Would you die within hours of your spouse?

The Associated Press reported a sad but very sweet story about a couple who had been married for 70 years who died within 15 hours of each other. The husband just didn’t want to be on earth without her. It’s like “The Notebook” but for real. (I weep through that movie every time.) Here’s the story.

From the Associated Press:

“NASHPORT, Ohio (AP) — A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

“Helen Felumlee, of Nashport, died at 92 on April 12. Her husband, 91-year-old Kenneth Felumlee, died the next morning.

“The couple’s eight children say the two had been inseparable since meeting as teenagers, once sharing the bottom of a bunk bed on a ferry rather than sleeping one night apart, the Zanesville Times Recorder reported (http://ohne.ws/1in7erG).

“They remained deeply in love until the very end, even eating breakfast together while holding hands, said their daughter, Linda Cody.

“We knew when one went, the other was going to go,” she said.

“According to Cody, about 12 hours after Helen died, Kenneth looked at his children and said, “Mom’s dead.” He quickly began to fade and was surrounded by 24 of his closest family members and friends when he died the next morning.

“He was ready,” Cody said. “He just didn’t want to leave her here by herself.”

“Son Dick Felumlee said his parents died of old age, surrounded by family.

“At Dad’s bed we were singing his favorite hymns, reading scriptures and praying with him,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “It was a going away party, and we know he loved it.”

“The pair had known each other for several years when they eloped in Newport, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, on Feb. 20, 1944. At two days shy of his 21st birthday, Kenneth — who went by Kenny — was too young to marry in Ohio.

“He couldn’t wait,” son Jim Felumlee said.

“Kenneth worked as a railroad car inspector and mechanic before becoming a mail carrier for the Nashport Post Office. He was active in his Nashport-Irville United Methodist Church as a Sunday school teacher.

“Helen stayed at home, not only cooking and cleaning for her own family but also for other families in need in the area. She taught Sunday school, too, but was known more for her greeting card ministry, sending cards for birthdays, sympathy and the holidays to everyone in her community, each with a personal note inside.

“She kept Hallmark in business,” daughter-in-law Debbie Felumlee joked.

When Kenneth retired in 1983 and the children began to leave the house, the Felumlees began to explore their love of travel, visiting almost all 50 states by bus.

“He didn’t want to fly anywhere because you couldn’t see anything as you were going,” Jim Felumlee said.

Although both experienced declining health in recent years, Cody said, each tried to stay strong for the other.

“That’s what kept them going,” she said.”

My mother had an aunt and uncle like this. We were certain that as soon as the uncle died, the aunt would pass too. But she held on for about two more years. We were very surprised. She kept redoing the house — knocking out walls and buying new furniture. I’m not sure if she was just passing the time or these were changes he wouldn’t let her make when he was alive.

Walsh is currently reading “Where the Red Fern Grows” for school, and I remember a similar thing happening with the dogs. I remember crying my eyes out reading that as a kid. I keep warning him it’s going to be sad. You have no idea how sad it’s going to be.

Do you think you would die if your spouse did? (I don’t think it applies so much to young couples as the spouse would need to take of the children. But I think once the children are grown and can care for themselves I could see a spouse falling into a depression without their mate.)

(I posted two items today: This one is why there were no posts on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday last week.)

27 comments Add your comment

mom2alex&max

April 21st, 2014
5:53 am

I don’t know. My husband is 10 years older than me and the probabilities are that he will pass before me and that I might still be on the youngish side. My prayer is that I will be at least 70, but only God knows what will happen.

I pray that I will find the strength to keep going and live a worthwhile life even if he is not by my side.

motherjanegoose

April 21st, 2014
6:08 am

I can’t say that this will happen to me. I do plenty of things without my husband and if he goes before me, I should be fine. He has been a big part of my life for over 35 years but I also enjoy my friends and my life too. I am a year older than my husband but who knows? I do not think I will be worried about finding strength to keep going. I have never met a stranger and can make new friends pretty fast.

My kids tell me that he calls them often, when I am out of town. He wants to get together with them and sometimes does not understand that they are busy with their own lives. I encourage him to have his own friends and hobbies. He has friends at work but they do not socialize outside of work. He does not have many hobbies. I do think he will be lost but maybe not. I am the one who plans the social schedule. Maybe he will be content to just sit home and putz around instead of being drug out with me on trips and dinners out with friends.

