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Dying of a broken heart: Families share stories

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After reading an story on the phenomenon of long-time couples who die close together, readers wrote in with their own experiences — the love stories of family and friends.

After spending 65 years together, Meredith Golden's mother and father died within four days of each other.

"My mother passed away fairly peaceful in her own bed laying beside her husband," writes Golden, who lives in Boone, N.C. "He wanted to hold her after she died and did so, even falling asleep in her arms. It was touching beyond words. He died 4 days later in their bed. We all knew it would happen. Yes, he died of a broken heart.

"Their ashes were joined together off their favorite beach where they lived in Hawaii," Golden continues. "My son had the honor of paddling out beyond the reef to join their ashes together. He told us that when he did, they swirled around together and created a beautiful florescent light, as they drifted into the ocean. Joined together for eternity."

Keep reading for more readers' stories.

I work in a nursing home and I see it all the time. Faithful couples, one comes to visit everyday and one particular couple died within 4 days of each other although the husband was in his same state of health. His wife was in the hospital, never knew he died but then passed away after 4 days. We feel she knew somehow.

— Anita Perez, Los Angeles

I do believe that it is possible to die of a broken heart. I lost my husband 6 years ago and although we were only together for 20 years it felt like a life time. The last 10 years we spent every day together. We owned our own business and worked side by side. After work, on our own time, we did everything together, too. There were times when all I wanted to do is be with him. The hurt seemed unbearable. ... When you lose the only living that you have loved for that long and shared those many hours together you know that person as well as yourself and they you it seems life is over when their life is over. Even now I still wish I could be with him.

— Lorrie, Geneva, N.Y.

My great-grandparents died together. A neighbor found them the next morning when he realized he had not seen them. He entered their home and found them embraced. An autospy showed Julie died of a stroke and John a few hours later of a heart attack. So I do think it's possible to die of a broken heart.

— Anonymous

On May 5, 1970 my Grandfather lost his devasting battle with lung cancer. His funeral was May 8. As our family walked by the open casket one last time, Grandma touched his hand and said "we'll see you in the morning, Dad". As we took our places in the front pew, she reminded us that we were celebrating — he was no longer suffering. When the organist played the first song, she leaned forward and whispered — "everybody sing!" 30 minutes later as the funeral was near the end, Grandma sighed and rested her head on her son's shoulder and went limp. ... She had drawn her last breath. She couldn't be revived. After the initial shock, the beauty of their love and their bond became obvious. There is no doubt she died of a broken heart.

— Deb, Apple Valley, Minn.

My maternal grandparents died within days of each other — my grandfather passed away suddenly on January 17th, 1988, and my grandmother died less than two weeks later on January 30th. My grandmother died on what would have been their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. On the day of Grandpa's funeral, my grandmother, who was a pretty tough lady, cried in a way I'd never seen her cry before and said, "I don't know how I'm going to live without him. I don't want to live without him," and she didn't. I truly believe that she did die of a broken heart. It felt like half of her had already died; this was someone she'd known and loved for the greater part of her life, and it was too much for her to think about refashioning her identity without him.

— Rita, Collinsville, Ill.

in 1985 both my grandparents passed away. my grandfather on wednesday june 16th from a massive heart attack. the next day, after my aunt had taken my grandmother to make all the arrangements, they were sitting on the sofa. my grandmother started talking about how the only time they had ever been seperated was when one of them had been in the hospital. my grandmother decided to lay down and rest. when my aunt checked on her about an hour later, she too had passed away. the doctor said that medically she had died from heart failure, but we all knew it was from a broken heart. we buried them both on june 20, 1985. they were married 63 years.

— Anonymous

Isabelle and John were my grandparents. They were crazy for each other. They were from Scotland and immigrated to the US in the 1950's. ... They were absolutely inseparable. They would finish each others sentences and cuddle and joke together like teenagers. You could say they lived for each other always. When Isabelle became ill with cancer and there was no hope, John too became depressed and aged rapidly during her illness. And when she passed away he was inconsolable and lost. It was devastating to watch. He tried as hard as he could to hang on and live for my Dad and his seven grandkids, but he was lost without his beloved wife and passed away quietly of literally a "broken heart" 5 months to the day of my sweet Grandmas death. I was 16 at the time I lost my grandparents but to this day at the age of 47 it still breaks my heart to think of them.

— Isabel Debowski, Acworth, Ga.

In 2004, my father died at the age of 84 after a 40 year battle with Cardiovascular disease. He and my Mother who suffered from dimentia were married for 62 years and had been together since they met in High School. They shared one of the closest relationships I have ever observed. My Mother was informed of my Father's Death and despite her dementia and inability to express emotions we observed a very clear understanding from her that the love of her life had died. 15 days after my father died she died at the age of 82. There is no doubt in my or my sister's mind that she died with a broken heart. Even realtive's who attended my Mother's funeral said they had no doubt she wanted to be in eternity with him. They were like Ying/Yang in life and now together in the next life.

