A devoted Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in the hospital last week, exactly one hour apart.
The passing reflected the nature of their marriage, where, “As a rule, everything was done together,” said the couple’s daughter Donna Sheets, 71.
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.
“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.
“They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” Sheets said.
Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but the family was surprised by what his monitor showed.
“Someone in there said, ‘Why, then, when we look at the monitor is the heart still beating?'” Sheets recalled. “The nurse said Dad was picking up Mom’s heartbeat through Mom’s hand.”
“And we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him,'” Dennis Yeager said.
Norma Yeager died exactly an hour later.
“Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for,” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad waited an hour for her and held the door for her.”
The inseparable couple was engaged and married within 12 hours in 1939 on the day Norma Yeager graduated from high school.
“She graduated from high school on May 26, 1939, at about 10 a.m., and at about 10 p.m. that night she was married to my dad at his sister’s house,” Sheets said.
The vibrant duo had a “very, very full life.”
They worked as a team. They traveled together, they were in a bridge club together and they worked in a Chevrolet dealership, creamery and other businesses together.
“They always did everything together,” Sheets said. “They weren’t apart. They just weren’t.”
I think that this kind of lasting love is a mystery to many people who come from broken homes. It’s good for us to reflect on a couple who got it right on Valentine’s Day.