Noah

April 21st, 2014
6:23 am

Cut and paste returns! Please…

Mother of 2

April 21st, 2014
6:57 am

Interesting topic. I think that men tend to struggle more than women, although there are plenty of examples of women struggling more than men. Men and women in their 90’s had different roles than men and women today – perhaps they were more reliant on each other. I think that women are certainly more independent today then they were so many years ago.

I would absolutely fall into depression if I lost my spouse of 25 years. However, I believe that I would recover and move forward with my life. I cannot imagine remarrying, although I believe that my husband would definitely remarry if something happened to me. But I am a completely different generation than the people in their 90’s that your write about. My parents and in laws are all in their 70’s. I think they would have a tougher time losing a spouse, but I don’t think that any of them would die shortly thereafter.

My mother and mother in law both worked years ago and both have separate lives than my father and father in law. However, my father and father in law rely quite a bit on their wives. Certainly more than my husband does.

FCM

April 21st, 2014
7:39 am

We thought that about my grandparents. My grandmother died at 78 and they were very close. He feel into depression. However, eventually through church and some clubs they had both belonged to when married he started to go have fun…he went dancing, he played cards, he went to dinner. He has long said he is ready to go whenever the Lord wishes to call him. He also just celebrated his 96th birthday on April 3. So you just never know.

My parents are very close. If Mom goes to the store Dad will start calling to tell her she has been gone a long time is she coming home (he won’t say he misses her or anything…but he does!). However since Dad has had the many surgeries (stroke, triple bypass, etc) I have learned that my Mom is a tough lady. She would be sad and would miss him, but I think she would keep moving forward.

FCM

April 21st, 2014
7:40 am

OH my parents will have 48 years come June.

WitchyWoman

April 21st, 2014
7:52 am

@Theresa, My 9yo read Where the Red Fern Grows this year too. She thought the end of the book was very sad, but I didn’t warn her because I thought it would ruin it for her if I told her about it ahead of time. I was so surprised that as young as she is, she totally understood what happened with the dogs without me explaining it. Of course I now have to tell her not to spoil it for other kids when she sees someone pick it up at the library.

There were several elderly couples in my grandparents neighborhood that we thought that one would die soon after the other when the time came, but it only happened with one of them. They died 3 months apart. I love my husband, but don’t see myself pining away for him.

My parents......

April 21st, 2014
8:34 am

…married at age 18 and were together for 66 years before my dad passed away last year about this time. My mom was always really dependent on him (and he was on her, too), though she has really adjusted fairly well. She has had two bouts of “heart” related problems, one about a month after he left us, necessitating a hospital stay, and another close to the anniversary of his passing, again sending her to the hospital. While mom thinks she has had a “heart attack” on those two occasions (and her doctor seemingly concurs, but not really), we kids think she really just has a truly “broken heart”…

justmy2cents

April 21st, 2014
8:34 am

My grandparents were married for 70 years. They went exactly 3 months apart. I love my husband dearly, but don’t think that would happen with us. I wonder if part of it is because the way the older generations were raised compared to newer ones???

jarvis

April 21st, 2014
9:03 am

mom2alex&max

April 21st, 2014
9:06 am

2cents: I think you are right. I think that generation is different. They split duties/responsibilities very thoroughly and it seems that they are very co-dependent. I think it is different now because both sides of couples tend to have their own friends/jobs/interests etc and have more outside each other to rely on.

justmy2cents

April 21st, 2014
9:13 am

@Mom2- I agree. I didn’t want to phrase it to start the old, worn out SAHM vs. working mom battle, but in those days, the wife typically did stay at home. She ran the house while the husband made the $, so while she was definitely dependent on him financially, he depended on her to have food on the table, house clean, laundry done, etc. I think my grandfather didn’t know how to cook, other than grilling. When my grandmother would take her overnight trips to the casino (she LOVED to gamble), he mostly ate sandwiches while she was gone.

