“In Life, In Death, In Life Eternal, Together.”
We seldom see sacramental wedding vows materializing throughout the course of marriages. In fact, the sanctity of the ethereal bond between a husband and wife is rare in contemporary society where events of infidelity and abuse are rampant. Hence, our hearts warm up at the possibility of the holy vows making it ‘in sickness and in health till death parts us.’
The old Tennesse couple who passed away a mere nine days apart from each other never went apart even when death tried to part them.
As per People’s report, a couple who were married almost seven decades set ahead for their heavenly abode in the same hospital. While husband Tommy Stevens, aged 91, passed away on 8th September, a day ahead of what would be the couple’s 69th wedding anniversary, his wife Virginia, also aged 91, passed away just nine days later in the same hospital.
Their daughter Karen Kreager reminisces about their moments before Steven’s passing. Speaking with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), she recalled that ‘both of them lit up’ as they met at the hospital before his passing. In a heart-warming conjecture, she continued, “He was awake when she came in,” adding, “His eyes were open. He wasn’t communicating a lot — just in small whispers. But he knew that she was there and that she was going to be right beside him. They [didn’t stop] holding hands the whole time.”
According to Doyle Thomas “Tommy” Stevens Jr.’s obituary, the two were high-school sweethearts who first crossed paths at Dobyns-Bennett High School, where their ethereal love story began. They even attended the same university, the University of Tennessee, and finally tied the knot on Sept. 9, 1954.
Speaking about Tommy, his obituary shed light on the beginnings of his career as transportation manager for Burlington Industries after serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, a high civilian honor in those times. He went on to become the founder of Distribution and Transportation Services (DTS), Inc. Supporting his eminent role in his career, according to her obituary, Virginia was active with local church, school, and civic groups. In Memphis, the couple brought up their two children Karen and Greg, and after retirement, the two moved to Franklin to be close to their children and grandchildren. They were never apart.
Towards the end of his life, Stevens was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a deadly neural disease that slowly causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a gradual decline in memory, thinking, behavior, and social skills. These changes affect a person’s ability to function. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. After being diagnosed with this terminal disease at a later stage of his life, the couple moved to a memory care unit. However, as his low blood pressure and breathing issues started escalating, they shifted him to the VUMC Palliative Care Unit when further treatment was no longer possible. According to People, the family was counting the days.
Co-incidentally, according to People, Virginia experienced a massive fall the same day Steven was taken to the hospital and ended up with six broken ribs, a spinal fracture, and a hip injury. She was immediately taken to the same hospital where were husband was admitted.
For someone with Alzheimer’s at the advanced stage, Stevens was not supposed to remember anything about his present life, but Virginia never left his thoughts for a second, as the couple held hands along with the family around them as he passed away. Heartbroken beyond belief, Virginia was reported saying, “You know, it helped me a lot,” the 91-year-old told VUMC Voice. “It just gave me peace that I wouldn’t have to worry about him. He was going to be with me.” And sure enough, she joined him in the afterlife only nine days later on September 27th.
This love story is something rare, which we don’t find these days. Star-crossed lovers, who held hands and walked into the afterlife together? Those things can only be good for script-writing. But Tommy and Virginia left us with this heart-warming story for us to ponder upon and to believe, ‘true love does exist.’