— Gary Smith, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

My parents died three days apart. As we walked into our home after my father's funeral, the phone was ringing that my mother was dying. My mother had a brain tumor removed in 2003. We were told it was non-cancerous and that it would grow back slowly and that she would have about 10 years. During this time my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. During the two years to follow my mother went every year for a scan and was told the tumor had not grown significantly. In August of 2006, we were told it had grown to double the previous size. After surgery we were told it was now cancerous. Mom and Dad were placed in an assisted living on Oct. 1, 2006. Mom was given one year to live. Dad was miserable and wanted to go home. Mom deteriorated to the point she was bed ridden. Dad had a stroke in November, 2006 and it left him paralyzed on one side. They both were bed ridden. My mother though out the three years had constantly told me she wanted to live long enough to take care of Daddy. My Dad died on December 15. The hospice nurse thought they were both dying that same day, because my mom's vitals hit rock bottom. Mother waited on us to give Dad his time and then she decided to join him. She died on December 18, 2006. My parents were married to each other for 54 years. They were a team and they depended on each other. In our situation it was the sheer will of my mother to live to see my father taken care of that kept her alive.

— Brenda Rogers, Cornith, Miss.

My paternal Grandparents, Anthony and Catherine Nikolai, both came to America through Ellis Island as teenagers in the early 1900's. He came from Russia, she from Poland. They met in New York's Central Park and soon Grandpa came courting. After a few weeks of dating, Grandma told him "Either you marry me or I'll never see you again." They married exactly 3 weeks after they met. There's was not an idylic romance. In fact, they argued almost every day. Friends would say it was how they got along. Yet the love was evident; Grandma would say "If I die first, I'm coming back to get you!" and Grandpa would respond, "Me too!" ... In 1964 Grandma was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. She passed in July of 1965. Grandpa had had a physical 2 weeks before her death and his doctor told us, for his age, he had the strongest heart he'd ever seen. The doctor told him he'd never die of a heart attack, that was for sure. One week after Grandma's death, despite the doctor's prediction, Grandpa died of a heart attack. The doctor said what he really died of was a broken heart, but we know better. Grandma kept her promise. She came back and took him with her, just like they'd planned.

— Laura J. Turner, Whitmore Lake, Mich.

My parents were married on May 16, 1959 in St. Louis, Miss. My dad had always had a myriad of health problems over the past 20 years ... emphysema, high blood-sugar (bordering on diabetes), various forms of cancer — any of which could have taken him, but none ever did. Mom was always his constant care-giver. ...Then, late last October, something changed. Mom wasn't herself and dad was worried, but didn't let on to me. When I got the phone call early in the morning on November 2, I was assuming something had happened to dad. When I answered, dad was on the phone telling me to come home, mom was in the hospital. Over the course of the next few days, we discovered mom had a brain tumor and needed brain surgery. After the surgery, we found out that it was the most aggressive form of cancer — a glioblastoma — and that our time with mom was limited; 6 months at best. Mom started treatments after a few days, but it was just too much for her body and on November 24, just as we arrived at her bedside, she passed away. In the midst of my own grief, I saw something in my dad I had never seen before: a lost, scared, and heartbroken man that didn't know how to live without the love of his life. While we tried to get dad settled into a new life over the next few weeks, he never lost that look of heart-brokenness that just consumed him. As his condition deteriorated, he told me he was grateful for his 74 years and he was ready to go. 108 days after mom died, dad went to find her.

— Mike Walker

I was 52 when my wife died suddenly and found myself totally lost. Several times I almost gave up wondering what the point was. Only my two daughters and their love for me has kept me around. Is it possible to die of a broken heart? ABSOLUTELY! I almost did!

— Cliff, Sterling, Va.

My mother died on April 7th — and my father was the first to pass her casket following the funeral service. I heard him say to her "Don't be lonely; I won't be long" — which certainly concerned me, because at 83, he was in excellent health. My father died on December 17th of a 'broken heart' which was described as a 'heart attack' on his death certificate.

— Anonymous

That many old lovers follow their longtime partners out of this life is neither surprising nor strange. True love is misconceived and trivialized by the entertainment industry, but it is real: a genuine union of souls, or identities if you will, that grows stronger over time until much of each person is knit up with the other person's essence. ... I am fortunate in having a partner who is deeply a part of me. When someday our bodies become more of a burden than a vehicle, I hope to exit quietly and gracefully with her through the doorway of the unknown, hand in hand and eye to eye as the light fades.

— Michael Massey, Dallas

Many years ago, I worked in a nursing home. The wife of a couple who had been married 75 years was a patient. Her husband came in to see her every day. ... But within weeks of her death, we read that he also had died. That is definitely 'true love' and (in my mind) dying of a broken heart.

— Beryl Lord

My husband's granduncle died right after the wife died. They spent together around 50+ years, always fighting but always together; he was a womanizer, she had a strong will and personality, and would burst into huge but passionate arguments with him, but never left him. Even as they grew older and they had separated their lives (he lived in the second floor of their house and she lived on the first floor), they would always argue through the stairs. The morning that she died the family tried to keep the passing a secret. While he rested on his bed, barely half an hour after the wife passed away and having been kept from the truth, he suddenly said to his nurse assistant: “my wife just died; I’m going with her now as well” and he promptly went into cardiac arrest. We were amazed how, even after all this years of trashing one another and fighting, their love and connection was so strong, so great, that they could not live without the other. Now we laugh after the idea of them fighting in “the other side”...

Pasionaria Arguello