FCM

April 21st, 2014
9:14 am

off topic: Good luck to all the kids, teachers, and parents having CRCTs this week. I believe some of the schools in GA started last week…

Techmom

April 21st, 2014
9:23 am

I definitely think it’s a generational thing but still rare; think of all the people who lose a spouse and do continue on. Maybe after being together for so long, I would think differently but certainly at our ages, and even our parents ages, I’m sure we’ll all live on even if our spouse were to pass away.

A

April 21st, 2014
9:52 am

Simple answer, no. I would like to think I’d be just fine if my husband were to predecease me, no matter what our ages are at the time.

iRun

April 21st, 2014
11:32 am

Nah. I love my hubs but I could certainly imagine life without him. I don’t WANT life without him. But if he died I would still have a life. I would probably never remarry. Of course I would probably be sad for a long time and always miss hm. Now, he, on the other hand, would probably marry within two years. He really likes having someone to talk with/at (yes, sometimes he needs me to just sit there while he talks at me).

catlady

April 21st, 2014
11:55 am

I do know a few couple that this happened to–one in their early 50s who both had cancer. One died at home, and less than a day later the other died at home. It was so hard on their only child.

My observation is that men who are widowed or divorced get a new mate pretty quickly (or start looking) while most women I know are less quick to do it. May just be the people I know about, however.

xxxx

April 21st, 2014
12:26 pm

predecease? Is that like you dying before you die?

No one, other than suicide, has the ability to die at will.

mom2alex&max

April 21st, 2014
1:56 pm

catlady: I have observed the same phenomenon. But maybe it has more to do with numbers: there are way more widows than widowers; specially when you get to the 70+ age group.

Me

April 21st, 2014
2:28 pm

I don’t think I would remarry and unsure if the better half would although I hope she does whatever makes her happy and able to continue to enjoy life. As many have stated, I feel that I can continue without her but certainly do NOT want to. If she happened to die ahead of me, however, I would be content with dying within a few hours but, again, feel that I will be able to exist regardless.

Denise

April 21st, 2014
2:45 pm

We thought this would happen with my grandparents when my Granny died. We informed my Papa that he was not “allowed” to die. We told him we would not let him get lonely if it meant aggravating him, calling him all the time and visiting him a lot more frequently (I lived 6 hours away). He laughed. We meant it. :-) He was sad but he did stay in touch with his many friends and kept doing his normal routine…even got a girlfriend. He couldn’t cook so my mama would cook him food and separate it into individual meals for the freezer so all he’d have to do was take one out, defrost, warm, then eat. Every morning he’d go to his girlfriend’s house for a biscuit and coffee. He lived 5 more years. I think he would have lived longer had he not stayed in the house during Hurricane Katrina. He really declined after that trauma as you can expect.

My other grandmother has outlived my grandfather by 42 years and counting but she was very young when he died (~42). He was mean from what I hear (I wasn’t born) so I doubt they were close enough to be so connected she would have died with him even if they were old.

FCM

April 21st, 2014
3:14 pm

@ Denise my Dad’s mom lived 32 years after her husband died. I asked her once why she did not remarry and she said “Honey, they take to long train!”

catlady

April 21st, 2014
4:08 pm

My grandmother became a widow in her early 50s. A neighbor asked her about her “boyfriend” 10 years later. She indignantly replied that her boyfriend was 6 feet under. The neighbor said, “I bet you have got a lot of them there!” Flew all over her.

motherjanegoose

April 21st, 2014
4:35 pm

@FCM and Denise…I met a lovely lady in Ohio, when I was speaking at a conference.
She saw me eating dinner alone ( at the hotel) and told me that would not work, so she would come and sit with me.
We talked for over an hour. She told me about her Mother and Step Dad ( her died had passed away previously). They were in their 80s.
The Mom referred to men as being A.I.T. : always in training. I thought that was a riot.

A

April 21st, 2014
7:01 pm

Um, @xxxx, “predecease” means to die before. It’s a commonly used terms in wills and other documents. So a will might say that if a person’s spouse should predecease them, then their estate would go to their kids. It’s a real word, look it up.

motherjanegoose

April 21st, 2014
7:09 pm

@A…thanks for clarifying. I knew I had heard the word and did not find it odd.

Kat

April 22nd, 2014
12:55 pm

I think “spoiler” alerts are necessary around the house when your kids are reading books.