After 72 years of marriage, Leonard and Ray Ethelyn Stouffer simply refused to be apart. At 7:10 P.M., December 29 my grandmother passed away, followed shortly thereafter by my grandfather at 9:35 P.M.
Early last week, my grandmother was placed under hospice care and a hospital bed was moved into the living room of their apartment. I saw them both on the morning of Christmas Eve and they were happy and talkative. On Christmas night my grandfather had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital where a catheterization was performed and revealed that three arteries were completely blocked and a fourth had minimal blood flow. The cardiologist believed that he had less than a week to live. He was moved back to their apartment to be near the love of his life.
They were both awake enough last evening to realize that they were together again. When the nursing staff pushed their beds side by side, my grandfather reached out and took his bride’s hand and held it. He tried to talk to her but she was not awake enough to respond, so he tried to get into her bed with her to hold her. He eventually settled down and rested.
As his wife’s breathing became more labored, his breathing remained steady. At just after 7 we noticed that her breathing had changed. My father took her hand and she took her last breath. At just after 9 the funeral director left the room with my grandmother, and my sister, Lisa, noticed that there were tears in the corners of my grandfather’s eyes. We also noticed that now his breathing had changed from steady to labored. My father took his hand told him that he loved him and that his wife was waiting for him. A few minutes later he opened his eyes and looked at my father and took his last breath.
This has been a long hard week of emotions. It is painful to lose any loved ones, but it is also painful to watch loved ones suffer. It has been particularly difficult to watch my father suffer the loss of both of his parents in such a very short time. The grief will subside, but I want to remember the love that they shared and his strength and love for his wife. By all accounts, he probably should have gone first. His heart should have given out first. I believe that he held on and stayed conscious enough to know when she had passed away. He refused to leave his wife behind. Their love was their bond and he would have found a way to survive as long as his bride lived.
As I left the retirement home this evening, I was struck by the love and the love sacrifice that my grandparents displayed the last few days and their entire married lives. I also realized that they were just following the example of the love sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The day that God sent his Son to earth to become a love sacrifice for all of us. He endured our rightful punishment so that we would have the opportunity to accept His sacrifice and receive eternal life in Heaven.
Ray Ethelyn and Leonard Stouffer are together in Heaven. They have met their Savior face to face. My prayer tonight is to follow their example of love in my own marriage, but more importantly to follow my Savior’s example of love. Is He your Savior tonight?