Every once in a while, a heartwarming yet terribly sad story comes around that rocks your core. Makes you realize a little bit more what life is about and remember how precious it is. Reminds you that life and love are intrinsically intertwined. Makes you rethink life. And love. And learn how some couples literally cannot live without one another.
Harold and Ruth Knapke lived in an Ohio nursing home together. They shared a room and were perhaps preparing to celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary ... after death ... together. Harold was 91. Ruth just 89. Harold seemed to be closer to death sooner than Ruth, but he held on for months. Their daughter believes her father willed himself to stay alive long enough to be by her mother's side until she was ready to also leave this earth. Their love story, both in life and in death, is simply beautiful. It's the stuff of romance novels and movies even more mushy than The Notebook.
Harold and Ruth met each other when they were children in grade school, but didn't start dating until Harold became an Army man during World War II. They kept in touch with letters -- and a love bloomed. Ruth used to joke that she let Harold chase her until she caught him.
They had six children. Daughter Carol Romie shared, "They were so committed and loyal and dedicated, they weren't going to go anywhere without the other one." Maybe that's the secret. Always doing things together -- always wanting to be around the other person. A photo that was taken recently showed Harold lying in a bed at the nursing home with his arm through the guardrail holding onto Ruth's hand. Ruth was beside him with her head pressed into his. Showing affection, even in their final months. Worried about his true love, Harold was known to bless Ruth with holy water each night.
On August 11, Harold died. Ruth passed away just 11 hours later; the date was the same.
Remember that the Knapkes were married for 65 years. Marriages are hard to maintain. I can tell you that firsthand. This couple did it for 65 years and never seemed to lose that spark for each other through all that life dealt them. They still held hands. They still had tender moments. They stayed connected. That is beautiful. This is what love is.
The family honored Harold and Ruth with a joint funeral. The granddaughters carried Ruth's casket while the grandsons carried Harold's.
Go on; get those tissues. Reflect. Then let's honor the kind of love Harold and Ruth had. I should say the love they have since it's not gone, it's just not of this Earth. We can honor that by loving more. Loving stronger. Loving more truly and deeply, with our whole hearts. Through thick and thin. Life and death.
What do you think of this love story? How does it make you reflect on your own life?
Image via Clare Bell/Flickr