I heard this story a few months ago, but wanted to bring it to your attention again right before Valentine’s Day as an example of true and deep love.
The headline from last October read: “Iowa Couple Married 72 Years Dies Holding Hands, an Hour Apart,” and the article went on to say that their passing “reflected the nature of their marriage where…everything was done together,” according to their daughter. Here’s more about them:
Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.
The most important part of the story is what comes next. I really want you to think about it.
“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager, 52. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”
When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.
He joined his right hand to her left hand, and that’s how they died.
The key to the whole story, however, was they were concerned about each other up to the moment they passed away.
I wrote a book several years ago entitled “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage,” in which I talk about waking up each day, looking over at your spouse and making the decision to make their day worthwhile and to make them happy that they are married to you. In other words, instead of waking up with all your bitchy thoughts, all your self- centered thoughts about what you’re not getting, what you’re not feeling, wake up thinking what you do for him/her to make his/her life worth living and worth living with you. That is the key to this couple. And that’s the key to them dying together.
There are more stories that illustrate this point: Couple Die Together After 62 Years of Marriage
Eighty-four-year-old Robert, whose health had declined steadily in recent years, always expected to go first. His 80-year-old wife, Darlene, had been his steady caretaker at home they built with their own hands, until she was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few weeks to live.
When Robert learned Darlene was terminally ill, he quickly grumbled: “I’m terminal, too.” While family members and caretakers just chalked off that statement to the emotion of the moment, as his wife lay beside him in her last moments, he, too because to die. Only six hours separated their deaths.
It was a bittersweet moment for the couple’s five children and extended family.
While they’d lost their mother and father, they knew their parents, the couple who lived and breathed love for one another, who spooned together every night while watching the news, who even walked to their mailbox in tandem had received their last wish.
Their story of love and long-term devotion showcases an aspect of humanity that even modern science has a hard time explaining: that sometimes strength of will decides whether we live or die.
Their chemistry was magical, the family said. They got up from bed together and always waited for the other to get in bed at night. Mornings over coffee together developed a mutual plan of attack for the day. Darlene always made sure Robert’s lunch was packed and clothes folded for him to wear.
They eventually had nine children, and it’s safe to say they proved their doctor wrong.
Robert suffered strokes, kidney troubles, congestive heart failure and other ailments following, but he never complained.
“I’m fine,” he’d always say.
In retirement, they never left each other’s sides. If a check needed depositing, they went to the bank together. Grocery shopping was done in tandem. The pair even ventured to the mailbox together everyday unless one was too ill to do so.
In the days before their deaths, hospice had a special bed put into the couple’s bedroom, where youthful pictures of Robert and Darlene hang above their respective bedsides. Robert, in their own bed, held her hand tight as she began to die.
Not long after, the nurse came to check on Robert. Astonishingly, his vital signs began to fail. His breathing became broken. He was actively dying, the nurse told the family. There were no drugs or methods he’d used to quicken death; it just began to happen.
They gave him two days to live, tops. Instead, he joined his wife in death only six hours after hers.
Robert and Darlene, whose services were held Thursday, will be buried in the same way they lived their lives together.
In the same casket.
Dying beside the love of your life and passing into eternity together is the stuff of legends, but it’s well documented around the world. It’s some connection. It’s some special connection. In some cases, research shows that one person’s heartbeat can affect and even regulate another’s (working as a type of life support).
Now, in none of these cases where spouses died within minutes or hours of each other was there a suicide. I think the amazing thing to take from these stories is that these relationships lasted that long. But it’s a simple fact (and one to remember when you find yourselves crabbing and whining about each other): these husbands and wives lived to make sure the other was happy. And, in doing so, they were happy.
It’s really not that complicated, and it’s something very special to think about this Valentine’s Day.