dani Lamas.

Also on the walk-through are a bandleader, a caterer, a photographer, and a sound engineer, all hired by Paul and Eric. The preparation will be flawless. It has to be. Their party is two weeks away.

Dani Lamas goes over last-minute details with Eric.

“I told him we would need a podium up here. I said we were probably going to have some chairs on stage for people who were going to speak. And that we were going to bring some flowers to decorate the front of the stage,” says Eric.

In two weeks, hundreds of guests will dance the night away to a live swing band and cabaret act, drink champagne, eat oysters and caviar, and take photos with their hosts. 

“The dress code for the party is as you please,” says Eric.

“What are you guys going to be wearing?” I ask.

“I haven’t decided,” he replies.

“I’m going to see if I can still fit into my tuxedo,” says Paul.

You may be thinking this sounds like a wedding. But Paul Perkovic and Eric Trefelner have already married each other four times over, as gay marriage became legal in different states – twice in California, once in Massachusetts, and on a Caribbean cruise.

And the party they’re throwing isn’t for a birthday... or a wedding anniversary.

Paul is dying – of pancreatic cancer. And Eric, his partner of 36 years, is giving him a “Bon Voyage” party. Eric is about to spend upwards of a quarter million dollars on a single evening – an evening commemorating not only the end of a life, but the end of their life together.

To hear the rest of the story, click the audio player above.

This story originally aired on the BBC World Service series Real America on October 1, 2012.