January 31, 2011

Forget the scientific spin. This is a love story.

A spouse dies, then soon, another:
The widowhood effect
The Sacramento Bee

JD Conger told everyone he couldn't live without his wife, Opal.

He took care of her as her dementia deepened and she slowly faded. But even during her last difficult year, they relied on each other: Frail as she was, she translated the world for him, making up for his failing eyes and ears.

When Opal Conger died at age 97 on the morning of Jan. 13, they'd been husband and wife for 81 years, partners in a marriage so enduring that they were the subjects of a Bee story a year ago. While it's left to younger, dreamier generations to describe long-married couples as the loves of each other's lives, the Congers' devotion was clearly an unbreakable bond.

And so JD followed Opal into death just after dawn not 48 hours after she died. He was 101 and he was true to his word.

"He was not going to be here without her," said the Congers' granddaughter, Sue Seaters, 55, a Placer County public health nurse. "He went to bed and didn't get up."

As Seaters sat by his bedside in his final hours, he twice lifted her hand to his face and held it to his cheek. Maybe he knew it was his granddaughter – or maybe he thought it was his Opal.

Researchers have a name for the increased probability of death among grieving mates within weeks or months of their spouses' passing: the "widowhood effect."



JN Kish said...

The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. - 1 Corinthians 7:4

Anonymous said...

81 ears? 81 years? Really? 81 years?

lady di said...

This story gave me chills as my husband and I have only been married for 45 years.

sig94 said...

Same chills here Di, different reason. My wife has already threatened to put me down if I get any nuttier.

Subvet said...

Damned allergies acting up again, hate when my eyes keep blurring and nose keeps running.

Subvet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The_Kid said...

The will to live or lack thereof is very powerful when you are that old.

LL said...

"To the people who knew them in their last days, the timing of the Congers' deaths is both sweet and sad – not tragic, simply poignant."