Deacon Greg pointed me to this amazing story today of a couple who had been married 72 years and who tragically died from injuries in a car crash.

The amazing part is that Gordon and Norma Yeager died in the ICU holding hands.

Dennis Yeager said the couple left home last Wednesday to go into town, but they didn’t make it.

At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue just west of Marshalltown, state troopers said Gordon pulled in front of an oncoming car. The Iowa State Patrol crash report said the other driver attempted to avoid the crash but was unable to stop in time.

“I rushed from Des Moines where I was working and saw them in the hospital,” said Dennis Yeager.

In the intensive care unit of Marshalltown’s hospital, nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma.

“They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together — and they were holding hands in ICU. They were not really responsive,” said Dennis Yeager.

Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,” said Dennis Yeager. “But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”

“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna Sheets.

At 4:38 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed too.

This reminded me of two stories not quite as profound but nonetheless ones that would be reflective for married couples.

The first comes from a Deacon friend of mine from graduate school who was widowed. When asked what was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of his life he didn’t hesitate, “Being with my wife when she died.”

He went on to say that the moment was only shared with each other and was filled with love. While he was sad to lose his wife to death, he was also quite moved at how intimate the moments shared between them were.

The second comes from my own family. About three years ago my father’s heart rate soared and he nearly passed out. My mother thought he was having a heart attack. My father spoke only a few words during this time.

“Evelyn, don’t leave me, just stay here with me.” He held her hand tightly and didn’t want to let go. He was willing to die right there as long as his wife of more than 60 years was by his side.

My mother sensing his devotion also knew that she had to call an ambulance. She quietly whispered, “Mike, you’re hurting my hand.” And when he released it she bolted for the phone called 911 and returned to his side until the paramedics arrived. Turns out that some kind of airborne virus pushed his heart rate up. Once eradicated, he was back to his old self.

Meaning he went right back to holding my mother’s hand.

Today, hold the hand of the one you love. You won’t get to hold it forever, as none of us will escape death. Yet, we have each other in this present moment and that is more than enough to keep love alive forever.